Ever since last week’s New York Times profile, Gary Krupp has gotten a lot of attention. (Even the title was shocking: “Wartime Pope Has a Huge Fan: A Jewish Knight“) While everyone else in the Jewish world spits on Pope Pius XII’s memory, Krupp defends the guy known as “Hitler’s Pope,” even calls him a hero who saved Jews during WWII. For that, he’s been called a traitor to the Jewish people. Outraged comments on websites accuse him of being the Pope’s tool, possibly not even Jewish. How did he fall so out of step?
Through his work with a poor Italian hospital, Krupp became a papal knight — the seventh Jew in history to gain that honor. This got him access to Vatican archives, which eventually led to a strange mystery of twisted history, a heroic leader, lost records, slander and KGB spies. Yes, that’s right: KGB spies. Read on. Krupp’s truth is stranger than a Dan Brown novel, but if you could hear his voice, you’d know he believes every word.
Heeb: So who was your last interview with?
Krupp: With the Catholic Network in Brooklyn. Believe it or not, Catholics hate Pius XII as much as the Jews do. The problem is this misinformation has been out there for 46 years, so this entire generation all grew up thinking he was the most evil man.
Heeb: To start, what’s your actual title at the Vatican?
Krupp: I don’t have an actual title at the Vatican. I’m not a Vatican official in any way. We have the Pave the Way Foundation, which is a non-sectarian organization that works between all organizations . . . Well, I do have a title from my order of knighthood, when I was knighted by the pope. And that’s the knight’s commander of the pontifical order of St. Gregory the Great. I’m not a Vatican official, except that they consider me, like, a member of the Papal household, so you have certain privileges and can do certain things.
At this point, things got a little boring. Krupp went on about the writings of Maimonedes, “cultural doorways” between the Vatican and the state of Israel and, of course, the inaccuracy of the media – evidently the New York Times got his back story totally wrong. Schmucks. But then, as he tells how he fell into the great story around Pius XII, this excited voice became even more excited, and the conspiracy begins.
Krupp: Understand I grew up hating him, despising him. Hating even the name of Pious XII. And the problem was that . . . you know, I was in Israel and Yad Vashem has just built their new facility, and they put up a very, very negative historical placard next to the name of Pious Xii, and the archbishop asked me if I would intercede to see if the Israeli government would consider changing this. To be honest with you, I said I hated him at that time. I wanted nothing to do with this, but certain circumstances took place, providentially, which got me into something that, at this point, I’m really fanatical about, to be honest with you. And that was, I came back to New York and my friend was the who was the executive director of the New York Board of Rabbis, Joe Patasnik, called me and asked if I would help a Jewish journalist by the name of Dan Kurzman get access in Rome to a book he’s working on Pious XII. . .
This journalist introduced Krupp to the vast plan by the Nazis to kidnap and kill Pius. Krupp was intrigued. Wasn’t he their ally? A collaborator? His status as a knight got him into the Vatican archives where he found the story of this pope to be very different than everything he’d been told. Evidently 860,000 Jews were saved by Pius XII from the death camps. He found it all in Vatican records. And he dismisses his critics who call his scholarship shoddy.
Krupp: They keep saying poor scholarship. There’s no scholarship at all. I’m just exposing documents. I don’t know who these people are, and I call them “voodoo scholars.” I have ten thousand pages of documents.
Heeb: Sure, but Vatican documents, right? Does anybody trust that?
Krupp: Absolutely. They’re a hundred percent genuine. They have nothing to gain or lose by this.
Nothing to gain? A pope canonized. A very embarrassing bit of their history changed. It seems like quite a bit, but Krupp waives away these questions with stories of Pius’s heroism.
Krupp: I found in one of my interviews, which the Vatican had no idea had ever happened, that it was Pius the XII that smuggled 12,000 Jews out of Europe into the Dominican Republic from 1939 to 1945. I interviewed the guy who physically did it. He’s a 97-year-old priest. It’s on my website. Read what he says. You want to call him a liar? Do what you want, but we have some documents that correspond to this and prove it.
Heeb: So why are so many scholars criticizing your work?
Krupp: It’s not my work. All I’m doing is exposing documents. A lot of these critics haven’t come to Rome. Haven’t looked at these documents.
And the man is so fervent, so convincing that I start to wonder, Could this all be some strange miscommunication in history? He seems to have so many examples.
Krupp: We sent someone to Campania, to the diocese there, and we found 3,565 — something like that — pages of documents of individual efforts of Jews who were in the internment camps and were writing the Vatican for help – they needed visas to go to South America, they needed to be rejoined with their family in another part – so they asked the Vatican for help, and then we have the responses from the Secretary of State for each of them. We paired them. That’s 3,000 documents. This is a teeny diocese in Italy . . . so the Secretary of State writes to the Archbishop of Campania, Archbishop Paltucci, and says, I’m enclosing a check “specifically for the care of the Jews you’re protecting in your dioceses.” This is one little diocese, while he’s got the entire world to worry about! But he’s sending money there to help . . . In one day, they hid between seven to nine thousand Jews in the Vatican itself, and in every church, every ecclesiastical house! And then fed them! That’s how these people survived . . . the Vatican, through the Pious XII’s housekeeper, Sister Postulina, ran a series of these little trucks and just ran around supplying these churches that were hiding Jews.
Could this all be true? He sounds so sure. Pious was a good guy and I’ve been saying such shitty things about him. How did this hero end up known as such a villain? I figured this was a rhetorical question, but, to my surprise, Krupp has the answer, and that’s when things got really freaky.
Heeb: How could this history get so muddled?
Krupp: We know why it got muddled! This was a KGB plot. We have the highest-ranking KGB agent ever to defect, Lieutenant-General Pasepa, who was actually the one who brought down the Chichefsky regime because he wrote the book Red Horizons and exposed it – and then, in exquisite detail, exposed this plan called seat 12. What happened was – remember I told you: every Jewish leader, every Jewish organization loved him [Pope Pious XII] until 1953, when this play was done. What they did was, the KGB had this covert operation to destroy the reputation of the church. That was their mission.
Heeb: Wait? What? The KGB? Why would the KGB do this?
Krupp: Because they hated the church. The communists, their archenemy was the Roman Catholic Church. And so, they developed this Seat 12, which, if you go to my website, you’ll read the story written by Pasepa. He explains it. And how they did it – they tricked the Vatican into letting them see documents and then they doctored them. They took Vatican documents and they forged them. They have the names of the people who did the forgeries. Professor Ronald Riflack wrote a book Hitler and the war on the Pope. It’s now being re-published with Pacepa, who’s still alive. He lives here in the United States. He’s under CIA protection. There’s a two million dollar price on his head. It’s espionage. It’s the strangest stuff in the world, but this is what happened. Because there’s no logical explanation as to why every Jewish organization – The ADL, The American Jewish Committee, Golda Meir, Albert Einstein, Chiam Weisman, everybody – spoke only highly and wonderful things [of Pope Pious] and thanking him. All the Italian Jewish communities put a marble plaque up and it instantly. Nobody can point to one smoking gun?
Heeb: So the KGB faked it all?
Krupp: They took false documents and they re-wrote the play by Ralph Hocauf wrote called The Deputy . . . another German communist by the name of Irwin Piscatter re-wrote the play. And it was a talented producer. It was presented in London and in New York, and it was a play that just showed him to be a cold-hearted, uncaring bastard who only cared about money, and hated Communism worse than Nazism, than National Socialism, and the fact is, this is the absolutely opposite of what the documents we have show.
Heeb: And they did this to discredit him?
Krupp: Exactly. To discredit the church. And it was the most effective character assassination of the Twentieth Century. And this was five years after he died. He died in 1958. This play came out in 1963. And then the entire Jewish world, and many in the Catholic world, did a one-eighty. â€˜Oh, this play must be right.” You understand? Krupp continues telling me about the great conspiracy.
This play somehow corrupted the whole history of the church, and the commies were behind it all. Yeah, it sounds unlikely, possibly even a little crazy. And he’s not sure about the two million dollar price on Pacepa’s head. (“Maybe it’s the the Chicefsky (CeauÅŸescu?) family,” he said. "He was the Dictator of Romania.") But this story’s delved way too far into DaVinci territory for me, and the idea of transcribing it all makes my hands hurt. I try to politely hang up, but he’s got more. He asks that I, and all journalists, track the story down, get the truth of out, but, frankly, that just seems like a lot of work, and listening to Krupp talk this long has exhausted me.
Maybe he’s right. Sure, it sounds like cold-war conspiracy, but stranger things have happened, right? Or maybe, like Professor Deborah Dwork says, his work is “amateurish, worse than amateurish – risible.” Maybe this well-meaning old man’s fantasies have gotten away from him. Or he’s uncovered a giant truth and no-one will listen — too caught up in the story they already know. But I very much doubt it’s “a campaign of misinformation,” as the Times quotes Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg of the Anti-Defamation League. At least not deliberately. You can’t fake the kind of passion in Krupp’s voice. No, he’s a believer. Whether he’s the kind who needs a tin hat or not, it’s not for me to say, but for any amateur detectives out there who need a cause, you can contact him through the Pave the Way foundation. Me, I’m going to bed.