Pope Pius XII, who has been accused by some historians of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust, is praised by former Jewish prisoners for preventing their deportation to death camps, in documents released from the Vatican's newly-opened archives.
In one letter written in October 1944, after Italy signed an armistice with the Allies, liberated Jewish prisoners write in German: "While in nearly all the countries of Europe we were persecuted, imprisoned and threatened with death because we belong to the Jewish people and profess the Jewish faith, Your Holiness not only sent notable and generous gifts to our camp through the apostolic nuncio... but also showed your fatherly interest in our physical and spiritual well-being."
"You bravely raised your universally venerated voice against our enemies – still so powerful at that time – to openly support our rights to human dignity.
"When in 1942 we were under the threat of deportation to Poland, Your Holiness extended your fatherly hand to protect us and prevented the deportation of the Jews imprisoned in Italy, thereby saving us from almost certain death."
The letter is one of two million papers from Pope Pius XII's 1939-1958 papacy. The collection is currently being classified and will be made public in the next two years, a Vatican spokesman said.