The papal nuncio to Switzerland played a crucial role in a plot to stop the Holocaust that may have saved 300,000 lives, a new book will claim.

Most historians believe that the Nazis destroyed the death camps to hide the evidence of the millions they slaughtered. But historian and filmmaker Max Wallace believes there is more to the story.

In his book, published next spring, he argues that the decision by Heinrich Himmler in the autumn of 1944 to end the systematic slaughter was partly the result of secret negotiations instigated by a group that rescued thousands of Jews.

The nuncio in Bern, Archbishop Filippo Bernardini, had introduced Recha Sternbuch, who worked on behalf of he North American rescue committee Vaad ha-Hatzalah, to Jean-Marie Musy, a fascist and former Swiss president who knew Himmler. Wallace’s book, In the Name of Humanity: The Secret Deal to End the Holocaust, claims that the group used secret deals, bribes and false promises to manipulate Himmler, “exploiting his desperate desire for a separate peace with the Western Allies”.

“Musy and the Sternbuchs exploited this delusion by convincing him that such an alliance [with the Allies] was only possible if he ended the extermination of the Jews,” Wallace said. He noted that Himmler’s order for the gas chambers at Auschwitz to be destroyed came three days after a cable from Sternbuch said that the nuncio had “received promise slaughters will cease”.

Wallace told the US Catholic News Service (CNS) that he hoped the opening of the Vatican Secret Archives would shed more light on Himmler’s order. A source told CNS that documents from Pius XII’s pontificate might be available in 2018.

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