Pope Pius XII didn't want North African troops in Rome
Of all the second world war leaders, Pius XII remains the most enigmatic. Historians are still at loggerheads over whether he did as much as he might have done to prevent the Holocaust.
Now the waters are being muddied still further. The Italian liberal daily La Repubblica has reported evidence to suggest that, even if the wartime pope was not anti-Semitic, he may have been colour prejudiced.
While researching a new book on the Allies' policy towards bombing Rome, the historian Umberto Gentiloni Silveri stumbled across an intriguing telegram sent to London by the then British ambassador to the Holy See, Sir D'Arcy Osborne (later Duke of Leeds).
Dated January 26, 1944, it reported the substance of a conversation with Pope Pius XII just days after the landings at Anzio and Nettuno, south of the capital.
"The pope hopes that there will not be Allied coloured troops among the units deployed in Rome," wrote the ambassador. Sir D'Arcy seems to have been rather bemused by the request, for - with a hint of sarcasm - he went on to say that the pontiff "had hastened to add that the Holy See has not fixed a limit to the range of colours".
Gentiloni Silveri told La Repubblica that the pope's "embarrassing" appeal reflected the view of the Holy See throughout the conflict: that Rome was a "symbol of Western culture ... a patrimony to be entrusted to the care of the white race".
Today, the conservative Il Giornale hit back with an article insisting Pius XII was "not in any way a racist". But that he had good reason to fear the arrival of troops from North Africa.
"As apostolic nuncio in Bavaria, immediately after the end of the [First World] War, he had been a witness to what happened in the regions of the Rhineland and Ruhr, which were occupied by French troops," it said.
North African soldiers were accused of numerous rapes and, although the scale of the problem was deliberately exaggerated by local people, even the French acknowledged several dozen had taken place.
It is a matter of historical record that North African troops under French command committed many atrocities in the area known as Ciociaria south of Rome. Alberto Moravia wrote about them in his novel La Ciociara and, in the film of the book, Sophia Loren won an Oscar for her performance in the title role.
More Islamist, Anti-U.S. OSCAR Nom BS: Muslim Arabs-NOT AMERICANS-Liberate French From Nazis?!