Vatican City, Oct. 29--(AP) Some 3.5 million files on World War II prisoners of war will be made public by the Vatican in January as part of a promised release of documents intended to counter criticism of the papacy during the Holocaust.

Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, the Vatican's librarian, said Tuesday the POW files will be available on CD-ROM on the Vatican's Web site. The Vatican will also release documents relating to its diplomacy in Germany from 1922 to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The files are believed to deal exclusively with the treatment of POWs during the conflict and not directly with issues surrounding the Holocaust.

Critics of Pope Pius XII, the wartime pope, argue he failed to raise his voice and use his position to head off the extermination of European Jews by the Nazis. Defenders insist he made every effort possible to help Jews and others.

Jewish groups and others have been seeking a complete opening of the Vatican archives.

Before becoming a cardinal, the future Pius XII served as a diplomat in Germany during the 1920s. As Vatican secretary of state, he was responsible for Vatican diplomacy in the years leading to WWII.

The Vatican announced in February that it planned to release the material, saying the files on wartime prisoners would show historians ``the great works of charity and assistance'' undertaken by Pius XII for prisoners and other victims regardless of nation, religion or race.

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