Cover: Pope and Devil: The Vatican's Archives and the Third Reich, from Harvard University PressCover: Pope and Devil in PAPERBACK

Pope and Devil

The Vatican's Archives and the Third Reich

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$31.00 • £26.95 • €28.95

ISBN 9780674064263

Publication Date: 05/07/2012


336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

28 halftones, 1 map

Belknap Press


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[An] excellent examination of the Pius XI archives… No stranger to the dark side of church history, and intimately familiar with ecclesiastical dogma, politics, and procedure, Wolf presents sensitive material with admirable evenhandedness, avoiding both apology and easy condemnation… Pope and Devil gives us a behind-the-scenes exploration of what made the Vatican tick, providing the sort of background information with which political historians contextualize the decisions of secular leaders like Churchill or Roosevelt. Wolf shows that in the last months of his life Ratti became consumed with the issue of Nazi-inspired racism, and devoted much of his waning energy to it; while Pacelli, for his part, ‘was clear in his rejection of racial anti-Semitism, and…believed that the church had a general responsibility to support human rights.’ Both men, however, understood their responsibilities in the light of traditional Catholic priorities. Both viewed Catholic dogma as immutable; and both consistently put Catholic institutional objectives—understood as an essential requirement of salvation—first and foremost.—Michael R. Marrus, Commonweal

[An] important book… In 2008, [Pope] Benedict [XVI] resuscitated a Good Friday prayer for the Jews, and last year he raised the cause of canonizing Pius XII to a higher stage. For many students of church history, such steps have been deeply troubling. Those hoping to form a judgment of Benedict’s course should read Wolf’s learned book and ask themselves whether the Pius they encounter in the memoranda salvaged from the Vatican’s secret archives seems like a saint—with a charisma that speaks through the ages—or whether he appears as fallible as any of us, a man who sought wisdom but ultimately failed to see beyond the horizons of his own time.—John Connelly, The New Republic online

The Vatican’s dealings with the Third Reich during the reign of Pius XII’s predecessor, Pius XI (1922–1939), have received rather less attention. But since the archives for that pontificate were opened in 2006, our understanding has increased enormously. Hubert Wolf’s book contributes greatly to that understanding.—John Pollard, Times Higher Education

[Pope and Devil] is useful in helping us understand the reasons for the Vatican’s consistent refusal to take a bold stand against Hitler and his policies in the years leading up to the war.—Sergio I. Minerbi, Haaretz

Wolf has written a very important book. It does not explain the ‘silence’ of Pius XII, though it certainly exonerates him of the charge that he was in any way sympathetic to the regime in Germany. It also reveals a man with a misplaced confidence in his own competence.—Michael Walsh, The Tablet

Hubert Wolf’s extraordinarily lucid and well-researched Pope and Devil performs the much valued task of throwing light into dark corners sans the sensationalism and tendentious argumentation that have defined too much scholarship in the area… Pope and Devil takes the reader through the labyrinthine corridors of Vatican diplomacy in the 1920s and 1930s, the political turmoil that defined those papal strategies that tried to make sense of or at least limit the damage of the rising totalitarianism inundating Europe, and the intrigue and politicking that characterized the often fraught relationship among such parties as the nuncios or Vatican ambassadors in Berlin and Munich, the papal Secretary of State and the Head of the Supreme Congregation more commonly known as the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition. No easy feat and Wolf manages it in a way that is both enlightening and entertaining.—Michael W. Higgins, The New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal

Wolf’s absorbing study shows in fascinating detail how ready Pius XI was to sup with authoritarian devils of both left and right in hopes of striking the best balance he could.—Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

The ‘silence of Pius XII’ remains a contentious issue among historians studying the Third Reich and the Holocaust. Based on documents released by the Vatican Secret Archives during the last decade, Wolf offers an analysis of the pontificate of Pius XI (1922–1939). He carefully sketches the Vatican view of Germany during these years when Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, was a nuncio in Germany and subsequently cardinal secretary of state. Wolf’s explication of these documents reveals the historical environment within which Pacelli matured and developed his Roman perspectives on Germany and so helps explain his future ‘silence’ as pope. The documents (memoranda, etc.) offer clarifying insights into the sometimes convoluted policies of the Vatican with respect to its position on anti-Semitism, racism, the negotiations surrounding the Concordat of 1933, and the relationship between politics and dogma, always a tense problematic within the Roman Catholic Church. This book also opens windows on the Vatican perception of German Episcopal reactions to Hitler’s ideology and to such issues as the euthanasia policy. Wolf’s groundwork will make future archival releases more comprehensible.—D.J. Dietrich, Choice

Pope and Devil is a must-read for anybody interested in the Vatican’s relationship with Germany in the tumultuous years leading up to World War II, including the hotly debated issue of ‘the silence of Pius XII.’ This book brings new complexity and insight to the debate on Pius XII’s ‘silence.’—John W. O’Malley, S.J., author of What Happened at Vatican II

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