Cardinal della Costa: an Italian hero in 1943

The Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal della Costa, has taken a courageous stand. When some of his nuns were arrested, in consequence of having given shelter to some Jewish women in their convent, the Cardinal, putting on his full panoply, went straight to the German Command. ‘I have come to you,’ he said, ‘because I believe you, as soldiers, to be people who recognise authority and hierarchy—and who do not make subordinates responsible for merely carrying out orders. The order to give shelter to those unfortunate Jewish women was given by me: therefore I request you to free the nuns, who have merely carried out orders, and to arrest me in their stead.’ The German immediately gave orders for the nuns to be freed, but permitted himself to state his surprise that a man like the Cardinal should take under his protection such people as the Jews, the scum of Europe, responsible for all the evils of the present day. The Cardinal did not enter upon the controversy. ‘I look upon them,’ he said, ‘merely as persecuted human beings; as such it is my Christian duty to help and defend them. One day,’ he gave himself the pleasure of adding, ‘perhaps not far off you will be persecuted: and then I shall defend you!’

Origo, Iris. War in Val d’Orcia: An Italian War Diary 1943-1944 Pushkin Press. Kindle Edition.

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