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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 November 2012

Middlesex University
Williams Building, Middlesex University, London NW4


The debate about the political allegiance of Pius XII and the Vatican during the Second World War remains unresolved. As more documents become available, they enable historians, detractors and defenders alike, to develop a more nuanced view on this contentious issue. Files recently released by The National Archives1 come within this category. They reveal that during the Second World War the British government systematically intercepted, monitored, and recorded in detail the financial transactions listed in the bank statements of the main financial agencies of the State of Vatican City from 1941 to 1943. These documents provide a detailed, if occasionally incomplete, day by day and month by month record of the Vatican's sources of income, expenditure priorities, investment strategies, and movements of money throughout its global network under the difficult wartime conditions of foreign exchange controls, blocked sterling and dollar accounts, Freezing Orders, and Trading with the Enemy restrictions imposed by the belligerent parties. This article examines the light they shed on Vatican finances throughout that period and what new insights they provide into the role of Pius XII and the Vatican during the Second World War, and, in particular, into the question of where their sympathies lay throughout the duration of that conflict.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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The author would like to thank the editors of the Historical Journal and the anonymous reviewers for their extremely helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft of this article.


1 The National Archives, London, hereafter referred to as TNA, in the T 160 and T 231 series.

2 Bello, Nino Lo, The Vatican empire (New York, NY, 1968), pp. 52–4Google Scholar, 66–8.

3 Pacelli, Francesco, Diario della Conciliazione (Vatican City, 1959), p. 454Google Scholar. Francesco was a brother of Eugenio Pacelli (Pius XII) and one of the Vatican lawyers who took part in the negotiations; Pollard, John F., Money and the rise of the modern papacy (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 140–2Google Scholar; Pallenberg, Corrado, Vatican finances (Harmondsworth, 1973), pp. 65–8Google Scholar.

4 Pallenberg, Vatican finances, ch. 7, passim; Pollard, Money, pp. xv–xx. In August 1942, the Amministrazione Pontificia per le Opere di Religione was reorganized by Pius XII as the Instituto per le Opere di Religione and is referred to in this article as the AOR/IOR to indicate continuity and avoid confusion.

5 Pollard, Money, pp. 143–5, 170; Pacelli, Diario della Conciliazione, pp. 140–4.

6 TNA T 160/396/11961.

7 Sir Leith-Ross, Frederick, Money talks: fifty years of international finance (London, 1968), p. 59Google Scholar.

8 Pollard, Money, p. 145.

9 TNA T 160/369/11961.

10 Ibid.

11 Pollard, John F., ‘The Vatican and the Wall Street Crash: Bernardino Nogara and papal finances in the early 1930s’, Historical Journal, 42 (1999), pp. 1077–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at p. 1078.

12 TFA-1 Form dated 10 Nov. 1941, TNA T 231/140.

13 Times, 15 Oct. 1935, p. 14.

14 TFA-1 Form dated 10 Nov. 1941, TNA T 231/140.

15 TNA FO 371/25193/5. Morgan Grenfell was the London branch of J. P. Morgan & Co., New York.

16 Bank of England Archive, C 43/240; TNA T 160/1054.

17 Chadwick, Owen, Britain and the Vatican during the Second World War (Cambridge, 1986), p. 117Google Scholar.

18 Morgan Grenfell to ASSS, Rome, 8 Aug. 1941, TNA T 231/140.

19 Pollard, Money, p. 160.

20 Ibid., pp. 161, 189.

21 Companies House Archive, Cardiff, file 270820/20, British Grolux Ltd, annual return, 1941.

22 R. A. B. Mynors, Profima Memorandum, Feb. 1943, TNA T 231/1131.

23 ASSS account with J. P. Morgan, entry for 12 Jan. 1942, TNA T 231/141.

24 Phayer, Michael, The Catholic church and the Holocaust, 1930–1965 (Bloomington, IN, 2000), p. 44Google Scholar; Friedländer, Saul, Pius XII and the Third Reich (New York, NY, 1966), pp. 236Google Scholar, 77; Michael R. Marrus, ‘Pius XII and the Holocaust: ten essential themes’, in Carol Rittner and John K. Roth, eds., Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust (London, 2002), p. 52.

25 Pollard, Money, p. 147.

26 Moxley, Regis E., ‘The ADR: an instrument of international finance and a tool of arbitrage’, Villanova Law Review, 8 (1962), pp. 1942, at p. 25Google Scholar. Moxley was assistant vice president of Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, New York.

27 United States Treasury Department, Documents pertaining to foreign funds control (Washington, DC, 1943), pp. 610Google Scholar. See also Binder, Sim C., ‘Practical aspects of foreign property control’, New York University Law Quarterly Review, 19 (1941), pp. 130Google Scholar, at pp. 6–8.

28 F. W. W. McCombe's Report on Vatican Funds, 16 May 1941, TNA T 231/1131.

29 R. A. B. Mynors to E. Rowe-Dutton, Treasury, 21 May 1941, TNA T 231/1131.

30 TNA FO 371/37576.

31 Sir D'Arcy Osborne to Foreign Office, London, 31 Jan. 1944, TNA FO 371/44215.

32 TNA WO 204/1012. Three British officers thus rescued, one of whom was Jewish, wrote about their experiences after the war: see Derry, Sam, Rome escape line (London, 1960)Google Scholar; Simpson, William, A Vatican lifeline (London, 1995)Google Scholar; Furman, John, Be not fearful (London, 1959)Google ScholarPubMed.

33 Phayer, Michael, Pius XII, the Holocaust, and the Cold War (Bloomington, IN, 2008), pp. 122–3Google Scholar.

34 Foreign Office to Washington, 6 Mar. 1944, National Archive and Records Administration (College Park, Maryland, USA) (hereafter NARA), RG 84, box 32, entry 3220.

35 Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, x (Vatican City, 1980) (hereafter ADSS), pp. 177–9. These documents are available at

36 Ibid., p. 179.

37 R. A. B. Mynors to A. W. G. Randall, Foreign Office, 28 Dec. 1943, TNA T 231/1131.

38 H. W. A. Wade to Mr Wilcox, Treasury, 4 Jan. 1944, TNA T 231/83.

39 Hugh Dalton to S. S. Silverman, London, 3 Apr. 1946, TNA T 231/83.

40 Sir D'Arcy Osborne to Mr Eden, Foreign Office, London, annual report for 1944, pp. 17–18, 10–11, TNA FO 371/50084. See also ADSS, x, pp. 222–3; TNA FO 37/37566; TNA MAF 83/3631; and TNA MAF 97/2519.

41 Tittmann, Harold H., Inside the Vatican of Pius XII (New York, NY, 2004), p. 190Google Scholar.

42 Ibid.

43 Entry for 3 July 1942, TNA T 231/142.

44 Tittmann, Inside the Vatican, p. 189.

45 ASSS account with J. P. Morgan & Co., entry for 10 Nov. 1941, TNA T 231/141.

46 Bernardino Nogara to J. P. Morgan & Co., New York, 10 Nov. 1941, TNA T 231/140.

47 Entry for 2 Jan. 1942, TNA T 231/141; and entry for 19 Mar. 1942, TNA T 231/142.

48 United States Treasury Department, Documents pertaining to foreign funds control, pp. 19–21, 36; see also Binder, ‘Practical aspects of foreign property control’, pp. 15–17. Under General Ruling No. 5 of the US Freezing Orders, foreign-owned securities could be imported into the United States under licence. But under General Ruling No. 6, once imported they were required to be deposited into custody accounts where, while they awaited clearance and again under licence, coupons and dividends could be collected on condition that the proceeds thereof were deposited into the same custody account. These securities, and the contents of the custody account, were released only when the US Treasury Department satisfied itself that both were free of any blocked interest. If, however, the securities also bore stamps and seals which indicated that they had at some point been in the jurisdiction of a blocked country then, in addition, TFEL-2 Certificates had to be applied for, and physically affixed to them, before they could be openly traded and accepted on the American securities markets.

49 United States Treasury Department, Documents pertaining to foreign funds control, pp. 18–19. See also Binder, ‘Practical aspects of foreign property control’, pp. 19–20.

50 United States Treasury Department, Documents pertaining to foreign funds control, p. 44. I am indebted to David Clark, Archivist at the Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri, USA, for providing me with a copy of this document and drawing my attention to United States Treasury Department publication Documents pertaining to foreign funds control.

51 TNA T 231/141, passim; additional account statements are found in TNA T 231/140; the gold purchase record is found at entry for 1 Apr. 1942, TNA T 231/141.

52 See n. 29 above.

53 TNA T 231/142, passim.

54 TNA T 231/142, passim; but see especially entries for 7 Jan. 1942, 27 Feb. 1942, 12 May 1942, and 16 June 1942. For a list of authorized banks see Binder, ‘Practical aspects of foreign property control’, p. 19.

55 The trial of German major war criminals - proceedings of the international military tribunal sitting at Nuremberg Germany. Part 4 (7th January 1946 – 19th January 1946), (His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1946), pp. 39–54, 299–304.

56 The statements for this account, which are incomplete, run from July 1941 to Sept. 1943 and are found at the back of file TNA T 231/141.

57 Ibid., entries to Dec. 1941; see also Banco de la Nación Argentina to AOR/IOR, Rome, 1 Aug. 1941, TNA T 231/140.

58 Ibid., entries from Jan. 1941 to Sept. 1943.

59 R. A. B. Mynors to P. J. Dixon, Foreign Office, 22 Jan. 1942, TNA T 231/1131; see also Monsignor A. Disoric to Barclays Foreign, London, 18 Feb. 1942; R. A. B. Mynors to P. J. Dixon, Foreign Office, 6 Mar. 1942; and copy of Treasury Committee Minute, 17 Mar. 1942. No record of the outcome of the appeal is found in either Treasury file TNA T 231/1131 or corresponding Foreign Office file TNA FO 371/33413, though the latter, since it makes no reference to this appeal, may be incomplete.

60 Sumner Welles to Henry Morgenthau, Washington, 21 Apr. 1942, NARA, RG 131, box 482 (Foreign Funds Control Records), entry 247, file: Vatican City funds in US, transfer of.

61 Pollard, Money, p 187, citing NARA, RG 131, box 487, letter from Vagnozzi, 21 Sept. 1943.

62 Memorandum to US Treasury Department from papal delegate, 1942, NARA, RG 131, box 482, (Foreign Funds Control Records), entry 247, File: Vatican City funds in US, transfer of.

63 Phayer, Pius XII, the Holocaust, p. 128.

64 Ibid., pp. 128–31.

65 TNA FO 371/28930, passim, but see especially files 12950, 13585, 13615, 13617, 13844, and 13943, Oct. to Dec. 1941. See also TNA MAF 83/3631, International Red Cross, Geneva, to Foreign Office, London, 20 May 1944; memorandum to minister, John. J. Llewellyn, Ministry of Food, 30 May 1944; Embassy, Madrid, to Foreign Office, London, 6 Dec. 1945; Ministry of Food to Washington, 14 Dec. 1945; Foreign Office to Embassy, Madrid, 18 Dec. 1945. And TNA MAF 97/2519, resident minister, Caserta, to Foreign Office, London, 12 Aug. 1944; War Office to BAS Washington, 15 Nov. 1944; Resmed, Caserta, to Lord Halifax, Washington, 30 Mar. 1945; Foreign Office to Lord Halifax, Washington, 4 Dec. 1945.

66 TNA FO 371/44221, passim, but see especially files 6543, 6544, 7031, 7966, and 8189, Jan. to May 1944.

67 These figures are based on the exposition of the ASSS account with J. P. Morgan and the AOR/IOR account with City Bank given in this article. For Vatican gold holdings with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York see R. A. B. Mynors to G. L. F. Bolton, Bank of England,11 Mar. 1943 and 2 July 1943, TNA T 231/140.

68 Pollard, Money, pp. 180–1.

69 See n. 18 above.

70 ASSS account with J. P. Morgan, entries for 7 May 1941, 13 May 1941, and 16 May 1941, TNA T 231/140; see also intercept of cable from National City Bank of New York to AOR/IOR, 17 Jan. 1942.

71 For ASSS accounts with J. P. Morgan, see TNA T 231/141, passim; for AOR/IOR accounts with City Bank, see TNA T 231/142, passim.

72 Phayer, Pius XII, the Holocaust, p. 118.

73 Tittmann, Inside the Vatican, pp. 45, 38–45.

74 TNA FO 800/318 and TNA KV 2/2302; see also Chadwick, Britain and the Vatican, pp. 86–99, and von Hassell, Ulrich, The von Hassell diaries (London, 1948), pp. 117–25Google Scholar.

75 Robert Leiber, SJ, ‘Pius XII’, in E. Bently, ed., Storm over ‘The Deputy’ (New York, NY, 1964), pp. 173–95 at pp. 177, 175.

76 Pius XII to bishop of Würzburg, 20 Feb. 1941; quoted in Pierre Blet, Pius XII and the Second World War (Hertfordshire 1999), p. 64.

77 Friedländer, Saul, The years of extermination (New York, NY, 2007), pp. 411–12Google Scholar; see also Rychlak, Ronald J., Hitler, the war, and the pope (Huntington, IN, 2000), pp. 171–3Google Scholar.

78 Blet, Pius XII, p. 165.

79 Albrecht von Kessel, ‘The Pope and the Jews’, in Bently, ed., Storm over, p. 75.

80 Deontologists, in the Kantian school, hold that there is always an unequivocal moral obligation to speak out against abominable evil, irrespective of the consequences, while Utilitarians or Consequentialists, in the Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill school, would argue that only the consequences of an action determine its moral worth.

81 Tittmann to US under secretary of state, 10 Oct. 1942, Foreign relations of the United States 1942, iii, pp. 777–8.

82 Tittmann, Inside the Vatican, pp. 122–3.

83 See especially: Friedländer, The years of extermination, pp. 563–6; Zuccotti, Susan, Under his very windows (New Haven, CT, 2002), pp. 156–66Google Scholar; Katz, Robert, Fatal silence: the pope, the resistance and the German occupation of Rome (London, 2003), pp. 102–16Google Scholar; Cornwell, John, Hitler's pope: the secret history of Pius XII (New York, NY, 1999), pp. 304–12Google Scholar.

84 Alvarez, D. and Graham, R., Nothing sacred: Nazi espionage against the Vatican (London, 1997), p. 132Google Scholar.

85 Stubaf. Wemmer to RSHA III, Berlin, 1 Oct. 1943, TNA HW 19/351/7034: offizielle Vatikkan kreise seien nicht antideutsch festgelegt. Sie fuerchteten Kommunismus und hielten viel von Anglo-amerik. Rumpfeuropa. The English version is found at TNA HW 19/238/7034 but is mistranslated. RSHA Amt vi (Foreign Intelligence) Church Referat Chief, Albert Hartl, was also of the opinion that the Vatican was decidedly pro the Allies and the United States, ‘Albert Hartl interrogation report, 1946/1947’, NARA, RG 238, CI IIR/53, pp. 2–3, and CI FIR/123, pp. 32–3.

86 The personal archive of Pius XII in the Vatican City comes under this category, but TNA FO 371/37576, registry number R13512/12486/57, and TNA FO 371/44215, registry numbers R11615/173/51 to R12443, are still retained under Section 3 (4) of the Public Records Act, 1958; Sir D'Arcy Osborne's diary in the Egerton Collection, British Library, is heavily censored; and the ASSS account statements with J. P. Morgan, found at TNA T 231/141, go to September 1942 only, while AOR/IOR statements go to September 1943, indicating that monitoring of the ASSS accounts must have continued at least up to that date.