Not only a dramatic disclosure of the Vatican’s covert actions, but also an absorbing, polished story for all readers of...

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CHURCH OF SPIES

THE POPE’S SECRET WAR AGAINST HITLER

Riebling (Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA, 1994), an expert on secret intelligence, compellingly explores the papacy’s involvement in espionage during World War II.

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958) was a political pope, and his was a pontificate of war. He valued science and technology and prefigured many leaders by installing an audio spying system in his library. The Holy See was actually hardwired by renowned Italian electrical engineer Guglielmo Marconi. In 1940, the Vatican proposed preventing future aggression with an Economic Union of Europe. The key component was Josef Müller, a Bavarian lawyer whose legal resistance to the Nazis led Heinrich Himmler, after first arresting him for treasonous conspiracy, to invite him to join the SS. Knowing Hitler’s hatred for Catholics, and particularly Jesuits, Müller agreed to join the Vatican in facilitating connections between rebellious officers and England. He acted under orders from Adm. Wilhelm Canaris, chief of German military intelligence, as a double spy pretending to undermine the Vatican. Canaris was part of a wide conspiracy led by Gen. Ludwig Beck. Müller’s travels between Germany and the Vatican included liaisons with the “Orders Committee” of Jesuits and Dominicans and made him one of the church’s most valuable spies, even after his arrest. The pope claimed that Müller’s exploits in smuggling, politics, and confounding the Nazis “worked wonders.” This book has much to surprise, especially the many German officers, separately and together, involved in attempts on Hitler’s life. There were many other “decent Germans” who hated Hitler, but they couldn’t betray their “fatherland.” Pius, vilified by critics who believed he ignored Germany’s atrocities, comes off as a politically savvy man who realized his interference would precipitate Hitler’s mortal overreaction against German Catholics.

Not only a dramatic disclosure of the Vatican’s covert actions, but also an absorbing, polished story for all readers of World War II history.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-465-02229-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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