• The Pope at War

  • The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler
  • By: David I. Kertzer
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 17 hrs and 33 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (131 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Based on newly opened Vatican archives, a groundbreaking, explosive, and riveting book about Pope Pius XII and his actions during World War II, including how he responded to the Holocaust, by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Pope and Mussolini

“Splendid . . . The Pope at War ends much of the debate about the pope and surely makes any lingering apologia for his stance implausible.”—Ian Kershaw, author of Hitler: A Biography 

When Pope Pius XII died in 1958, his papers were sealed in the Vatican Secret Archives, leaving unanswered questions about what he knew and did during World War II. Those questions have only grown and festered, making Pius XII one of the most controversial popes in Church history, especially now as the Vatican prepares to canonize him.

In 2020, Pius XII’s archives were finally opened, and David I. Kertzer—widely recognized as one of the world’s leading Vatican scholars—has been mining this new material ever since, revealing how the pope came to set aside moral leadership in order to preserve his church’s power.

Based on thousands of never-before-seen documents not only from the Vatican, but from archives in Italy, Germany, France, Britain, and the United States, The Pope at War paints a new, dramatic portrait of what the pope did and did not do as war enveloped the continent and as the Nazis began their systematic mass murder of Europe’s Jews. The book clears away the myths and sheer falsehoods surrounding the pope’s actions from 1939 to 1945, showing why the pope repeatedly bent to the wills of Hitler and Mussolini.

Just as Kertzer’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Pope and Mussolini became the definitive book on Pope Pius XI and the Fascist regime, The Pope at War is destined to become the most influential account of his successor, Pius XII, and his relations with Mussolini and Hitler. Kertzer shows why no full understanding of the course of World War II is complete without knowledge of the dramatic, behind-the-scenes role played by the pope. 

“This remarkably researched book is replete with revelations that deserve the adjective ‘explosive,’” says Kevin Madigan, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard University. “The Pope at War is a masterpiece.”

©2022 David I. Kertzer (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“A magisterial new study of how the Vatican navigated World War II and why Pope Pius XII stayed silent in the face of the mass murder of Jews, The Pope at War is a powerful and carefully argued book based on documents from the newly opened Vatican archives revealing how institutional self-interest dictated the pope's actions.” (Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history and Italian studies, New York University)

“In this rigorous and riveting book, David Kertzer uses newly declassified Vatican documents to provide a far fuller portrait of the wartime pope than ever before. Kertzer offers a number of discoveries, including the diplomatic mission of a Nazi prince to the Vatican, showing how Hitler and Mussolini intimidated the pope, who believed there were ‘good fascists.’ The Pope at War is the most authoritative study of Pope Pius XII to date, and Kertzer’s findings will not bolster the cause of those who seek this pope’s canonization but the cause of those who are not afraid of history.” (Jonathan Petropoulos, author of Goering's Man in Paris)

 “David Kertzer has outdone himself and crowned his extraordinary career with this volume on Pope Pius XII.  Relying especially upon recently released documents at the Vatican Archives, Kertzer writes a simply riveting account with a worldwide cast of characters that includes Mussolini, Hitler, FDR, Churchill, and Eisenhower.  For decades, scholars have wondered if the Vatican archives would contain new findings about the controversial Pope and the Roman Curia, especially in relation to the Jews of Europe during and after the Holocaust. They need wonder no more. This remarkably researched book is replete with revelations that deserve the adjective ‘explosive’ - and with so much more. The Pope at War is a masterpiece.” (Kevin Madigan, Winn professor of ecclesiastical History, Harvard University)

What listeners say about The Pope at War

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A remarkable book. Incredibly important. Should be read by every Catholic and everyone

The material presented in the book is very uncomfortable but so important. Pope pious the 12th, is exposed on the basis of facts that have been hidden in the archives for 70 years. Silence was a misnomer for moral bankruptcy.
Thousands of lives could have been saved but for the silence of the Pope and church.

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Solid Historical Research

Kertzer does a great job of bringing to light a long kept view of Pope Pius XII. The missing perspective from within the walls of the Vatican during WWII provides more context. I thought disagree with the Kertzer's view that Pius XII was not supportive of both the Nazi or Italian fascist regimes.
Throughout the book, the clear focus of Pius XII was to leverage the fascist governments to expand and grow Catholicism's reach and power throughout Europe, without creating friction with American Catholics, whom provided much of the resources for the church at the time. To say that since Pius XII was not vocally supportive of the fascist governments so he was neutral is a far stretch. Pope Pius XII was and always will be Hitler and Mussolini's Pope and the stain of the atrocities of WWII will remain on the Catholic Church.

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Captivating Story!

Very intriguing involvement of the Pope during WWII with recently released documents from the Vatican!

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Thought provoking…

…to know that this has all come to light after the Vatican preemptively sanitized it’s Pius the VII archives before opening them to historians. Additionally, it’s hard not to see a parallel situation with what is currently playing out Russia concerning the Orthodox Church and the war in Ukraine. Again the world turns a blind eye.

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Every Catholic needs to read this.

Pope Pius 12 is a moral failure. Did everything to preserve the Roman church in Italy but failed to challenge Musilioni and Hitler. Was a weak Pope who thought he could broker peace. Did nothing to halt the decoration of Italian Jews. That this guy is now Saint makes me so glad that I am a Lutheran.

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I didin't LOVE it

Excellent commentary on the Popes. Too bad some of them are not as kind as their religion purports them to be!

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Now I know more and understand less

Pius XII is the primer example of a man in the wrong place and of the fact that not doing anything results always in doing the wrong thing.
The story also points to the fact that for the (catholic) church there are/were baptized humans and others. The ignorance of the fait of the Jewes is mind numbing.

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Silence = Death: Blatant Anti-Semitism

This book did nothing to change my mind that Pius XII was an enabler of the Holocaust and deserved the sobriquet “Hitler’s Pope”. Even AFTER the war he NEVER spoke of the SIX million Jews who perished- but mentioned the Polish Priests who did. He did absolutely nothing to stop the deportation of Italy’s Jews to Auschwitz’s ovens. FDR was outraged but did not want to alienate Cardinal Francis Spellman and lose the major US Catholic voters. It wasn’t until Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI and the inception of Vatican II that church’s view on Jews have evolved. They became “less” anti-Semitic. This was an extremely very black and sad period for The Vatican and the Catholic people. With the current rise of Anti- Semitism let’s all pray that a situation like this will not recur 🙏

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Wow!

So interesting! As a former Catholic, I was prepared to be pretty “judgy” of the Pope for his lack of action in saving Jews. While I feel angry at this, I also feel empathetic towards him for his efforts at trying to save the church. Can’t help but repeatedly wonder how everything would have turned out if the Pope had been courageous in speaking out, but apparently he did not feel all that outraged. There’s so much to be angry about. Loved the narrator’s voice as well. Easy to listen to.

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Excelente

Un libro muy interesante. Permite entender las presiones políticas y los cuidados que debió tomar Pio XII para cuidar la religión católica aun a cambio de no tomar partido con ningún país en la segunda Guerra mundial.

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  • Gillian Lazarus
  • 07-23-22

The Acquiescent Pope

Using documents released by the Vatican in recent years, David Kertzer shows how Pope Pius XII prioritised protecting the Church and its privileges throughout tWorld War II while maintaining a cautious silence regarding nazi and fascist atrocities even when the Jews of Rome were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-16-22

Impressive historical account of the Pope in WWII

I found this an excellent, well cited and impartial account of the papacy during World War II. The narration was clear and very easy to listen to. I finished it very quickly as the story was quite gripping, though disturbing. The author sets out the documentary evidence in a detailed chronological fashion, drawing particularly on the newly released documents of the Vatican's own archive material for the period. This allows the reader to draw their own conclusions about what may have motivated the pope's actions and inactions during the war. It is an important history to be told and acknowledged, lest the same terrible mistakes be made by the Vatican again.