THE POPE'S JEWS by Sam Waagenaar


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A history of the Jews of Rome from their earliest settlement along the banks of the Tiber -- 200 years before the arrival of St. Peter -- up to the present. The Italian edition was called The Ghetto on the Tiber; the present title doesn't sound like an improvement, but it is more to the point inasmuch as the most relevant and absorbing portion of the book has to do with the fate of the Jews under fascism, especially during the Nazi occupation of Rome. With Rolf Hochhuth Waagenaar maintains that Pope Pius XII was remiss in his duty as a religious leader in failing to speak out concretely and unmistakably against the persecution of the Jews. He challenges the recent contention of Anthony Rhodes in The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators (KRp. 1342, '73) that the Pope maintained his silence for fear of making matters worse. Waagenaar contrasts that policy of inaction with the forthrightness of Pins XI who did not hesistate to call Hitler ""a mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance,"" or describe anti-semitism as a ""repugnant movement."" The author relates in great detail the experiences of the ecclesiastical organizations and the many individuals who independently helped the Jews to hide or escape. Still, six million European Jews died, including 8000 from Italy and 2092 from Rome. ""What,"" asks Waagenaar, ""could be worse?"" He is more journalist than historian (his footnotes are not even numbered), and Rhodes' book has a more scholarly tone. But the force of the argument remains.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1974
Publisher: Library Press - Open Court