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Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII

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Backed by a wealth of new research, John Cornwell tells for the first time the story of the World War II career of Eugenio Pacelli, the man who was Pope Pius XII, arguably the most dangerous churchman in modern history. In the first decade of the century, as a brilliant young Vatican lawyer, Pacelli helped shape a new ideology of unprecedented papal power in Germany. In 19 Backed by a wealth of new research, John Cornwell tells for the first time the story of the World War II career of Eugenio Pacelli, the man who was Pope Pius XII, arguably the most dangerous churchman in modern history. In the first decade of the century, as a brilliant young Vatican lawyer, Pacelli helped shape a new ideology of unprecedented papal power in Germany. In 1933 Hitler became his negotiating partner, an agreement was arranged that granted religious and financial payments to the Catholic Church in exchange for their withdrawal from social and political privillage, ensuring the rise of Nazism.


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Backed by a wealth of new research, John Cornwell tells for the first time the story of the World War II career of Eugenio Pacelli, the man who was Pope Pius XII, arguably the most dangerous churchman in modern history. In the first decade of the century, as a brilliant young Vatican lawyer, Pacelli helped shape a new ideology of unprecedented papal power in Germany. In 19 Backed by a wealth of new research, John Cornwell tells for the first time the story of the World War II career of Eugenio Pacelli, the man who was Pope Pius XII, arguably the most dangerous churchman in modern history. In the first decade of the century, as a brilliant young Vatican lawyer, Pacelli helped shape a new ideology of unprecedented papal power in Germany. In 1933 Hitler became his negotiating partner, an agreement was arranged that granted religious and financial payments to the Catholic Church in exchange for their withdrawal from social and political privillage, ensuring the rise of Nazism.

30 review for Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Weinstein

    Cornwell has written a devastating condemnation of Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII). So far, I have read the chapters describing Pacelli's utterly immoral role in bringing Hitler to a position of dictatorial power by passage of the Enabling Act in 1933. To summarize ... Pacelli was fixated on reaching a Concordat with Hitler that would implement the 1917 Code of Canon Law he had been instrumental in drafting ... He was totally unconcerned with Hitler's destruction of human rights, social ethics Cornwell has written a devastating condemnation of Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII). So far, I have read the chapters describing Pacelli's utterly immoral role in bringing Hitler to a position of dictatorial power by passage of the Enabling Act in 1933. To summarize ... Pacelli was fixated on reaching a Concordat with Hitler that would implement the 1917 Code of Canon Law he had been instrumental in drafting ... He was totally unconcerned with Hitler's destruction of human rights, social ethics and Jews ... He was determined to destroy the power of the Catholic Center Party and the German bishops, who had vehemently opposed Hitler ... His primary objective seems to have been to establish conditions under which he could rule imperiously from Rome without opposition ... and to have Hitler in power in Germany as a bulwark against Communist expansion Hitler knew exactly what he was gaining from Pacelli's ambition *** nearing completion of the Concordat, Hitler wrote: the treaty shows the whole world that the assertion the NS is hostile to religion is a lie *** and then Hitler reported to his cabinet: a sphere of confidence has been created that will be especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry This is Pacelli's record until 1933. Then, of course, there was his reprehensible silence during the Holocaust. Here are a few more of the many points Cornwell makes to support his conclusions ... *** Hitler was wary of Catholic resistance to National Socialism … in Mein Kampf he wrote that a confrontation with the Catholic Church in Germany would be disastrous *** Catholic criticism of National Socialism was vehement and sustained … open warfare … a parish priest at Kirschhausen gave guidance to his parishioners: no Catholic may be a Nazi, no Nazi may participate in parish activities, no Nazi may receive sacraments ... promptly confirmed by the vicar-general of Mainz that the priest was speaking in accordance with diocesan thinking *** the Bavarian bishops (Faulhaber) directed their clergy to warn against National Socialism … incompatible with Catholicism *** a Catholic Reichstag representative - Karl Trossman … published "Hitler and Rome" … described Nazis as a "brutal party that would do away with the rights of the people" … would drag Germany into a new war which would end even more disastrously than the last *** Catholic author Alfons Wild: Hitler's view of the world is not Christianity but a message of race that proclaims violence and hate ... Catholic journalists: NS means hatred, fratricide and unbounded misery ... Hitler preaches the law of lies *** Pacelli was not inclined to take the least notice of advice from German Catholic leaders … maintained that satisfactory relations between Germany and the Church (by which he meant the Vatican) could only be achieved with a new concordat *** as 1932 proceeded … decisions about the fate of the Catholic Church in Germany were being made entirely by Pacelli in the Vatican *** in order to achieve the Reich Concordat … Pacelli needed the German bishops to reverse their denunciations of NS … and have the Center Party give legal force to the passage of the Enabling Act to grant Hitler dictatorial powers

  2. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    The beatification process has begun to make Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) a saint. Aside from whatever we might think about how saints are created by the church as an institution, I suspect everyone would agree that any saint should have a reasonably spotless reputation. John Henry Newman, a famous British convert to Catholicism in the eighteenth century, once wrote that “It is not good for a Pope to live twenty years. It is an anomaly and bears no good fruit; he becomes a god, has no one to contra The beatification process has begun to make Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) a saint. Aside from whatever we might think about how saints are created by the church as an institution, I suspect everyone would agree that any saint should have a reasonably spotless reputation. John Henry Newman, a famous British convert to Catholicism in the eighteenth century, once wrote that “It is not good for a Pope to live twenty years. It is an anomaly and bears no good fruit; he becomes a god, has no one to contradict him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it.” The papacy alters a man’s consciousness. He becomes a solitary individual. Paul VI recognized this solitude and penned a note to himself that described this loneliness and power, “assume every responsibility for guiding others, even when it seems illogical and perhaps absurd. And to suffer alone. . . Me and God.” Cornwell, aware of the rumors surrounding Pius’s actions during WWII with regard to the Jewish problem in Germany, decided to do the definitive research into these accusations. He was given unprecedented access to Vatican files. He was sure that Pius would be vindicated. What he discovered surprised and saddened him. The secret files revealed a man obsessed with power who maneuvered with Hitler and the German Catholic Church in such a way that helped to bring Hitler to power. It’s important to remember that the papacy as we know it today is very different from that which preceded the nineteenth century. It is an invention. Prior to the rise of almost instant world-wide communication, power was distributed through great councils and a hierarchy that left much discretion to local control. It was “more a final court of appeal than a uniquely initiating autocracy.” Pacelli played a key role in strengthening the central authority of the papacy. This was in part a reaction to the oppression the Catholic Church had suffered at the hands of the state in the early nineteenth century. There was also a struggle between those who urged more central authority for the pope and those who were anxious to decentralize and distribute more authority to the bishops. The centralists won at the First Vatican Council of 1870 when the pope was declared “infallible” in matters of faith and morals and the undisputed leader of the church. Pacelli, as a Vatican lawyer, played a substantial role in redrafting the Church’s laws in such a way as to grant future popes “unchallenged domination.” The Code of Canon Law was initiated in 1917 and distributed to Catholic clergy. Pacelli received special dispensation to study at home for his seminary training. Ostensibly, this was because of his nervous stomach’s inability to handle seminary food. Whatever the case, the influence of his mother remained very strong. Following his ordination, he began work on his doctorate, studying with the Jesuits. This was at the time of the Dreyfus trials in France, and— despite his subsequent pardon and evidence of innocence—Jesuit publications continued to warn of the dangers of Jews: “wherever Jews had been granted citizenship the outcome had been the ruination of Christians.” Anti-Semitism had a long history in the Catholic Church, and it was the sixteenth century pope Paul IV who instituted the ghetto and required Jews to wear a distinctive yellow badge. In the 1920s, Germany had one of the largest — and best-educated — Catholic populations in the world. As papal nuncio, it was Pacelli’s role to create a pact between the German state and the Church, a pact resisted by Protestants and many Catholics who believed his vision was too authoritarian. Pacelli remained pro-German all his life. He failed to publicly condemn any of the mass killings the Germans had begun. Even the slaughter of Catholic priests in Poland and the handicapped under the euthanasia program were never condemned. Cornwell shows that Pacelli was Hitler’s best ally. Despite appeals from many, including some top German commanders in Italy, he refused to condemn Hitler’s acts, self-righteously concluding that Hitler was preferable to Stalin since Hitler was willing to pay lip service to Christianity. In return, Pius XII received full control of the Church in Germany. Cornwell documents how Pacelli had been fully informed of the “persecution unleashed against the Jews at the very point when he was to enter into substantive negotiations for a concordat with its perpetrators.” Hitler even justified the concordat by suggesting that it would be “especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry.” It is unclear whether Pacelli understood the wider implications of his diplomatic maneuvers that led to Hitler’s supremacy, but he supported Hitler to the very end, sending Hitler his personal congratulations following the unsuccessful bomb assassination attempt in 1939. His failure to condemn the persecution of the Jews rendered Hitler invaluable aid. Cornwell’s ultimate judgment of Pacelli is that his life was a “fatal combination of high spiritual aspirations in conflict with soaring ambitions for power and control. . . not a portrait of evil but of fatal moral dislocation – a separation of authority from Christian love. The consequences of that rupture were collusion with tyranny and ultimately violence.” Anti-Semitism alone does not explain Pacelli’s silence, although clearly he regarded the Jews as a contemporary as well as ancient enemy of his church. He placed papal power and the accumulation of even more power to the papacy as the highest value. Cornwell answers in the affirmative to the question he poses, “Was there something in the modern ideology of papal power that encouraged the Holy See to acquiesce in the face of Hitler’s evil, rather than oppose it?” The move to beatify Pius XII should come to a screeching halt. The sanctification of someone whose moral authority has been documented to be considerably less than holy would render the entire concept of sainthood as meaningless if not foolish – if it isn’t already. If Pius were to be beatified, his policies would be confirmed, “endorsing the modern ideology of papal power and justifying Pacelli’s wartime record.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Clif Brittain

    I've cried twice this year when I read a book. This was one of them. The scene was that rubber-necking German soldiers were driving past the Vatican, their trucks filled with Italian Jewish deportees on their way to certain death. This was happening with the full knowledge of people within the Vatican, including the pope. Not once during the whole war did Pope Pius XII mention Nazis or Jews, much less condemn Hitler's regime. At first I thought the title of this book was a bit strong. But if Hitl I've cried twice this year when I read a book. This was one of them. The scene was that rubber-necking German soldiers were driving past the Vatican, their trucks filled with Italian Jewish deportees on their way to certain death. This was happening with the full knowledge of people within the Vatican, including the pope. Not once during the whole war did Pope Pius XII mention Nazis or Jews, much less condemn Hitler's regime. At first I thought the title of this book was a bit strong. But if Hitler had wanted greater compliance, he could not have had it. If anyone knows of a book of similar quality that tells a contrary side of the story, please let me know.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robert Beveridge

    John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (Viking, 1999) I feel guilty abandoning this book. The subject matter is tailor made to suit my tastes, and so many reviews of the book have focused, incorrectly, on Cornwell's seeming obsession with attacking the Roman Catholic Church and his methods of research, that I couldn't imagine not liking it when I picked it up. But quite simply, Hitler's Pope is an unmitigated disaster. This is not to say that many of its critics are not still John Cornwell, Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (Viking, 1999) I feel guilty abandoning this book. The subject matter is tailor made to suit my tastes, and so many reviews of the book have focused, incorrectly, on Cornwell's seeming obsession with attacking the Roman Catholic Church and his methods of research, that I couldn't imagine not liking it when I picked it up. But quite simply, Hitler's Pope is an unmitigated disaster. This is not to say that many of its critics are not still incorrect in their assessment of Cornwell's work. A number of reviewers have stated that the book has already been refuted by "scholarly" sources (without providing any references or other evidence of same), saying that Cornwell's previously-unused sources are, in fact, not secret at all (despite Cornwell's exhaustive list of sources, in which he repeatedly states that many of them were previously public-- another straw man built by Catholics with axes to grind), pointing out that Pius XII was honored by the Jews for his work in World War II (which, as should be obvious to anyone with half an ounce of logic in their bodies, has nothing to do with what he actually did during WW2, nor does it have anything to do with what Hitler did with his actions before WW2, etc.), or combinations of the above and other similar easily-dismissed attacks on Cornwall. All of them serve the purpose of drumming up more interest in the book and making people wonder what all the fuss is about, thus increasing the book's authorship. These critics, who I suspect mindlessly bash anything containing any anti-Catholic sentiment whatsoever, miss using the most effective arrow in their quivers. Putting aside all the sectarian nonsense that's been written about the book and its research methods, Cornwell's writing simply isn't all that good. Many assertions are made throughout that should have been footnoted that weren't, and conclusions are drawn that aren't labelled as conclusions, so we've no idea whether they're conclusions drawn by Cornwell himself or drawn in his sources. Worse, the prose is dry as the paper upon which the book is printed. Don't avoid Cornwell because he has an axe to grind against the Roman Catholic Church (assuming some fragment of that statement is actually true), avoid him because he's not a good writer. (zero)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    A well-written biography of one of history's footnotes: Pope Pius XII. A well-written biography of one of history's footnotes: Pope Pius XII.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    On p. 310 of Hitler's Pope, John Cornwell, after numbering the deported Roman Jews at 1,060, notes that "an unspecified number of Jews" were sheltered from deportation by the Vatican. This number is freely available, Cornwell must have known it well: about 5,000. As this would have undercut his thesis (that the diplomacy of Pius XII clearly was only self-serving and did not save lives), he assiduously keeps it from the reader. The book is rife with these sorts of distortions: Kenneth L. Woodward On p. 310 of Hitler's Pope, John Cornwell, after numbering the deported Roman Jews at 1,060, notes that "an unspecified number of Jews" were sheltered from deportation by the Vatican. This number is freely available, Cornwell must have known it well: about 5,000. As this would have undercut his thesis (that the diplomacy of Pius XII clearly was only self-serving and did not save lives), he assiduously keeps it from the reader. The book is rife with these sorts of distortions: Kenneth L. Woodward stated in his review in Newsweek that "errors of fact and ignorance of context appear on almost every page." First, contrary to Cornwell's assertions, there is precious little new material, and he did not enjoy "unprecendented" access to Vatican archives. Second, his assertion that he started the project with the intention of clearing the name Eugenio Pacelli (Pius XII) is highly suspect, since by his own admission, his main point is that the papacy is itself an evil institution; it's unlikely that the reign of one man would have changed his mind on this, especially given the REALLY bad popes of history. If he really felt the papacy was an unreformable evil, what would be his motivation to clear the name of a pope who exercised such clear authority? Third, nothing is mentioned of Pacelli's support of Christian Democrat parties after the war, as this would undercut Cornwell image of a pope who distrusted democratic movements. Structurally, the book is a mess. Is it a biography of Pacelli? Not really. Is it a story of the wartime behavior of Pius XII? About one-third of it is, but that is better covered by authors who focused on original sources, e.g., Pierre Blet, and not secondary and tertiary sources as Cornwell does. He takes the opportunity to tell us what he thinks about John Paul II (against, natch) and contraception (for, natch), all the while showing that, his claim to be a "devout Catholic" notwithstanding, he's clearly out of touch with both Catholic theology and Catholic life as practiced today. He's hilariously uninformed about NFP (no, I have no idea what this has to do with the Nazis or Pius, either), and only someone who's never read or understood John Paul II's philosophical work could call his work "a narrow reading of neo-Thomist philosophy," unless neo-Thomist philosophy somehow now includes 20th century phenomenology. The book is also filled with fun, irrelevant, "zany" tidbits like what Orson Welles and Alec Guinness recalled of their meetings with the pontiff. Oh, and in case you missed it (most historians have), the Vatican was also responsible for World War I (p. 48-58)! This is just looney stuff.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    One of the enduring controversies of the Catholic Church has been its role, or perhaps more appropriately its lack of role, in speaking out against the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, has been accused of cowardice, anti-Semitism, a lack of concern for worldly affairs, a bias towards Germany, an inclination towards dictatorialism that made him partial to Fascist societies like Franco's Spain and Hitler's Germany. This book attempts to stip away a lot of the myths surrounding the issue, One of the enduring controversies of the Catholic Church has been its role, or perhaps more appropriately its lack of role, in speaking out against the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, has been accused of cowardice, anti-Semitism, a lack of concern for worldly affairs, a bias towards Germany, an inclination towards dictatorialism that made him partial to Fascist societies like Franco's Spain and Hitler's Germany. This book attempts to stip away a lot of the myths surrounding the issue, most importantly concerning Pacelli's negotiating of the Reich Concordat in the 1920s, an issue which led directly to the dissolution of the Catholic Centre Party, one of the major obstacles in Hitler's path to power. Pacelli firmly believed that the Church had no business getting embroiled in political issues, that the Church should be above all such worldly affairs. As a result of this attitude he pursued a strictly neutral stance throughout the war, refusing to condone or condemn one side or the other, even when the evidence of the Nazi atrocities against the Jews of Europe was becoming impossible to ignore. Pacelli pursued a very authoritarian church, with all power stemming from the Pontiff, unlike the more collegiate course that was occasionally offered as an alternative. Bishops, archbishops, cardinals, all had very little power to act indendepently of their Pope - and their Pope insisted that all representatives of the Church remain above politics. As a result of this attitude, Pacelli was far more sympathetic to the authoritarian states than the democracies - his attitude towards Mussolini, Franco and Hitler is telling. I'm sure this is not the final word on this issue - the author himself has actually distanced himself from some of his conclusions here, admitting that it is difficult to see, even with the benefit of history, what good could have come from Pacelli speaking out; that his scope for action was limited; that the Pope himself was in a difficult position, in the middle of the capital of Italy, a country at war, an ally of Hitler, that Hitler even contemplated invading the Vatican and abducting the Pope. But the inevitable damning fact is that the Church could have spoken up and damned the consequences. It did so in Hungary and Poland, where direct action and influence from the Catholic Church had enormous impacts. The Catholic Church was in an unrivalled position to influence the hearts and minds of millions upon millions of people within Europe, within Germany and Italy and all the Axis countries, and it failed to draw upon that currency, even when Jews were being taken from the very heart of Rome, right beneath the Pope's gaze.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    I wasn't all that enthusiastic about reading this book when a friend loaned it to me. I'm not Catholic nor Jewish, nor German nor Italian (Pius XII was Italian). I knew there was controversy over whether Pius had helped shelter Jews in Rome, or had helped the Nazis round them up, or something, but I didn't know any details and figured it was one of those things that would never be resolved. I was wrong about all that. Recent scholarship and newly released documents--official as well as personal c I wasn't all that enthusiastic about reading this book when a friend loaned it to me. I'm not Catholic nor Jewish, nor German nor Italian (Pius XII was Italian). I knew there was controversy over whether Pius had helped shelter Jews in Rome, or had helped the Nazis round them up, or something, but I didn't know any details and figured it was one of those things that would never be resolved. I was wrong about all that. Recent scholarship and newly released documents--official as well as personal correspondences--reveal pretty definitively that Pope Pius XII was willing to let the Jews of Europe go to whatever fate the Nzais had for them, as long as the power of the Church was not eroded. It's not that Pius was antisemitic per se, although he was a little; it's more that he had a very narrow view of what the Church's role in the lives of believers should be, and that he was the single autocrat at its head and was therefore the chief protector. All other events in Europe--the rise of the Nazis and Fascists, the war, the Shoah--were important to him only in how they related to keeping the power of the Catholic clergy intact. This book is an amazing piece of scholarship, written by a devout Catholic who originally set out to exonerate Pius once and for all, but who ended up being convinced by the weight of evidence that what he had always believed about the European Church during the war was wrong. It's a very dense book and packed with personalities and events of which I knew little (and having easy access to Wikipedia, where could look them all up, didn't help me get through the book any faster!), but it is all so engagingly presented and well written that despite my initial indifference I found myself thoroughly engrossed. Almost as an aside, but actually as a way of presenting evidence of Pius' outlook on the world and attitude toward the Church's prerogatives, this book also serves as an excellent narration of German politics from 1918 to 1939, and also of the impact that Vatican II and other postwar ecclesiastic events had on the church well into today. Written in 1999, it ends with a perhaps inevitable comparison between Pius XII and John Paul II...and the comparison doesn't always go the way you might think.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    Cornwall's book is a tremendous research effort and highly readable. He started out trying to disprove accusations that Pope Pius XII had stopped his church from protesting Nazi atrocities. But the research leads to a far more painful truth. For any who promote the separation of government from religious values, this book poses hard questions. The Church's agreements with fascist rulers involved a trade: government support for religious institutions, in exchange for church silence on political a Cornwall's book is a tremendous research effort and highly readable. He started out trying to disprove accusations that Pope Pius XII had stopped his church from protesting Nazi atrocities. But the research leads to a far more painful truth. For any who promote the separation of government from religious values, this book poses hard questions. The Church's agreements with fascist rulers involved a trade: government support for religious institutions, in exchange for church silence on political affairs. As the 1933 Concordat with Nazi Germany said, "In consideration of the guarantees afforded by the conditions of this treaty, and of legislation protecting the rights and freedom of the Catholic Church in the Reich ..., the Holy See will ensure a ban on all clergy and members of religious congregations from political party activity." Cornwall explores the unfolding implications of this split between loyalties. As Hitler later said, "When they attempt by any other means -- writings, encyclicals, etc. -- to assume rights which belong only to the state, we will push them back into their proper spiritual activity." And as Pope Pius XII would later explain, the Church must avoid "being compromised in defense of Christian principles and humanity by being drawn into purely man-made politics ... the Church is only interested in upholding her legacy of Truth. ... The purely worldly problems, in which the Jewish people may see themselves involved, are of no interest to her." Cornwall is the best kind of scholar, driven by a personal and spiritual need to understand the truth. The questions he pursues are directly relevant today, for Christians, Muslims, or anyone. To what extent has the goal of protecting religion from the world served to protect governments from moral opposition? What have we learned about the role and aim of religion in the world?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Eugenio Pacelli, aka Pius XII, engineered further strengthening of the autocratic governing structure of the Roman Catholic Church. That was his be all and end all. A 'Vicar of Christ' on earth in name only, he, in essence, backed the Fascist regime in Italy and the NAZI regime in Italy in order to strengthen his control over the local churches. Though knowing of atrocities committed by the NAZIs throughout Europe and by Catholic priests in Croatia, among other places, he did not condemn the per Eugenio Pacelli, aka Pius XII, engineered further strengthening of the autocratic governing structure of the Roman Catholic Church. That was his be all and end all. A 'Vicar of Christ' on earth in name only, he, in essence, backed the Fascist regime in Italy and the NAZI regime in Italy in order to strengthen his control over the local churches. Though knowing of atrocities committed by the NAZIs throughout Europe and by Catholic priests in Croatia, among other places, he did not condemn the perpetrators. In fact, he used veiled language that might, if one stretches their imagination, allude to some sort of un-Christ-like behavior by some people. Reading this book also made me aware that some 'dogmas' of the Catholic church are relatively recent, the Immaculate Conception dates from 1854 and papal infallibility from 1870. Using Vatican sources as well as material from other archives, Cornwell paints a picture of the wartime pope that leads one to believe that the 'esteemed' head of the Church was guilty of the mortal sin of pride and, because of his silence in the face of evidence of 'the final solution' and other atrocities, other sins as well.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laurence O'Bryan

    Excellent history of Pius XII. My eyes have truly been opened to a shameful episode in the history of the Catholic Church. On reading this I was struck by how little is generally known about Pius's attitude to the Jews, his personal reasons for these attitudes and his support for a fascism based on a twisted reading of the tenets of the Catholic Church. If anything, after reading other histories of the era, John Cornwell was even handed in his take on Pius XII. The facts of Pius XII dealings with t Excellent history of Pius XII. My eyes have truly been opened to a shameful episode in the history of the Catholic Church. On reading this I was struck by how little is generally known about Pius's attitude to the Jews, his personal reasons for these attitudes and his support for a fascism based on a twisted reading of the tenets of the Catholic Church. If anything, after reading other histories of the era, John Cornwell was even handed in his take on Pius XII. The facts of Pius XII dealings with the Jews and his un-Christian, self centered and un-Christ like support for fascism will stain the church he led for a very long time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Cornwell presents a rather one-sided view of the wartime papacy, and seems to be obsessed with the theme of anti-Semitism, to the detriment of his argument. From the start, he appears determined to condemn Pius' response to the Holocaust. The author himself has admitted since publication that he considers this work to be too damning of Pius. While there is much to be criticised of the papal response, Cornwell leaves little room for consideration of the Pope's other concerns and motivations; his Cornwell presents a rather one-sided view of the wartime papacy, and seems to be obsessed with the theme of anti-Semitism, to the detriment of his argument. From the start, he appears determined to condemn Pius' response to the Holocaust. The author himself has admitted since publication that he considers this work to be too damning of Pius. While there is much to be criticised of the papal response, Cornwell leaves little room for consideration of the Pope's other concerns and motivations; his responsibilities to Catholics & the threat posed to the Church by Nazism, possible repercussions of a vocal protest for Holocaust victims, his anti-Communist views, amongst others. [return][return]The views expressed in 'Hitler's Pope' have not met with much support from within the academic community; it's an interesting read, but verges on polemic in places and shouldn't be read if you're looking for a good overview of this explosively contentious debate.

  13. 4 out of 5

    JC

    I gotta admit: I made a valiant effort but this book was mind-numbingly, eye-gougingly(word?)boring. It presents many controversial "facts" which, sadly, even though I am Catholic, I do not care enough to research. Because the Church operates in such a clandestine manner and because religion (like politics) is impossible to talk about without bias, I gave up trying to glean the truth from the opinion. I don't know who's side the author leans toward and really I was so more interested in the issu I gotta admit: I made a valiant effort but this book was mind-numbingly, eye-gougingly(word?)boring. It presents many controversial "facts" which, sadly, even though I am Catholic, I do not care enough to research. Because the Church operates in such a clandestine manner and because religion (like politics) is impossible to talk about without bias, I gave up trying to glean the truth from the opinion. I don't know who's side the author leans toward and really I was so more interested in the issue of Motorcycle Trader that was also on my nightstand at the time, I really don't care. God is good. Organized religion is bad(and sometimes evil). That is what I believe right now regardless of what the other 200+ pages of this book have to say.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Noel

    Many view Cornwell's bias against the Catholic Church as making him too subjective to be a good historian. However, this book is meticulously researched. It makes me want to vomit to think that this slimeball, Eugenio Pacelli, is a candidate for canonization. "Sono limacce." Excommunicate me already! Many view Cornwell's bias against the Catholic Church as making him too subjective to be a good historian. However, this book is meticulously researched. It makes me want to vomit to think that this slimeball, Eugenio Pacelli, is a candidate for canonization. "Sono limacce." Excommunicate me already!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Vannucci

    Covering up child abuse, and apparently moving ever closer to canonization for Pius XII too.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    Between this book and the recent "In the Closet of the Vatican", the judgement of a rotten, prideful, hypocritical, hubris-filled Roman Catholic Church is made with succinct clarity. At its heart is a man who believed himself to be a saint, and stood by as one of the greatest crimes in human history passed him by without any word spoken against it. After reading this book, the idea that Pius XII could be declared a saint should be sealed in a lead coffin and shot into the depths of space. Between this book and the recent "In the Closet of the Vatican", the judgement of a rotten, prideful, hypocritical, hubris-filled Roman Catholic Church is made with succinct clarity. At its heart is a man who believed himself to be a saint, and stood by as one of the greatest crimes in human history passed him by without any word spoken against it. After reading this book, the idea that Pius XII could be declared a saint should be sealed in a lead coffin and shot into the depths of space.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    I tried to read this... I really did. This book was written for people who know a lot about Church law and the workings of the church. I spent so much time looking things up that for me there was no flow to the book. Give the book a shot, it has some interesting points to make. But for me it was like doing homework.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jemma

    I've long been aware that Pope Pius XII was, at the very least, overly friendly to the Nazis. Indeed, the "Real Odessa" explains in some detail how his Vatican enabled many war criminals to escape. So, I was looking forward to this expose of the man. Sadly, from the introduction, you realise that this biography is going to pull its punches as the author explains how he wanted to exonerate Pius XII but ended-up convinced he did favour the Nazis. Indeed, the book does demonstrate this but every po I've long been aware that Pope Pius XII was, at the very least, overly friendly to the Nazis. Indeed, the "Real Odessa" explains in some detail how his Vatican enabled many war criminals to escape. So, I was looking forward to this expose of the man. Sadly, from the introduction, you realise that this biography is going to pull its punches as the author explains how he wanted to exonerate Pius XII but ended-up convinced he did favour the Nazis. Indeed, the book does demonstrate this but every possible caveat seems to be explored. While the author may be convinced of Pius XII's guilt, he goes out of his way to explore alternative reasons why Pius did this or that and to find examples of the Vatican doing good during WWII. The examples of good tend to be small and often reduce or disappear when examined more closely - especially any interventions on behalf of the Jews. Pacelli does seem to be much closer intellectually to the right-wing totalatarian governements than to the democracies - with his dislike of democracy, his belief in hierarchical rule and fear of black soldiers. The style is also poor, with passages clunkily written were you find yourself having to re-read to get the sense of what is going on. Sometimes ones sentence simply doesn't follow from the former. Indeed, for awhile I wondered if this was a translation into English as it often seems that the phrases don't quite work in English, as if a literal translation of another language had taken place. Ironically though, the pursuit of excuses for Pius XII actually captures something of Pacelli's style - especially the way he manages to find dozens of ways to say nothing or the absolute minimum against the Nazis. All in all, what you have here is a committed Catholic who has found the truth to be unpalatable and though the truth has been accepted, it is hedged about with excuses and explanations which take the most charitable view. So, for instance, Pacelli's forthright attempts to prevent Rome being bombed is presented as having some care for those being sheltered by the Vatican etc. and yet he was virtually silent about over bombing raids. Clearly, Pacelli just didn't want his house bombed. It is good that the author ends with a wider perspective where Pacelli is part of a conservative movement within the Catholic Church and John XXIII is part of a progressive movement, as the author clearly favours the progressive which seems to be loosing the struggle in modern times. Sadly, the conclusion that the organisation (though it clearly has some good people) is rotten to the core and leaving the church is the best option, does not seem to occur to the author though.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David

    Extremely well-researched and informative with a clear aim toward fairness and objectivity. A very interesting, seemingly balanced account of the life and career of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII. The writing tends to be dry and repetitious but fascinating details keep the story flowing. As just one example: The role of Devil's Advocate was removed from the beatification process in 1983. Talk about tampering with the jury! I simply must relate my favorite, laugh-out-loud-funny entry. It is repres Extremely well-researched and informative with a clear aim toward fairness and objectivity. A very interesting, seemingly balanced account of the life and career of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII. The writing tends to be dry and repetitious but fascinating details keep the story flowing. As just one example: The role of Devil's Advocate was removed from the beatification process in 1983. Talk about tampering with the jury! I simply must relate my favorite, laugh-out-loud-funny entry. It is representative of neither the style nor the content of the book as a whole but I am too irreverent to resist. And, having experienced all that a Catholic upbringing has to offer (Power, Glory, Devotion, Transcendence, Pain, Sorrow, Humiliation), I believe I've earned the right. This one is dedicated to the mercifully small number of Nasty Nuns and Predatory Priests I encountered. "As the hearse paused outside St. John Lateran, a series of dreadful farts and eructations was heard to issue from the coffin, a result, apparently, of rapid fermentation. During the lying-in-state in St. Peter's, the dead Pope's face turned gray-green and then purple, and the stench was so overpowering that one of the attendant guards fainted. A final indignity, his nose went black and feel off before interment." In the ongoing game of "Saint, Not A Saint", this gives one pause. I don't presume to pass judgment on the state of this Pontiff's soul but it's pretty clear that his body, at least, was highly corrupt.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Cornwell takes every opportunity to infer Pacelli's policy and personal faults (more often than not by conjecture), as he rose to power in the Vatican . The author also allocates any (rare) favourable decision by the Church to Pius XI (Pacelli's predecessor) and anything negative to Pacelli, Pius XI's right hand man. As for Pacelli's approach to the rising Hitler juggernaut in the 1930's, and his attitude as Pope during WWII, the question that needed to be asked and answered is what would have b Cornwell takes every opportunity to infer Pacelli's policy and personal faults (more often than not by conjecture), as he rose to power in the Vatican . The author also allocates any (rare) favourable decision by the Church to Pius XI (Pacelli's predecessor) and anything negative to Pacelli, Pius XI's right hand man. As for Pacelli's approach to the rising Hitler juggernaut in the 1930's, and his attitude as Pope during WWII, the question that needed to be asked and answered is what would have been the result for German Catholics if they had opposed Hitler as Cornwell seems to have wanted. Once the Jews had been gotten rid of, would the Catholics have been next? There is certainly a solid case that Pacelli's approach of keeping the Church out of politics was the right one, yet Cornwell rarely considers this at all. As we look at the world today this appears to be the norm. Maybe he was ahead of his time in some regards. I also thought it would have been interesting to hear what the Protestant majority, and its Church leaders thought about the treatment of Jews and the rise of the Nazi Party etc. Cornwell is so intent on denigrating Pacelli that this is not discussed at all. Having said all that Pacelli certainly doesn't come across as overly likeable. He appears totally inflexible, and determined to put his stamp on the Catholic Church no matter what anybody else thought. But an overall portrait is difficult to determine from such a biased outlook.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brian Ross

    Very thought-provoking, and I can see why this book was so controversial. The title and cover picture are more provocative than is his thesis (although his thesis is certainly provocative), and I recommend the 2008 edition which includes an updated author's preface. In this new preface, Cornwell denies that he is saying that Pius XII was pro-Nazi or anti-Semitic, as apparently many of his critics claim. He argues instead that, due to his upbringing, personality, beliefs, and especially his agend Very thought-provoking, and I can see why this book was so controversial. The title and cover picture are more provocative than is his thesis (although his thesis is certainly provocative), and I recommend the 2008 edition which includes an updated author's preface. In this new preface, Cornwell denies that he is saying that Pius XII was pro-Nazi or anti-Semitic, as apparently many of his critics claim. He argues instead that, due to his upbringing, personality, beliefs, and especially his agenda for centralizing and strengthening Papal control of the Church, Pius XII was the ideal foil as Pope to enable part of Hitler's agenda: in particular, Hitler's rise to power (by neutralizing local Catholic political opposition) and the Final Solution (by not vehemently standing up against it). I read his case as a comparison of his behavior (commissions and omissions) - and critically the outcomes -- against a presumed standard of morality for the Papacy and whether Pius XII met that test. He reviews Pacelli's entire career - not just as war-time Pope - to build his case and put it into context. A fascinating read, although the vocabulary sent me to the dictionary a few times! This is a book that would make a great source for discussion, regardless of your religious affiliation, if any.

  22. 5 out of 5

    David Zerangue

    I started reading this book with the knowledge that the author had been 'defrocked' regarding the accusations he made. My goal was to read this from an historical perspective. From an historical point of view, I was not disappointed. It provided insight into further details of the second world war. In fact, the accounts of the atrocities committed (such as in Croatia) were quite illuminating. The author's accusatorial stance regarding Pius XII was easy enough to ignore. However, the final two chap I started reading this book with the knowledge that the author had been 'defrocked' regarding the accusations he made. My goal was to read this from an historical perspective. From an historical point of view, I was not disappointed. It provided insight into further details of the second world war. In fact, the accounts of the atrocities committed (such as in Croatia) were quite illuminating. The author's accusatorial stance regarding Pius XII was easy enough to ignore. However, the final two chapters of the book tend to deviate from the initial aim of the book (which was assumed to be somewhat biographical of Eugenio Pacelli). However, he attempts to take on the entire Catholic Church with the final two chapters. Its weakness is grossly apparent at that stage. Many people would suggest not wasting their time reading this novel since it has been challenged and lost. And I would agree that there are plenty other novels out there that can provide great historical insight into the war and also the Catholic Church. But, if you truly focus from an historical point of view and can successfully filter out the author's biases, then the read will not be a disappointment.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    While several of the reviews for this book suggest that this is a damning account of Pius xii, I found it to be measured in it's writing and in it's claims. There is ample evidence to support the 'claim' that Pius had negative feelings towards Jews, however this narrative manages to explain this bias largely as a result of the times and society which produced Pius, all without excusing the negativity itself. Obviously this does not explain the shameful manner in which the Vatican handled knowled While several of the reviews for this book suggest that this is a damning account of Pius xii, I found it to be measured in it's writing and in it's claims. There is ample evidence to support the 'claim' that Pius had negative feelings towards Jews, however this narrative manages to explain this bias largely as a result of the times and society which produced Pius, all without excusing the negativity itself. Obviously this does not explain the shameful manner in which the Vatican handled knowledge of the Holocaust, however again this book does provide the sympathetic arguments of fear, and an unwillingness to provoke reprisals, alongside the suggestion that Pius simply did not care. Reading this it does become clear that Pius was sympathetic towards anything that could halt the spread of communism, although I felt that this was put into context too. The overall impression was of a series of very human fears and biases which were very much of their time, and yet which did not excuse the shameful silence from the most powerful religous figure in Europe. I would suggest reading this and judging for yourself.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richp

    This is one of a number of works that have reached the conclusion that Eugenio Pacelli, in various key positions in the Roman Catholic Church, played a key role in consolidating Hitler's rise to power, and suppressing objections to the Holocaust. Cornwell presents a convincing case, based on many sources, that Pacelli did this largely as part of a modern (since 1850) movement to turn the Church into an autocratic dictatorship. In my opinion, he sometimes over reaches in his conclusions, but my " This is one of a number of works that have reached the conclusion that Eugenio Pacelli, in various key positions in the Roman Catholic Church, played a key role in consolidating Hitler's rise to power, and suppressing objections to the Holocaust. Cornwell presents a convincing case, based on many sources, that Pacelli did this largely as part of a modern (since 1850) movement to turn the Church into an autocratic dictatorship. In my opinion, he sometimes over reaches in his conclusions, but my "expertise" is primarily based on reading this book, not the years of extensive research Cornwell devoted to it. Due to the comprehensive nature of the book, I found it a bit plodding at times. But, any significant abridgment would turn it into a lengthy essay without visible support, so the length is appropriate. Like many books on discussing the Holocaust, it treats the Jewish victims with far more length than the non-Jewish victims, despite the fact the number of each seem to be roughly equal. There may or may not be a political motivation for this on Cornwell's part, as he is English, and the UK played a lead rule in creating the long running Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Marincel

    Actually, I'm not finding this book to be a biased slam at Pius XII, although I am only halfway finished so I may need to revise that statement later. What I like about the book thus far is that it really delves into the diplomatic background behind the Vatican's Concordat with Hitler and Pacelli's reasons for for desiring it--along with Hitler's underlying motives. The author also explains the title of the book, which is somewhat misleading. It is not meant to imply that Pius was Hitler's pupp Actually, I'm not finding this book to be a biased slam at Pius XII, although I am only halfway finished so I may need to revise that statement later. What I like about the book thus far is that it really delves into the diplomatic background behind the Vatican's Concordat with Hitler and Pacelli's reasons for for desiring it--along with Hitler's underlying motives. The author also explains the title of the book, which is somewhat misleading. It is not meant to imply that Pius was Hitler's puppet, but that he was the ideal pope (in large part because of his emphasis on diplomacy, fear of Communism, and fear of Nazi retaliation against Catholics within the Reich) for Hitler's plans for the Final Solution. I'm anxious to see how the author develops this idea. Had to quit reading because I just couldn't take the boredom. Bogged down in a minutiae of details--will try finishing some other time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book is well researched and tells the story of a deeply hypocritical and power hungry pontiff who was so conceited he required priests to be on their knees while talking to him on the phone and made a propaganda film about himself while the ovens of the concentration camps were burning. He disbanded the catholic resistance organizations in Germany while they were protesting against Hitler's rise to power and commanded Catholics not to stand up to Hitler. Had he not done this, the Final Solu This book is well researched and tells the story of a deeply hypocritical and power hungry pontiff who was so conceited he required priests to be on their knees while talking to him on the phone and made a propaganda film about himself while the ovens of the concentration camps were burning. He disbanded the catholic resistance organizations in Germany while they were protesting against Hitler's rise to power and commanded Catholics not to stand up to Hitler. Had he not done this, the Final Solution may never have happened. He was not willing to stand up against the murder of Jews in Rome even when the cattle cars went by his door. But he beatified a girl for fighting her rapist and dying to save her virginity. He was famous for telling women that they should sacrifice their lives for chastity, but never took the slightest risk to help the Jewish people. Disgusting and shameful.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    The connection between Hitler's mass murders and the Pope and fellow Catholics who made deals with him, allowing the slaughter of millions of innocent Jews, struck me as an interesting read. While the facts are interesting, Cornwell's very detailed account of what happened is so incredibly dry that it took me over three months to get past the 100 page mark. This book is much like reading an incredibly boring history book, equipped with millions of footnotes. I may pick it up again later, but for The connection between Hitler's mass murders and the Pope and fellow Catholics who made deals with him, allowing the slaughter of millions of innocent Jews, struck me as an interesting read. While the facts are interesting, Cornwell's very detailed account of what happened is so incredibly dry that it took me over three months to get past the 100 page mark. This book is much like reading an incredibly boring history book, equipped with millions of footnotes. I may pick it up again later, but for now, far more interesting books are calling my name.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stewart

    “Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII” by John Cornwell is a fascinating but disturbing book about Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), who reigned from 1939 to 1958 and was the pope during the first nine years of my life. This 1999 book was well-researched (using recently released Vatican documents from that period), and informative. It was a good followup for me to “The Pope and Mussolini” by David Kertzer about Pope Pius XI, his immediate predecessor, which I read in seven months earlie “Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII” by John Cornwell is a fascinating but disturbing book about Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), who reigned from 1939 to 1958 and was the pope during the first nine years of my life. This 1999 book was well-researched (using recently released Vatican documents from that period), and informative. It was a good followup for me to “The Pope and Mussolini” by David Kertzer about Pope Pius XI, his immediate predecessor, which I read in seven months earlier. What prompted me to read these two books was my longtime interest in World War II and the silence from many (but not all) Protestant and Catholic church leaders in Germany and Italy, and particularly the silence of Pius XII when confronted with Nazi and fascist violence and the widespread killing of Jews. Cornwell rightly focuses not only on Pacelli’s pontificate but his stint as a Vatican diplomat and Cardinal Secretary of State 1930-1939, where he wielded tremendous power in the foreign affairs of the Vatican. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 between Pius XI and Mussolini was mainly negotiated by Pius XI, Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri, and Pacelli’s brother Francesco. The papacy was allowed to rule over 108.7 acres of land in Rome, Vatican City. But the treaty forced the Catholic Church out of Italian politics and was a de facto recognition and partnership between the Vatican and Mussolini’s fascist government. Eugenio Pacelli negotiated the Vatican-Nazi Concordat of July 1933, signed just months after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. The treaty was much to the advantage of the Third Reich. It mandated the withdrawal of the Catholic Church from political affairs (the Catholic’s large Center Party – the sole remaining democratic party in Germany – dissolved) and forbade the Vatican, German Catholic hierarchy, and church members from criticizing the Nazi government on any issue the Nazis deemed political, and that of course included the extermination of Jews. To be fair, Protestant churches in Germany also formally accepted Hitler’s regime in March 1933. Cornwell notes that the Catholic Church in Germany had been strongly opposed to Hitler and the Nazis until the concordat, which muzzled it. “Right up until March 1933, then, German Catholicism, with its 23 million faithful, still comprised an impressive, independent democratic constituency that, together with the Catholic hierarchy, remained steadfast in its condemnation of National Socialism.” Before and during World War II, the Vatican did not condemn Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 or Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939. There was no condemnation of the Holocaust or other repression in Germany, Italy, and across Europe. What public statements the pope made were vague and wishy-washy. Timidity and fear by Pope Pius XII could perhaps be justified after the German occupation of Rome in 1943 after Mussolini was deposed, when the pope feared a German army takeover of Vatican City. But the damage had already been done years earlier with accommodation by the Catholic Church with fascist governments. Cornwell’s book has received some criticism, but I don’t think one can argue about his main arguments and his 70 pages of notes and bibliography. Yes, the title is misleading; Pope Pius XII wasn’t under the control of Hitler. I think, however, that Cornwell is correct about the moral lapses of Eugenio Pacelli as Secretary of State and as pope – and the moral lapses of the Catholic Church in general during this period. The problem was more than Pius XI and Pius XII. Cornwell points out that almost every right-wing dictator of 1920-1970 was raised a Catholic: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Horthy, Petain, Pavelic, and Tiso. One could add Salazar in Portugal and most of the South American and Central American dictators of the post-World War II era. Pope Pius XI, Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler were all right-wing reactionaries and were all driven by blind and ferocious anticommunism. They were all autocratic. None of them had sympathy for freedoms of speech, press, and religion, parliamentary democracy, or the welfare of Jews. The two popes certainly held different views overall than Hitler and Mussolini did, but the four shared certain core beliefs that allowed for accommodation among them. In his preface, Cornwell writes, “Eugenio Pacceli was no monster; his case is far more complex, more tragic than that. The interest in his story depends on a fatal combination of high spiritual aspirations in conflict with soaring ambition for power and control. His is not a portrait of evil but of fatal moral dislocation – a separation of authority from Christian love.” Cornwell's last sentence in the book said of Pius XII, of whom efforts have been made by the Catholic Church to canonize him, “I am convinced that the cumulative verdict of history shows him to not be a saintly exemplar for future generations, but a deeply flawed human being from whom Catholics, and our relations with other churches, can best profit by expressing sincere regret.” I highly recommend this book, not only for its portrait of Eugenio Pacelli but the description of the battle within the Catholic Church – not just in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s but later in the 20th century into the 21st century – between those who want in effect an absolute infallible monarch leading the church and those who want power more widely distributed, less authoritarianism, and more freedom of thought.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mari

    This the 3rd book I have read about the Papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. And all are consistent in it's moral failings throughout history. This books speaks to one pope's in particular, Pachelli. And his may go down in history as one of the most egregious, if true. The case the author makes is strong and raises serious questions about Pachelli's sainthood. Questions that cannot be ignored. This the 3rd book I have read about the Papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. And all are consistent in it's moral failings throughout history. This books speaks to one pope's in particular, Pachelli. And his may go down in history as one of the most egregious, if true. The case the author makes is strong and raises serious questions about Pachelli's sainthood. Questions that cannot be ignored.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Denise DeRocher

    Fascinating and enlightening WWII history of a little-known relationship between the Nazis and the head of the Catholic church at that time - explains a lot about Catholic-based anti-Semitism.

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