12 MAY 2001, Page 29

Myths about Pius XII

From Mr Karol Jozef Gajewski Sir; Caroline Moorehead is so eager to dispel the 'myth' of Pope Pius XII's status as a courageous defender of Jews during the Holocaust (Books, 28 April) that she accepts unquestionably Rolf Hochhuth's version of history as presented in his play The Deputy (Der Stellvertreter), first performed in 1963. If anyone created a myth of staggering proportions and lasting import, it was Hochhuth himself.

The discrediting of the German playwright's historical method was sealed not by historians or reviewers with anti-Vatican axes to grind, but by a High Court jury in May 1972. Hochhuth had been sued for damages by Edward Prchal, the Czech pilot of a Liber ator bomber. The jury agreed with the pilot that Hochhuth in the play Soldiers (Soldaten) had 'peddled his reputation for personal gain' and awarded damages of £50,000.

For an appreciation of informed and truly scholarly judgments on the wartime record of Pope Pius XII, I would recommend the works of modern Jewish historians, in particular David G. Dalin, Sir Martin Gilbert and William Rubinstein. The real myth — that of Pius's silence and associated cowardice — would then dissolve into the ether from whence it came.

Karol Jozef Gajewski Sandbach,