Albert Speer, the fuhrer's chief architect, built a scale model of how he planned to recreate the columns of St Peter's Square, which encircle the piazza in front of the Basilica. At the centre instead of a fountain as in Rome there would be a huge statue of Benito Mussolini. The plan was for the new Berlin to be ready in 1950 after Nazi Germany had defeated the Allies.
Hitler considered Rome to be the only city in the world to rival Berlin so he wanted to better it in every way possible. Speer's documents (which had been stored all along in Moskau but where recently released) show that Hitler took a great interest in the plans and was delighted with the architect's model. Hitler viewed several castings of Mussolini's statue which were commissioned, but the plans were eventually abandoned at the end of 1943 as Germany neared defeat.
This brings to mind, of course, last years a report suggesting that a plot codenamed Operation Rabat had originally been planned for 1943 but was not carried out that year for unspecified reasons. So far, given the above there might be some truth in this, however when the quoted Catholic newspaper Avvenire next , continues by suggesting that as late as 1944, SS General Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff had been ordered by Hitler to kidnap the Pope we suspect disinformation, intend on clearing the way for a known drive among certain people in the Vatican to officially declare Pius XII a saint.
that I claim to have any opinion who should be declared a saint or not,
or for that matter what a 'saint' really is in this case, the Vatican
should know that Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff cannot be trusted.
For example he was an inspirator for some of the fraudulent Hitler diaries sold to Stern for nearly nine million marks, $5m. And he also had a motive to pretend he wanted to save the Pope for he was accused of being responsible for the dead of 300,000 Jews.
When asked at the time by a reporter from ‘ Sunday People’, the former SS Karl Wolff, claimed about the diaries: "What my friends and I have been saying for years has now been confirmed: Hitler had never ordered the extermination of the Jews.” We are national-thinking people and idealists, not criminals, Woff stated.
Wolff also did as much as he could to prove the validity of the diaries by supporting the legend of their origin. Heidemann (a protégé of Karl Wolff), stated that the notebooks had been loaded on an airplane in Berlin on April 21, 1945, to be flown to Innsbruck. Wolff admitted to having heard of this plan at Führer headquarters. He had taken his leave of Hitler forever on the afternoon of April 18, but allegedly it was discussed in the bunker that the Führer's most important sketches were to be flown out by the pilot who died in the plane crash three days later.
Although almost all those who lived at Hitler's side never saw any diaries and almost all doubted that Hitler would have found the time and the opportunity to write them in secret, Wolff considered them authentic. He had always stated that Hitler not only agreed to Rudolf Hess's flight to England in 1941, but actually wanted it so that a peace agreement with England would free his back for the attack against the Soviet Union. And that was written in so many words by the author of the diaries. In their writings, the Reichsführer SS was blamed for lacking military experience in the First World War, and for being a small animal breeder possessed by a paranoia about race.
We stated however in the interview that it is unlikely that Wolff helped to actually write the texts of the diaries, done by Konrad Kujau, after together with Heidemann having perfected the art of imitating Hitler's handwriting, however they cleanse Wolff of his reputation as a war criminal. And clearly, they also place the Führer in the same light Wolff had always described him. Several installments came at just the right time for Wolff in his personal matters; he wanted to use them to once again appeal his own sentence of the Munich court.
Karl Wolff questioned in Munich 1964 about his facilitating train transports of 300,000 Jews, to Treblinka:
As for the story of the Pope’s abduction, the first time this was hinted at by Karl Wolff was at the Nuremberg trials where he stated ; The idea was to occupy the Vatican, "secure the archives and the art treasures, which have a unique value, and transfer the Pope, together with the curia [the papal bureaucracy], for their protection, so that they cannot fall into the hands of the Allies and exert a political influence".
The many accounts that appeared over several decades may have led the Vatican to keep a detailed record of everything the SS general said about Pius XII. The Vatican is interested in sainthood for Pope Pacelli, and that strictly regulated procedure requires that everything known about the life and work of the subject must be carefully recorded. The consistory of the archbishopric of Munich and Freising heard the retired general as witness, recorded his statements and requested at the same time that these be kept confidential. The consistory wrote Wolff a letter dated March 28, 1972, thanking him. It also emerged from this letter that Wolff had provided a "record" for the files of his "conversations with Adolf Hitler from September through December 1943 regarding the instructions for the occupation of the Vatican and the abduction of the Pope." It may be assumed that in the course of the procedure of beatification this episode from the history of the Third Reich will be examined and possibly even cleared up.
The events are not as clear as Wolff described them. Following his report, no one besides Heinrich Himmler and himself were to be informed of Hitler's decisions. It was a State Secret. Documents, orders of any kind, or even a hint in some file cannot be found. In all probability they never existed. What does exist and in writing at the time were only Hitler's two statements, already mentioned in the Table Talk. One is confirmed by an annotation by Joseph Goebbels in his diary on July 27, 1943, two days after the fall of the Duce, where he mentions Hitlerintention to occupy the Vatican. Kidnapping the Pope, however, was not mentioned. The files also show that Martin Bormann, secretary to the Führer and unquestionably the most influential person within the permanent entourage, had a fanatical hatred of the Catholic church, the clergy, and most certainly the Pope. There is also no evidence showing that in those days he repeatedly mentioned that the undefended Vatican could be neutralized in one nonviolent sweep of the hand. On top of that, because Hitler was convinced that the Pope was inivolved in the fall of the Duce, it is certain that at the end of July 1943 or in the first weeks of August, acts of violence against the seat of the Catholic church were taken into consideration. It is therefore also logical that Hitler had discussed it with Wolff, the highest police officer in Italy. The "personal credit" that Wolff frequently mentions also makes it absolutely believable that the talkative Hitler did not carefully measure his words. 1)
He no longer could remember on which day he was given the order, but he was able to write down a rather long dialogue verbatim about the Jochen von Lang project decades later. Obviously, he was given his mission before Mussolini had been returned to the political stage-meaning before September 14, 1943. Wolff had, as previously mentioned, two appointments with Hitler shortly before the arrival of the Duce at headquarters, one lasting ten minutes, the other twenty minutes. The shorter time span would have been just enough to speak of his first experiences and measures taken in Italy. During the second, Wolff introduced Professor Tassinari, his candidate for the position of prime minister of Italy, as already described.
During the following period, three times in October, twice in November, and once in December of 1943, Wolff had appointments with Hitler. According to his description, he reported on his preparations to occupy the Vatican, and at the same time, the information that he had come to a negative conclusion by trying to make it clear to Hitler how impractical it was to occupy the Vatican and kidnap the Pope. His reasoning was that the Church was the only authority that was recognized by all Italians, and whoever took action against it risked a popular rebellion. At some point in this time period, Wolff must have sent an oral message to the Pope through his colleague, Eugen Dollmann, who always maintained good relations with the Vatican. According to Dollmann the message was that the Pope had nothing to fear from the Germans as long as he, Karl Wolff, remained the Supreme SS and Police Führer in Italy. Were he to be replaced, it would be a sign that a harder policy had been decided.
Apparently all of this confirms the fact that Wolff was "completely credible," according to the Jesuit Dr. Burkhardt Schneider, professor of recent Church history, "in recording the instructions he received from Hider for a `liquidation' of the Vatican, and describing his efforts to block this order." However, Hitler's intentions, as Wolff described them, were soon no longer a State Secret. At the end of September 1943 everyone in Rome was talking openly about an action against the Vatican being imminent. Indeed the entire area of Vatican City was surrounded by police checkpoints, but this was mostly to prevent the German deserters and the opponents of the Italian regime from finding extraterritorial shelter there.
On October 7, an RSI (Italian Social Republic) radio broadcast announced that as a precaution quarters were being prepared for the Pope in Germany. That was a false report. Consul Eitel Friedrich Moellhausen, at the time the highest-ranking German diplomat at the German embassy in Rome under Mussolini's new regime, wrote that it was "not true that the Germans had decided to take the Holy Father away from Rome... All of these statements were exaggerations. Those responsible for German policy, including Hitler, had at most only occasionally considered those issues, but it never came down to a serious decision." It is, however, possible" admitted Moellhausen, "that in the Party and in the SS there were men who would advocate such an atrocity." Here the consul was mainly thinking of Goebbels, Himmler, and above all Bormann.
Hardly anyone considered Mussolini as having any importance. "Every German and every Italian ... is convinced that the Duce and the Italian government have no further authority," said a report at the end of June written by the commanding general's staff.
On the other hand, Karl Wolff’s stories were taken seriously here and there. In the Vatican, information about the dead Pope's life was being collected, according to tradition, in order to have Pius XII beatified and later canonized. The Vatican magazine La civiltà cattolica addressed the purported plans for a kidnapping. However, Wolff was only incidentally mentioned. Despite that he was called to the bishop's office in the spring of 1972 to make a statement regarding everything he knew about the Holy Father and it is this statement the press releases of January 15, 2005 are referring to.
Even if Wolff was successful in conveying his importance as a person, he probably was even more concerned that his freedom at the time was only seen as temporary. He had to have a physical every year, and each time he was only considered to be sick for twelve months. In the summer of 1973, the results were shockingly positive; perhaps he was ready to live in a prison cell again soon, since his letter of temporary release was only for half a year. He had to report to the examination location repeatedly in the first weeks of 1974, and an order from the State's attorney even sent him to the psychiatric clinic at the University of Munich for a whole week to a unit for forensic medical psychiatry.
He had more to lose besides his freedom. In the last two years, he was settled once again, had rented an apartment in Munich, and a small apartment in the house of a school friend was available to him in Darmstadt.
A more sincere reporter of Stern then Heidemann , Erich Kuby also made use of some of Wolff’s statements for his book, The German Betrayal,but he apparently double checked these while writing it. In his book Kuby writes that the Italians did not betray Germany by changing sides in 1943, breaking away from the Axis and switching to the Allies, but rather that Hitler had permanently betrayed and deceived his friend Mussolini and the Italians. In the end, according to Kuby Wolff also betrayed the Duce and his people by negotiating the surrender with the enemy without consulting the Italians and without their agreement. Even if Kuby did not say it explicitly in his description of those events, he additionally blamed the general as responsible for the execution of the Duce and Clara Petacci in a cloak-and-dagger operation. Wolff did nothing to protect either one because the Duce was now in his way.
Of course without Wolff's information, the author would not have written his book that way. At one point he also called Wolff a "charming old man" who had "made himself available for those investigations with his candid recollections." Blinded by his vanity, Wolff told the Stern journalist about all the various stages of important and intimate events. Wolff was in high spirits due to the local memories, and recounted his proconsular splendor; of big and small intrigues while unwittingly being, at the same time, the object of critical observation by the author. "We hear," Kuby writes, "utterances from him that lead one to think of a sovereign authority." Or, "We could also be speaking to Napoleon at St. Helena." He often uses the corporate "we" and writes how "Wolff's friendly courtesy" was not dampened by any bad memories because of his return to the same locations. The journalist sees the former general "as typical of our entire people, in a way"; that he developed the ability to "shake off an era of crime like a raindrop sliding down oilskin."
Kuby in fact had seen through Wolff's attempts to avoid blame, so that his descriptions of his work become "belated embellishments, after-the-fact inventions" and patently false recollections. He views the account about kidnapping the Pope in a dubious light, as he is generally of the opinion that Wolff used this as an alibi to help forget some of his disgraceful deeds.
As for the Hitler diarie’s Wolff also benefited from Heidemann's windfall, he received cash, bundled in 500-mark bills, as the publisher delivered them for the purchase of more diaries…
When the aforementioned Erich Kuby was assigned to write a story on Claretta Petacci (Mussolini’s mistress) for a German magazine, he traveled with the then almost eighty-year-old former General Karl Wolff around Italy and Germany in search of facts and witnesses. Fritz Birzer, who headed the SS escort commandos, said that handing over Mussolini and Petacci was the only way to control the situation. Wolff then completed that statement: "If he had kept his word of honor"-and he was referring to the instance when Mussolini had acted against the instructions of the SS Obergruppenführer(Heinrich Himmler)-"he would have been well cared for."
Mussolini, together with Claretta Petacci, was taken to a farmhouse by the partisans, and after announcing the next morning that a liberation committee had sentenced them both to death they where shot. The two dead bodies were next displayed in Milan on the pavement of the Piazzale Loreto. And once the people had vented their rage on Mussolini's corpse, his body and that of his lover were hanged by the feet, at a gas station.
When Hitler heard of this, in the bunker of the Reich Chancellery, he ordered that his body be burned immediately after his suicide-which actually took place two days later.
1) The conversation at the table on September 6 may very well have turned to the Vatican. The consequences must have also been discussed if Pius XII were to give pastoral instructions if he were under Allied control to Catholics living in Nazi-occupied Europe. Obviously influenced by his long stay in Germany as the nuncio, the Pope had until then avoided a head-on confrontation with the National Socialists, but that could also change.
Wolff, of course, knew these facts, that gave credence to a plan for action against the Vatican appear plausible. Besides that, there were already at least two statements from Hitler that apparently anticipated the order given to Wolff. One statement came at lunch on December 13, 1941, at the "Wolfsschanze" in the presence of three Reich ministers and presumably Wolff as well. In those days German divisions were at the outskirts of Moscow, frozen by winter, defending themselves only with the courage of desperation, against fresh units of Siberian Red Army troops that were just being thrown into the war. Hitler digressed from this, saying:
"The war will be over one day. I shall consider that my life's final task will be to solve the religious problem.... I don't interfere in matters of belief. Therefore I can't allow churchmen to interfere with temporal affairs ... The final state must be: in St. Peter's Chair, a senile officiant; facing him, a few sinister old women, as gaga and as poor in spirit as anyone could wish. The young and healthy are on our side." And referring to Mussolini's situation: "I'd have entered the Vatican and thrown everybody out-reserving the right to apologize later: `Excuse me, it was a mistake!' But the result would have been, they'd have been outside!"; Hitlers Table Talk 1941-1944, H. R. Trevor-Roper, ed. (New York: Enigma Books, 2000), pp. 142-3, 145.
Hitler stated something similar eighteen months later at the situation report on July 26, 1943, when bad news kept coming in from Rome about the collapse of the Fascist system. Back then he threatened: "I'll go into the Vatican immediately. Do you think the Vatican troubles me? It will be seized immediately. First of all, the entire diplomatic corps is in there. I don't care. The rabble is in there. We'll take the entire herd of swine ... What is already... Then we apologize afterward; that doesn't matter to us. We're waging a war there... [...] Yes we will get documents. We will bring out something about the betrayal!"; Hitler and His Generals: Military Conferences 1942-1945, Helmut Heiber and David M. Glantz, eds. (New York: Enigma Books, 2003), p. 216.
It is quite clear that Hitler had certainly considered such action. It remains open whether he actually planned the deed. That he never gave such an order in writing is not unusual; it was Hitler's practice to order crimes orally, just as he avoided documenting the responsibility for the murder of the Jews. It is also conceivable that when the discussion took place, Wolff became convinced that his mission was to realize the Führer's dream. Wolff often expressed the opinion that perhaps Hitler had mentioned murdering the Jews, but that he had never actually ordered it. Himmler and Heydrich may have relieved him of that responsibility of their own accord. There is also the possibility that Wolff fabricated the order hoping to mitigate his own responsibility by the idea that good is just evil that one doesn't perpetrate. At any rate, Wolff only brought up the order about the Vatican long after the war, when he was in serious trouble.
The papal encyclical of 1937 made only briefly reference to Hitler and his overt anti-Semitic actions by then, instead, it choose to focuse more, on ‘nudism’. Members of the Church nevertheless have been shown to be very well aware what Hitler was doing. Pope Pius XII one can conclude from this, simple didn’t have the courage to speak up, evidenced by the fact that he didn’t.