Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War against Hitler

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War against Hitler

Article excerpt

Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War against Hitler. By Mark Riebling. (New York: Basic Books. 2015. Pp. viii, 375. S29.99. ISBN 978-0-465-02229-8.)

Nearly sixty years have elapsed since the death of Pope Pius XII, but the documents relating to his pontification-apart from a selection for World War II, made available fifty years ago by four Jesuit scholars-are still immured in the Vatican archives and not yet open to public scrutiny. The result is that all of the numerous books and commentaries about Pius XII and his policies lack verification that this important, indeed indispensable, source could provide. When these papers are released, all of these studies will have to be rewritten or at least revised.

Mark Riebling is well aware of these shortcomings but has done a tremendous and most credible examination of a huge range of secondary sources. The strength of his journalistic skills is that he is able to evoke a most vivid picture of both the personalities and the places involved in this dramatic story down to even the details of the furniture of the pope's study. His thesis is that Pius XII, from the beginning of his reign in 1939, was involved in a secret war against Hitler, in alliance with the military members of the German Resistance who also wanted to overthrow Hitler's rule. This resistance movement had to contend with the popularity of Hitler's repeated successes, especially after the conquest of Poland. But they still hoped somehow or other that, if they succeeded in overthrowing Hitler, they could obtain peace terms from Britain and France, which would be much more lenient than those imposed by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. …

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