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Robert A. Graham

by Arthur R. Butz

When I was writing The Hoax of the Twentieth Century I encountered an extraordinary source, viz. the multi-volume collection of documents and commentary Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale (Acts and documents of the Holy See relative to the Second World War). The series, whose principal editor was Robert A. Graham, was still being published by the Vatican and more volumes were in the future.

Graham was a former editor of the Jesuit magazine America. The extermination claim was not challenged in the series, and it was generally understood that Graham’s main interest was in defending the wartime Pope Pius XII against charges of tacit consent to, and even collaboration with, Nazi policies of physical extermination of the Jews. Such charges crested with Rolf Hochhuth’s play The Deputy.

I believed that the Vatican documents constitute an important source. I devoted an entire appendix of my book to discussing them.

In studying the series of volumes I was struck by some of the editorial remarks, and believed that the editor, although not a revisionist in our sense, was implicitly raising fundamental questions of a revisionist bent. A good example was the quotation of some selected passages from some reports, from apparently well informed sources, delivered to the Pope on 15 July 1943, which described Auschwitz as essentially a work camp, and spoke of Jews who had been deported from France sending letters back to their families [1].

These impressions were so strong that I believed it necessary to contact Graham directly. In early 1977 I wrote to him in Rome, thus starting a very satisfactory and years long correspondence, although the request for copies of documents that I made to him at the time could not be filled, for reasons beyond his control [2].

In summer 1977 I was in Rome and visited him. Our conversation confirmed to me what I had read between the lines in Actes et documents; the editor was puzzled by the evidence he had examined, because much of it seemed impossible to reconcile with the extermination legend. He showed me a pamphlet I had not seen, published in 1943 by the Polish Labor Group which was New York based but in touch with the Polish underground. Its title was appropriate: Oswiecim — Camp of Death (Oswiecim is Polish for Auschwitz). The pamphlet presented the truth with some embellishment but what was important to Graham was that it did not speak of exterminations in any way reconcilable with the legend. He let me borrow the pamphlet to photocopy.

Vol. 10 of Actes et documents was long delayed and I wrote to Graham several times in my eagerness to see it. Publication finally came in 1980 and Graham was thoughtful enough to alert me personally. I got a copy and found references to more interesting but unpublished documents. Again I wrote to Graham and happily, this time, my request was filled [3].

At the IHR Convention in 1982, I compared the Holocaust legend to the Donation of Constantine and sent Graham a copy of the paper. In the paper I had noted that the Jewish historian Walter Laqueur understood as I did that the far-flung nature of the operations of the Catholic Church guaranteed that the Vatican would have known what was happening to the Jews [4]. Graham acknowledged receipt of the copy of my paper with a very kind, respectful and encouraging letter, referring to and not disputing the remark about the Vatican:

VILLA MALTA 24 January 1983

Dear Mr. Butz,

Your airmailed copy of your September 1982 paper reached me today. I hasten to thank you for keeping me in mind when elaborating on your theme.

On a quick reading, I see I must reflect further on the validity of your approach. I never thought of this in analogy of the Donation of Constantine!

I note your quote from Laqueur on the Vatican. He was apparently peeved at us for telling him we published what we had, as of 1942. What makes him assume that there is on the contrary a lot more? This is begging the question.

I wish you a prosperous New Year and fresh discoveries and new insights on a great drama!

Sincerely yours,
Robert A. Graham

I always knew that there was an honest and honorable man editing the publication of the Vatican documents.

Rev. Robert A. Graham, S.J., died in a California retirement home, at age 84, on 11 February 1997.


  1. Actes et documents, vol. 9, pp. 42,393. The footnote on p. 42 should refer to Nr. 264, not 164. More examples are given toward the end of Appendix E of my book.
  2. I wanted copies of the documents about deportations of Jews from France that Actes et documents had quoted but not reproduced. Graham told me to send my request through channels, i.e. to Archbishop Agostino Casaroli, Secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church. I did so but Casaroli replied that since the reports in question were provided by Jewish authorities in France then I should address myself to them. I wrote to the Centre de documentation juive contemporaine, in Paris, but received no answer. I also visited the Centre in July 1977, but I could not find the documents.
  3. The most interesting document was a letter from Alexandru Safran, Grand Rabbi of Romania, to Msgr. Andrea Cassulo, Papal Nuncio in Bucharest, dated 30 June 1944. It expressed concern that the Jews of Hungary were exposed to great privations and sufferings, at a time when the legend would have us believe they were mostly dead. The Jews of Hungary and Romania remained in close contact throughout this period.
  4. The paper appears as a Supplement in recent printings of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century.

The above first appeared, very slightly modified, in the Journal of Historical Review, March/April 1998, based on my manuscript of 31 July 1997. The Graham letter of 24 January 1983 was reproduced from the original.

Created 5 May 1998.

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