Months before the archive's date of opening, ZENIT found out from direct Vatican sources that, beginning February 2003, documents strictly concerning relations between the Vatican and Germany during the 1922-1939 pontificate of Pius XI will be made available to specialists. These documents will encompass material from two different archives: the Vatican Secret Archive and the Archive of the Vatican State Secretariat.
The documents mostly contain instructions and correspondence between the Vatican, the Nunciatures, and German Bishops. This period of history is of critical interest, especially in regard to the advent of the Nazi regime in 1933, on until 1939, shortly before World War II.
The documents also record the persecution endured by the Catholic Church because of the Nazi regime, ZENIT was told by individuals with access to the documents.
With the opening of the Archive, the Vatican will publish 6 CDs containing the documents and names of the people helped by the Catholic Church between 1939 and 1946, the result of research carried out by the Vatican Bureau of Information. Pius XII created this department in September of 1939, for the specific purpose of rescuing and helping victims of war.
ZENIT had access to the 1948 Vatican report "Apercu sur l'oeuvre du Bureau d'Informations Vatican 1939-1949", with statistical data and testimonies of the work carried out by this department.
The office received 9,891,497 requests from individuals seeking information about vanished persons, and ascertained the whereabouts of at least 36,877 people. It had 16 Sections, the hardest working being those concerned with prisoners, exiles, and persecuted Jews.
The story of Boston tailor Jacob Freedman testifies to the efficiency and work of this office. The Canadian Jewish Chronicle took up his story on January 26, 1940: Concerned about the fate of his sister and nephew, who were living in Nazi-occupied Poland, Freedman wrote to the U.S. State Department and the Red Cross, but neither was able to give him any information. He then wrote Pope Pius XII.
Months later, Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology, told Freedman that his family was safe and sound in Warsaw.
According to the Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Freedman wrote: "I have no words to express what I feel. I am impressed that you are interested in my case, with all the important matters that must be concerning you."
Freedman said it was "the best, most fantastic, and most beautiful thing that could happen to me."