740.0011 European War 1939/33542: Telegram

The Secretary of State to Mr. Harold H. Tittmann, Assistant to the Personal Representative of President Roosevelt to Pope Pius XII

9. Your 76, March 6.19 In answer to inquiries at his press conference on March 13 concerning the remarks of His Holiness reported in that day’s press, the Secretary said,

“I think we all understand that the Allied military authorities in Italy are dealing primarily with considerations of military necessity forced on them by the activities and attitude of the German military forces. Naturally, we are as much interested as any government or any individual in the preservation of religious shrines, historic structures and human lives. I am sure that our military people have that same view. It is my understanding that the Allied [Page 1287] military authorities are pursuing a policy of avoiding damage to such shrines and monuments to the extent humanly possible in modern warfare and in the circumstances which face them. If the Germans were not entrenched in these places or were they as interested as we are in protecting religious shrines and monuments and in preserving the lives of innocent civilians and refugees, no question would arise.”

On March 14 the President made the following statement to the press concerning the use by the Germans of the city of Rome:

“Everyone knows the Nazi record on religion. Both at home and abroad. Hitler and his followers have waged a ruthless war against the churches of all faiths.

Now the German Army has used the Holy City of Rome as a military center. No one could have been surprised by this—it is only the latest of Hitler’s many affronts to religion. It is a logical step in the Nazi policy of total war—a policy which treats nothing as sacred.

We on our side have made freedom of religion one of the principles for which we are fighting this war. We have tried scrupulously—often at considerable sacrifice—to spare religious and cultural monuments, and we shall continue to do so.”

  1. See telegram 1530, March 13, 5 p.m., from Bern, p. 1285.