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Vatican City

Full Name 38 State of the City of the Vatican
Alliance Neutral or Non-Belligerent


ww2dbaseThe modern city state of Vatican City government was formed when Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri signed the Lateran Treaty in Feb 1929; the treaty was one of three agreements collectively known as the Lateran Pacts of 1929. One of the clauses established in 1929 was that the Vatican must remain neutral, and would not act as an intermediary unless all parties agree upon such an arrangement. A religious state, the country's chief executive was the Pope of the Catholic Church. In 1938, when Italy passed a law forbidding marriage between Jews and non-Jews, the Vatican considered it to be a breach of the Lateran Pacts, as the two nations had previously agreed that the Catholic Church should be the sole authority on matters of marriage involving Catholics. On, 2 March 1939, Eugenio Pacelli became the head of the Catholic Church; he took on the papal name Pius XII. Within his first few months as the head of state, he implemented several policies to protect Italian Jews. First, he appointed several prominent Jewish scholars at posts at the Vatican after they had been dismissed from Italian universities due to their ethnicity. Then, on 23 Jun 1939, he reached an agreement with Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas for Brazil to issue 3,000 visas to allow non-Aryan Catholics, some of whom were Jews recently converted to Catholicism to escape persecution, to travel to Brazil (ultimately, however, only under 1,000 visas would be issued).

ww2dbaseWhen the European War was about to begin in 1939, Pope Pius XII attempted to mediate between the powers to maintain peace. He informed Mussolini via Jesuit Father Tacchi Venturi of this intention, and received Mussolini's agreement to proceed. Next, Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione reached out to Vatican representatives Valerio Valeri in France, Filippo Cortesi in Poland, Cesare Orsenigo in Germany, and William Godfrey in Britain. The discussions resulted in the recommendation for Poland to accept a German annexation of Danzig, to which Poland refused, thus accomplishing nearly nothing.

ww2dbaseDuring the war, Pope Pius XII made attempts to maintain Vatican City's neutrality. For example, there were very few appointments of cardinals during the war; many of the positions were left vacant until after the war, resulting in 32 cardinals being created in 1946. Despite the attempts at remaining neutral, one action he took was viewed by some as a gross violation of such stance. In May 1942, the church appointed a German Apostolic Administrator to lead the Catholic Church in occupied Poland. This action was not only controversial during the war, but also created a serious rift in the diplomatic relationship between Poland and Vatican City; as one of the consequences, between 1947 and 1989, Vatican City did not appoint an Apostolic Nuncio to Poland.

ww2dbaseOn 20 May 1940, Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano began to carry only war news published by the Italian government. In Aug 1940, readers found that there were no more weather reports in this newspaper; this was stopped after the Italian government complained that such reports were used by the British for planning aerial attacks on Italy. The Vatican Radio followed suit. In Dec 1940, Vatican City officially banned the Swiss Guard, the nation's small defensive force, from discussing politics.

ww2dbaseDuring the war, the Vatican City never publicly condemned the Nazi systematic extermination of various groups, which included many Catholics. Speaking to American representatives who tried to persuade him to do so, Pope Pius XII expressed that he could not speak of the Nazi atrocities without also bring up similar Soviet practices. It was also the Vatican's official stance that the alleged atrocities could not be verified. However, Pope Pius XII's Christmas address of 1942 did make mention of human aggression and the racial violence, with language suggesting that he was targeting the Germans without specifically naming them.

ww2dbaseIn late 1942, Vatican City was approached by Italian representatives who wanted a return to peace. This again resulted in little, as Britain distrusted Italy's ambassador to Vatican City, Galeazzo Ciano, who was Mussolini's son-in-law.

ww2dbaseDue to Vatican City's location within Rome, the Italian capital city was subjected by Allied bombing rather infrequently, as the Allies did not wish to violate Vatican City's neutrality by accident. The Allies dropped propaganda pamphlets a number of times over Rome, and a few of them drifted over across Vatican borders; complaints of such infringements were filed.

ww2dbaseAfter Italy switched sides in 1943, Rome quickly became occupied by German troops. In the case that German troops were to occupy Vatican City as well, which never happened, Pope Pius XII decreed that the government was to exile to Portugal, and if he became captured, the College of Cardinals would elect a new Pope. During the Italian-to-German transition, many Allied prisoners of war were released by their Italian captors, many of them headed for Vatican City as it was the nearest neutral nation. The Vatican feared that housing such great numbers of former Allied fighters would become a burden on its neutrality, thus the Swiss Guard prevented the former prisoners from entering the country's borders. Many Vatican officials, however, acted independently to harbor those who sought for assistance, regardless of their allegiance. At this time, there were also reportedly thousands of Jews who were in hiding in Vatican City and at the papal summer residence. On 27 Sep 1943, Germans in Rome demanded from the local Jewish community 100 pounds of gold in 36 hours, or 300 Jews would be deported. When the Jews failed to come up with the gold, the Vatican treasury opened up to make up this amount. The payment saved 300 Jews from immediate capture, but within a month, on 16 Oct, 2,091 Jews were deported by the Germans anyway. Although the Vatican failed to make a stance against the extermination of Jews, Vatican City, and the Catholic Church in general, was credited with savings thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Nazi official Adolf Eichmann, for example, had written in his diary that while the Vatican took no official stance, members of the church "vigorously protested the arrest of Jews, requesting the interruption of such action".

ww2dbaseIn 1944, conspirator of the July Plot Joseph Müller, a German Catholic priest, attempted to persuade Pope Pius XII to act as an intermediary, passing information about German resistance of Hitler to the British; maintaining his neutral stance, when the Pope met with British ambassador D'Arcy Osborne, he only informed him of his knowledge of resistance within Germany, with members of the military in its ranks, but did not disclose names nor offer his support.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, the Lateran Treaty which gave Vatican City its status as a sovereign state was incorporated into the Constitution of the Italian Republic in 1947.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Update: Dec 2010

Pius XIITacchi Venturi, Pietro

Events Taken Place in Vatican City
Bombing of Rome, Naples, and Other Cities2 Mar 1942 - 30 Sep 1943

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Alejandro says:
19 Apr 2009 03:19:24 PM

the pope made vatican city a refuge for many jews who had left there country.
2. Mümma says:
8 Oct 2010 02:41:36 PM

As much as I dislike the Church today, I give them credit for the Hub of peace they did provide during this period
3. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
16 Oct 2010 11:56:12 AM


The Vatican,Mussolini, Hitler and the Allies
were all strange bedfellows, they all played the Political game during WWII.

The Vatican knew what was going on in Europe
and it walked that fine line between being a
Religious and Political State.

Did You Know...

The only physical border around the Vatican
during World War II, was a white painted line. The Swiss Guard was the Vaticans only
military force, besides the traditional
uniforms, the Guard was also trained in the
use of modern infantry weapons.

Did You Know...

In 2006 the Swiss Guard Celebrated its 500th Anniversary of service to the Pope & Vatican

The Vaticans attempt as a peace broker were
fairly limited However, the Church managed
to smuggle thousands of Jews, Allied POWs and other victims of the Nazis to safty.

What were the secret deals made, who carried
them out and what was the price payed, the
truth is locked away in the Vatican Archives.


The 'Scarlet' and the 'Black' (1981)

Real life story about a Irish Catholic priest
Father Hugh O'Flaherty played by Gregory Peck
who saved thousands of Jews and Allied POWs
in Nazi-occupied Rome during WWII.

The charactor of General Max Helm was based
on real life SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Karl Wolff
who served in 1944 as the Supreme SS-Police
Leader in Italy.

The film was unable to use Wolff's real name
since the SS-General was still living in 1981
but died in 1984.
Christopher Plummer played the charactor as
SS-Kommandant for Rome (Hugh Kappler)

The'Scarlet'refers to the good, and the
'Black' refers to the bad.

'Pius XII This is the only human being who
has always contradicted me, and who has never obeyed me.'

-Adolf Hitler-
4. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
17 Oct 2010 03:58:38 PM

The Germans did attack the Vatican during
the takeover of Rome.
However,the shells could not crack the thick protective walls of the city. The Nazis would
harass the Vatican politically.

During World War II USAAF crews that were
Catholic, were offered the option of not
going on any mission that would drop bombs near Vatican City.


The M 1868 Pontificio, the only modern rifle
ever manufactured specifically for the Vatican.
The rifle was based on the single-shot 1867 Remington rolling block design that was
chambered for the 12.7x45 caliber cartridge
unique to the Military of the Papal State.

The weapon even had the Vatican crest stamped
on the receiver.
Today the only Military associated with the
Vatican is the Swiss Guard, whose standard
issue weapons are the same as those of the
Swiss army. The weapons are not carried in
public, they are present in the armory.

Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes) is the
Episcopal Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church
in Rome.
5. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
30 Oct 2010 11:48:01 AM


Vatican City is the smallest sovereign or
independent country in the world.
It is surrounded by the City of Rome, the
Capitol of Italy.

Fewer than 1,000 live there the official
languages are Italian and Latin.
Other languages are spoken through official
interrupters. The area is 0.17 sq mile


During World War II in 1943, the British bombed the Vactican which was neutral, both
the Allies and the Axis had orders not to
bomb the city.
It remaims uclear to this day, if the attack was intentional or not. Damage of the raid can still be seen today.
In 1944 the Germans dropped bombs over the

Records of the Vaticans wartime files, are
locked away in its Archives. Official papers,
documents and letters, cover-ups? and even
alleged deals? with both the Allies and the
Axis powers.
Someday all the records will be opened for
study, until then the controversies will
6. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
31 Oct 2010 05:11:43 PM


It has been speculated, that Adolf Hitler
ordered SS Commander in Italy, General Karl
Wolf, to seize the Vatican by force, kidnap
or kill Pope Pius XII and the King of Italy.
But this could never be verified, which was
based on personal interview with SS General Karl Wolf.

However, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris head of
German Counter-Intelligence / Abwehr warned
his counter-part Italian General Cesare Ame.
What happened behind closed doors,will never be known but the mission was never carried

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958) His actions remain
controversial to this day.
During World War II while atrocities were
committed all over Europe, he stood firm on
the grounds of neutrality, privately the
Vatican sheltered Allied POW's, Jews and
others escaping from the Nazis.

Institutions and Individuals are fallable the
Vatican had to work through diplomacy, and
at the same time not to appear political or
seen as passive.
It had to work with two dictatorships working
to contain both through distraction and time.

Did You Know...

When the Allies landed at Anzio, they were
about 57 miles from Rome.

Abwehr-defense,shortening of Spionage Abwehr
(Spy defense) the term referred to the
Counter-Espionage Service, of the German
Secret Service. Headed by Admiral Canaris.


Spies in the Vatican
by David Alverez
University Press of Kansas
ISBN 0700612149
7. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
1 Nov 2010 06:40:31 PM


Located in Vatican City, central respository
for all documents, correspondence that the
Church has accumulated over the centuries.

The word "Secret" does not have modern meaning, it indicates that the archive are
the Pope's own.
It is estimated to contain over 52 miles or
84 km of material. Over 35,000 volumes, some of the oldest surviving documents date back to the Eight Century.


The Vatican has opened part of its secret
archives relating to World War II, and other
church documents. The documents, will gain
insight into how the Holy See dealt with
persecution of the Jews in WWII.
8. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
2 Nov 2010 07:58:30 AM


All nations maintain political and national
Secret records dealing with events are sealed
not to be opened for years.
Others, buried in official documents that could identify individuals. Even intelligence
reports covering certain events, of its WWII neutrality, and its to-to-day activity during
this period.

Many details of the Vatican's World War II
clandestine activities, will never really be
The Vatican must have particpated in, secret
agreements guaranteeing it continued
sovereignty over itself, and its physical
Few States guard their "Secret Archives"
more than the Vatican.
9. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
3 Nov 2010 09:02:55 AM


Next time your able to visit Washington,D.C.
Remember the Vatican is 0.17 sq mile in area
this is a little bigger, than the National
Mall in Washington, D.C.

St. Peters Basilia the most famous landmark
in Vatican city. It took more than 100 years
to build.

Work started in 1506 to many in the world, St. Peter's is one of the greatest buildings
of the 16th century.
The huge interior of St. Peter's can hold up
to 60,000 people. It is decorated with works
by some of the world's greatest artists,
Michelangelo, Botticlli and Bernini.

Did You Know...

The Vatican is currently the only sovereign
state, with International recognition that
is not a United Nations member.
However, it maintains diplomatic relations with other states.

National Defense:

The Swiss Guard protects the Pope within
Vatican City.
The Italian Armed Forces maintain security
for Italy and the Vatican.


The number'147',is honored by the 147 Swiss
Guards, who lost their lives defending
Pope Clement VII in 1527 during the sack of
Of the 147 guards,only 42 survived the battle
after that battle no other combat death's
have been recorded.
10. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
15 Dec 2010 09:01:15 AM

"The Scarlet and the Black" movie mentioned above, all movies fictionalize & dramatize
but Gregory Peck captures the spirit of this
O'Flaherty's courage, faith and whose humanity knew no barriers to race, religion and creed. Monsignor O'Flaherty is almost forgotten, and over shadowed by Politicians,
Generals & Historical events of World War II.

There were millions of O'Flaherly's worldwide
that stood and fought against unmitigated evil..

To Learn More:

Vatican Pimpernel: The Wartime Exploits of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty

By Brian Fleming
11. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
17 Apr 2011 07:01:51 PM


The early Christian Church used intelligence
gathering to survive against brutal Roman persecution and continued to use this system to maintain and consolidate its own early religious empire.


To portray its non-political balance the
Vatican has the sixth largest intelligence system in the world to ensure its own internal and external security and strength.


Alliances were set up in secret during WWII
agreements, meetings and special deals were
made. The Vatican has maintained this network ever since.
The Vatican has its own intelligence agency and what its mission is, can only be speculation. In the world of Black Ops, a State must work with both Friends and Enemies, and watch for enemies within.
12. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
18 Apr 2011 03:20:37 PM


The Vatican maintains miles of documents,
letters, reports and records of secrets and
Secret reports buried and filled way,reports dealing with Governments, its officials, the dates, and the places no one knows their full extent.


The Vatican holds its secrets, and guards them well,few people have access to them and the reason to know such information that are centries old to recent events, are taken to
levels of security.
The Vatican has a couple of millennia and experience to fall back on, its hierarchy
can and will go to any means to bury, and hide its information.
Like any State or institution and individuals
within it, are fallable the word "Secret"
is a way for an institution to close itself
to outside scrutiny its obession with secrets
is enough to create a cloak-and-dagger novel.


Controversy still surrounds over what the Church did, what it knew, and what it didn't stop or failed to do and its own diplomatic conduct during World War II and whether
Pope Pius XII did too little to protest the Holocaust.


Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of
Malta (SMOM) which historically has been the
Military arm of the Vatican.
13. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
20 Aug 2011 08:44:27 PM


Heresy is defind as a departure from Christain beliefs. The result of Heresy was
bloody slaughter Religious suppression against so-called heretics became just as brutal as the Roman emperors suppressing Christians.
Later on this would be the same group that would bring on the Inquistition.


The Church murdered, tortured, mulitated and
destroyed millions of lives. Between 1450 to
1600 the Church was responsible for the torture and burning of over 30,000 alleged witches.


From 1227 to 1241 the Inquisition had left devesting effects, while the people became poor the Church glutted in wealth and was responsible for crippling the economy these were the same people who believed the invention of the printing press would become a threat to the Church.


Notable heretics: Galileo Galilei the famous
Italian astronomer who was found guilty in
1633 for his teachings that the planets and the earth revolved around the sun, and that the earth wasn't the center of the universe
as taught by the Church.
Galileo was sentenced to life imprisonment
under house arrest.
14. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
21 Jun 2012 09:15:19 PM


In 1934 Adolf Hitler signed an agreement with
Pope Pius XI in which he promised not to interfere in religion if the Catholic Church agreed not to become involved in politics in Germany.


Pope Pius XI condemned the Nuremberg laws in 1938 and was preparing an encyclical against Anti-Semitism, but died in 1939 before it could be completed.
His successor Pope Pius XII decided not to speak out against the atrocities that were being carried out in Germany.


Letters that are sent throughout the church
to Bishops and other religious leaders to express an opinion by the Pope on a controversial or religious matter.


Anti-Jewish legislation introduced by the Nazi Party.
15. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
16 Oct 2012 10:30:54 AM



Besides the M1868 Pontificio, based on the
Remington rolling block in 12.7x45 the Papal State has also used many different types of weapons at one time, or another.
The Dreyse M1907,9mm semi-auto pistol, today Vatican police carry the Beretta semi-auto pistol, the Swiss Guard carry the Swiss SIG P-220,9mm semi-auto pistol.

The only military force guarding the Pope is the Swiss Guard, and use standard infantry weapons of the Swiss Army, these weapons are kept in the armory as for the guards themselves its a question, if they are armed or not, under their traditional uniforms.


Why does the Swiss Guard protect the Pope?
Its a holdover from medieval times the Pope didn't trust their own citizens to guard him
so they contracted out...
The Swiss being neutral and having the best trained troops at that time in Europe, have guarded and served loyally for 500 years
What's the old saying: If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one...

I thank the editor/ww2db for allowing me to continue to leave my comments
16. Anonymous says:
11 Dec 2012 03:24:34 AM

Essays like this are so important to broadening people's hroiznos.
17. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
30 Nov 2014 06:52:00 AM


The present religious state was founded following
the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy on February 11,1929, and was later ratified on June 7,1929. Vatican City was now a religious and sovereign state and is recognized under international law.

The international protection of the territory the
whole of Vatican City is under the protection of the Hague. Did you know that the Vatican issues
its own vehicle license plates, starting with the
initials (SCV & CV) followed by numbers, it also mints its own coins and postage stamps.

Vatican citizens are allowed to register their private vehicles within Vatican City with the international abbreviation (V).
Population of the Vatican is 800 but can increase during the year of whom 450 have Vatican Citizenship.

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