The Pope at War by David Kertzer

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Pope at War:

I’m going to skip Mass this week.

Quick synopsis:

The story of Pope Pius XII during World War II.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like #1:

The Nazis took over 1,000 Jews from Rome during World War II. Only 16 survived.

Fun Fact for History Nerds #2:

The Allies actually dropped a bomb on the Vatican by mistake. They denied it.

My Take on The Pope at War:

The Pope at War is a very tough read but that has everything to do with me being a Catholic and not how well written the book is.

There is a lot of debate about Pope Pius XII and his action (or inaction) during World War II particularly in regard to the Holocaust. While no one would read this book and consider Pius XII very brave, I don’t think this work is a hit job either. David Kertzer meticulously details all of the politics, considerations, and challenges of being the pope during World War II. Pius XII did not have a love of Hitler, but his coziness with Mussolini alone is enough to sully his name. Ultimately, the argument is that Pius XII tried to be a politician when he needed to be a moral leader.

This book is very readable even while being heavily sourced. Kertzer focuses on the things you need to know to understand the situation without bogging down the narrative.


An enlightening story which balances a lot of viewpoints. It’s a really good read. Buy it here!

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