Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII

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Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII

by John Cornwell
Viking, 1999
430 pp. $29.95
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A comprehensive brief against the man who dominated Vatican diplomacy long before he was elected pope in March 1939. A veteran envoy to Germany, Eugenio Pacelli helped the Vatican reach the agreement with Berlin in 1933 that helped Hitler destroy the resistance of many German bishops and the Catholic Center Party. Throughout World War II, the Vatican refrained from condemning Nazi persecution of the Jews, even though Pius xii at times tried to help the anti-Nazi underground and supplied the Allies with intelligence. But when the Nazis rounded up the Jews of Rome in 1943, and again when they deported Hungary's Jews in 1944, the Vatican remained silent. Furthermore, Cornwell shows, Pacelli supported authoritarian regimes such as Franco's Spain and believed in a strong link between Jews and Bolshevism. Indeed, his uncompromising hostility to the latter contrasted with his appeasement of Hitler. Cornwell also emphasizes Pius xii's drive for papal supremacy at the expense of fresh thinking. But he is better at describing the secretive and ascetic pope's contradictions than at explaining his silence toward fascism and Nazism. This book provides all the elements to solve the mystery -- except the workings of the pontiff's soul.