Pius XII and the Jews: Problems of Memory and Moral Judgment in History

Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) is an intensely polarizing figure: a saint to some; ‘Hitler’s Pope’ to others. Critics charge that he failed to use the full political power and moral influence of his office to confront Nazism and the Holocaust. Others maintain that Pius XII worked concretely to help facilitate the rescue of thousands of Jews before and during the Second World War. Indeed, some commentators have gone so far as to say that European Jews had “no greater friend” than Pius XII, and that no pope in history had been as widely admired by the Jewish people as Pius XII was in his lifetime.

The truth lays somewhere in between these radically divergent interpretations. Papal biographer Robert Ventresca will discuss Pius XII’s relationship with Judaism and the Jewish people before, during and after the Holocaust. His talk will dissect some of the commonplace assumptions and ‘myths’ that persist in public memory, and explore the challenges in balancing historical and moral judgments of the most controversial Pope in modern history.  

Dr. Robert Ventresca Biographical Information

Robert Ventresca is a historian at King’s University College at Western University. He specializes in the history of 20th century Europe, with a particular focus on the relationship between fascism and the Churches before and during the Holocaust. He is the author, most recently, of the award-winning Soldier of Christ: The Life of Pope Pius XII (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013). 

Event Details

When: Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 7pm

Where: St. Mark's Chapel, 5935 Iona Dr, Vancouver (UBC Campus) 

Panel Speakers:        

  • Dr. Richard Menkis, Associate Professor of Medieval and Modern Jewish History, UBCDr. 
  • Paul Burns, Dean of Liberal Arts, Corpus Christi College, and Adjunct Professor of Theology, Saint Mark’s College 


  • $10 ticket only 
  • $50 ticket with autographed book  
  • Free for students with student card 


Subscribe to News & Event information

Sign-up to receive notifications.