Vatican tried to enlist Jews as guards during WWII

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The Vatican tried to enroll Roman Jewish men in its security forces in 1943 in order to save them from the Nazis, the Vatican's second in command said on Tuesday, rejecting charges that wartime Pope Pius XII was anti-Semitic.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State, who ranks second only to the Pope in the Holy See hierarchy, made his comments at the presentation of a new book about Pius by Italian author Andrea Tornielli.

Bertone called accusations that Pius turned a blind eye to the Holocaust "a black legend" and re-stated the Vatican's position that he worked behind the scenes to help save Jews.

Bertone said that in October 1943, the Vatican asked the German occupiers for permission to take on some 1,425 more men for a police force called the Palatine Guard, since disbanded, which patrolled the Vatican and Church-owned buildings in Rome.

Holding up still classified Vatican documents, he said this was an attempt to get Jews into the force to protect them.

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