Book Review – The Pope at War

(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – David I. Kertzer is the author of more than a dozen books. The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler was published in 2022.

I received an ARC of this book through with the expectation of delivering a fair and honest review. I categorize this book/novel as G.

On 2 March 1939, Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli was elected Pope. He took the name Pius XII. His election came at a dark and tumultuous time in World History. With Vatican City nestled in Rome, the church was influenced by Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. After the German Wehrmacht took over Italy in 1943, they also exerted a great deal of pressure on the Pope.

Because Pacelli spoke fluent German and had served as Apostolic Nuncio to Germany from 1920 to 1930, he was believed to be favorable toward the Third Reich. His predecessor Pius XI had been an outspoken critic of Fascism and oppression. Cardinal Pacelli had attempted to exert a moderating influence on Pius XI.

Most consider Pius XII to have been a weak leader. He certainly was in a precarious position in Vatican City. Secret negotiations were conducted with Germany’s Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Pius XII condemned the Jews but never spoke out against Germany for their policies.

I enjoyed the 16+ hours I spent reading this 641-page WWII-era history. While this was full of facts, the book was very readable. The book covered an aspect of WWII that I had not heard much about. The Vatican sealed the war period papers of Pius XII when he died in 1958. They were only opened in 2020. Many facts contained in this book only came to light then. I do like the chosen cover art. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5

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If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 590 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII. Included are links to many fiction and non-fiction books on WWII that I have read and reviewed. There are also links to WWII oriented podcasts.

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