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The Letters

Long-term Documentary in Development, 2023
Director: Klaus T. Steindl

The Vatican archives contain thousands of letters addressed to Pope Pius XII from around 15,000 Jews persecuted by the Nazis. The letters were written by people in despair who hoped that the head of the Catholic church would help them. The names and fates recorded in these letters are a silent, horrifying memorial to the Shoah.

A team of experts led by the Catholic priest and award-winning church historian Hubert Wolf has now set itself the goal of examining and documenting all these letters and investigating the lives of those who wrote them.

METAFILM has joined forces with PRAHERFILM and TELLUX-FILM to develop a large-scale, long-term documentary with the working title “The Letters”. At the end of March 2023, the director Klaus T. Steindl travelled to Rome with a camera team to document the moment a Jewish son held the entreaty written by his mother decades ago for the first time. This letter may, potentially, have saved his life. Many others were not so fortunate.

Every single letter represents an individual. Some hoped to emigrate to the USA, England or Switzerland, and asked the Pope for financial assistance. Others had friends or relatives in territories occupied by Nazi Germany and appealed to the church for help. Some simply hoped to hide from their persecutors or requested asylum in the Vatican.

The team of experts plans to establish an online database that will give every one of the letter-writers a voice. The ambitious project is an important contribution to the ongoing discussion about the role of the Vatican during the Second World War. How many Jews did the Pope actually help, and what form did this assistance take? Who could not be helped – and why not?

The first step in the production process will be to produce an extended trailer we will use to secure broadcasters or streaming providers as partners for this ambitious long-term project about the power of remembrance. Little time remains to preserve the memories of those who survived the Holocaust and their direct descendants  – a task of great historical importance.

Accordion Title

Script & Director
Klaus T. Steindl

Judith Stehlik
Klemens Koscher

Birgit Foerster

Emanoel Bruckmüller

Line producer
Andrea Minauf