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Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy First Edition Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300093100
ISBN-10: 0300093101
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Editorial Reviews Review

Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy describes what the Vatican did--or did not do--to help Jews in Italy in World War II. Author Susan Zuccotti, who has written two other books about the Holocaust, demonstrates that little help of any kind came from Popes Pius XI and XII or their senior officials. She finds that the most significant gestures of help offered by the Church to Jews in Italy were made by clerics and believers--mostly nuns, monks, and priests--uninvolved in top-level Vatican discussions. By 1942, the pope "knew and believed a great deal about the exterminations." In 1943, when Germans took control of northern and central Italy and attempted to exterminate the region's Jewish population, the Vatican knew very clearly the magnitude of the genocide. The Vatican's silence, Zuccotti argues, still resonates in the Church's statements about the Holocaust today.

The Church has not yet completed the process of dealing honestly with its history during the Holocaust. It has not yet made clear whether popes and high Vatican officials are to be included among its sons and daughters in every age who sometimes committed regrettable errors.
Zuccotti's research ranges wide, from the anti-Jewish tone of Jesuit publications in the years leading up to World War II to contemporary interviews with Holocaust survivors. Her book is a significant addition to a chapter of Christian history that the Church has still to reckon with. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Even before WWII ended in Europe, defenders of Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), according to the author, were busy manufacturing a myth that the Holy Father directly and indirectly was responsible for saving the lives of "hundreds of thousands" of Jews. Coming both from Jews and Christians, these testimonials seemed to be proof that Pius XII personally intervened in the rescue of Jews from the Shoah, a view supported by the Jesuit Robert Graham, Sister Margherita Marchione, the Catholic League and the current pope, John Paul II.However, a recent spate of books, including John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope and Michael Phayer's The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, have severely damaged the claims of papal intervention. To definitively separate myth from reality, historian Zuccotti's new book, while hindered somewhat by the partial accessibility of Vatican archives to scholars, is an authoritative, balanced and, in the end, devastating indictment of moral failure on the part of the Church as an institution, despite the heroic acts of some of its members.Indeed, Zuccotti clearly delineates a history of anti-Semitism in Italy and the Vatican, including the policies of Pacelli's immediate predecessor, Pope Pius XI, who, despite his "hidden encyclical" denouncing racism, was, she says, publicly timid in the face of fascism and Nazism. Moreover, she maintains that her primary source, the 11-volume Actes et documents du Saint SiŠge relatifs … la seconde guerre mondiale, a collection selectively put together after the war by the handpicked representatives of the Vatican, is "more than adequate" to determine what the Vatican "actually did to help Jews in Italy, the country where they enjoyed the greatest opportunity to be useful." What emerges is a complex picture: According to this account, Pius XII was informed early on about the massacres taking place on the eastern front, but he publicly condemned neither Nazism nor the persecution of the Jews, nor did he provide refuge.Until scholars are permitted full and unfettered access to the archives, the story of the Vatican's actions during the Holocaust must remain incomplete. And until then, Zuccotti's treatise will stand for many as the the greatest access to the truth available.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy
  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300093101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300093100
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,206,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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32 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Paul O'Shea on March 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a tough book. Zuccotti presents tough arguments and asks equally tough questions about the role of the Vatican in Italy during the Holocaust. Her research work and her piecing together the intricate jigsaw puzzle of doucuments has created a text that is difficult to refute and damning in its conclusions. Zuccotti demonstrates convincingly that Pope Pius XII and many within the heirarchy of the Catholic Church were, at best, passive in the face of the rescue work done by so many Italian Catholics, or, at worst, hostile to rescue work. At the same time she suggests, again, with considerable force of documentation and testimony, that the Vatican was quite content to be seen as the inspiration of rescue when in fact the historical record demonstrates otherwise. Trawling through the Vatican's published archival material and linking it up with diocesean archives, Jewish communal sources as well as memoirs and published testimonies of the persecuted, the perpetrators and the rescuers, Zuccotti has given historians a valuable guide to understand some of the complex "why's" of the Vatican's silence and lack of activity during the Holocaust. It is precisely her dispassionate narrative and allowing the sources to speak for themselves that gives this book so much power. The defenders of Pius XII and the Vatican bureaucracy need to either demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt their claims that Pius did all he could or end what has become a re-hashing of old and tired chestnuts that rely on innuendo, suggestion and a mish-mash of attributed quotes. If Pius, or one of his subordinates directed the convents and monasteries of Rome to lift cloister, please show us.Read more ›
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By ageshio on January 11, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While I have been reading dozens of books on the Holocaust and the damage done by the Nazis, I have found another reason to question the faith of big religion. My faith is secure in my small church upbringing. But I wonder why so many new and bigger-than-ever ministries prefer a show place of televised circuses, collecting millions of dollars rather than illustrate a sincere love of God and His ministry instructions from the Bible. Very few are concerned about the real people of this earth like Billy Graham. But then, there was only one Billy Graham. And reading this book about the Pope during the Holocaust just turned my stomach. Shame on every church and every religion that does not speak up against evil and persecution.
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34 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Tan on August 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book as part of my Honours research project into the Vatican's diplomacy with Nazi Germany. I was told that John Cornwell's "Hitler's Pope", despite the accolades and the best seller status, was a poor piece of academic work, a thesis which Cornwell himself eventually recanted (See the reference in The Economist, [...]

Indeed it was so poorly researched that even critics of Pius XII did not take the book seriously.

Zucotti's work, the other hand, is a somewhat more valuable resource, as she has rather detailed references to primary documents in her endnotes. Indeed some have their contents spelled out quite extensively in the body.

However, such referencing, buttressed by her award winning status as a holocaust author, creates a veneer of credibility, a smokescreen behind which Zucotti expresses her obvious contempt for Pius XII. This is largely done through her highly selective use of quotes from the primary sources.

Zucotti commits the Cardinal (no pun intended) sin for all historians, begin with a conclusion, use the documents that prove that conclusion right, and either ignore or dismiss the rest. Such an approach runs right through the book.

Where a quote is used that is or can be construed to be critical of Pius XII, she would quote it to the fullest. Where primary documents mention the opposite (and my research showed there were plenty of them), she automatically dismisses the authors of said documents, many of which were eyewitnesses to the things that Zucotti keeps asserting Pius XII did not do, without any justification whatsoever. She uses absolute pearlers in dismissing those authors, such as the classic "He (the eyewitness) should have known better".
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34 of 54 people found the following review helpful By on April 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
For years there has been controversy over the role of Pius XII and his conduct during the Holocaust. A couple of years ago John Cornwall came out with a book called Hitler's Pope. This book is clearly superior to this one in many ways. Zuccotti is an expert in both Italian history and the Holocaust and she has fully researched both the available dioscean archives and the twelve volume series of Vatican documents in the second world war. She is noticeably fair, giving the pope credit where credit is due, and is careful about the risks a firmer anti-Nazi policy would have achieved. What is her conclusion? "As some 6,746 Jews from Italy were being shipped north to share the fate of the others, the pope's own countrymen similarly looked to him for guidance. They found little or nothing."
Pius XII has many defenders, but Zuccotti is good in showing where they are wrong. She points out that there was a certain degree of hostility or coolness in pre-war Catholic newspapers. These were not parochial or insignificant papers: they were leading papers of either the Vatican or the Jesuits. She points out that while Pius XI did say "Spiritually, we are all Semites" in 1938, the L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican paper, did not. There was some support in the Vatican, if not for the racist 1938 Italian laws, for measures that reduced the Jews to second- class citizenship. She also points out that for several years the Vatican concentrated what attention it did give to Jewish converts to Catholicism. Zuccotti is good at dismantling other myths. In defense of his shameful silence about the deportation of Roman Jews, defenders said he donated money when the Nazis imposed a forced loan on the Jewish Community.
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