Tuesday, July 13, 2010

History: Hitler, the War and the Pope

Professor Ronald J. Rychlak's revised Hitler, the War, and the Pope is an amazing refutation of those who claim that the Catholic Church, especially in the person of Pope Pius XII, did little if anything to assist the victims of the terrorism wreaked during World War II. 

The first 385 pages of the book are a chronological overview of the pre-war years (and Pius' work as Secretary of State under Pius XI) through each year of the war up through 1945.  The final couple of chapters of the text include a refutation of some of the most popular "urban myth-telling" authors and speakers against the Catholic Church's contribution to saving the victims of the War.  The final 200 pages of the book are facsimile copies of the full memos and previously classified documents quoted in the text.

This is a scholarly book and heavy with detail, making this a great book for high schoolers studying the war as well as all Catholics to feel confident that the Holy Father was not EVER a Nazi sympathizer, anti-semitic or ignorant/lazy during the atrocities leveled against the innocents of Europe.  Week after week, month after month, for more than 10 years Eugenio Pacelli (later, Pius XII) worked to fight socialism, communism and the terrors of Hitler and Mussolini's dictatorships.  Quoted memos, interviews and diary entries bolster up the story that Rychlak unrolls -- a story about a man who was willing to incur the wrath of a madman rather than stay quiet any longer.  The book is full of  accounts of the atrocities leveled at the Jews (especially the Polish Jews), the Catholic religious, and anyone else deemed "unnecessary"; but more importantly, are the proofs of what Pacelli and the Catholic Church did to combat these evil forces.

 For those who finish the first half of the book still thinking Pacelli was a Nazi-sympathizer, Rychlak dismantles every theory proposed ... every book or article written by the celebrated authors like John Cornwell (whose book, Hitler's Pope, so incensed me that it became an occasion of sin to read the trash.) ... every smear on the Pacelli "escutcheon".  Detailed refutation of each misquoted, half-quoted, poorly researched and flat out lies are the basis of the last half of this classic apologetics text. 

This is a great read (a bit heavy going in parts, but well worth it to slog on through) ... a great history source for 20th Century European history ... a great opus dedicated to a man of God.  This is a must-read for any student of modern European History.

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This review was written as part of the Catholic books reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Hitler, the War, and Pope, Revised and Expanded .

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