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Vatican Slams Holocaust Historians

The Vatican accused Jewish historians on a special Holocaust commission of "clearly incorrect behavior," charging that they have helped mount a "slanderous campaign" against the Catholic church.

The accusation Tuesday was part of the Vatican's response to the recent announcement that a panel of Jewish and Catholic historians investigating the Vatican's actions during the Holocaust had suspended its work because the Vatican has not released all of its World War II-era archives.

The Vatican's response was written by the Rev. Peter Gumpel, a German Jesuit gathering documents to support the possible beatification of Pope Pius XII, the World War II pope.

In it, he defended Pius' action saying material made available to the historians showed that Pius "made every possible effort to save as many lives as possible, without any distinction."

The historians, who were appointed by the Vatican and a Jewish group to examine Pius' actions, released a preliminary report in October. They described a pope bent on fruitless diplomacy as reports of atrocities poured into the Vatican.

The historians said at the time that questions still needed to be answered before they could issue a final report. They expressed hope that the Vatican would open up the archives of the Holy See's correspondences to fill in the gaps in the 12 volumes of wartime documents provided by the Vatican.

Gumpel said he had met with the group and answered some of their questions and offered to answer the rest at another session, but that this was ignored.

It was therefore disconcerting, he said, that in the following months "some Jewish members in the group had systematically affirmed that they never received answers to their questions."

He also said it was "false" that the Vatican does not intend to open up its archives, saying this will be done as soon as they are ready.

Gumpel said several though not all the Jewish members of the commission had "publicly spread the suspicion" that the Holy See was trying to hide documents "that in their judgment could be compromising."

He did not give their names.

Gumpel said the panel's work had failed as a result of "irresponsible" actions by some of its members.

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