Suspenseful, cat-and-mouse account of one Vatican priest who resisted the Gestapo’s terror policies.
While Pope Pius XII was wringing his hands about Allied bombing of Rome and essentially keeping quiet while the Gestapo deported the Jews and massacred the inhabitants, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish priest and official of the Holy Office, had accidentally begun to organize an Allied escape operation by the summer of 1943. As told in this non-scholarly account by BBC journalist Walker (Forgotten Soldiers: The Irishmen Shot at Dawn, 2007), O’Flaherty had no love for the English, having been politicized by British violence against the Irish back in the 1920s while he was in apostolic college in Limerick. However, during World War II he gradually changed his mind. Thanks to O’Flaherty’s network, which offered money, false ID papers and safe houses, a trickling of British soldiers had managed to seek refuge at the Vatican, and soon others found aid during the nine months of Nazi occupation. Meanwhile, the head of Rome’s intelligence agency was the ruthless, ambitious Nazi Herbert Kappler, who organized the Fascist police force and infiltrated espionage operations in Rome. Protected by Vatican neutrality, O’Flaherty operated under the nose of the Gestapo and barely missed being kidnapped and assassinated. Following orders, Kappler was responsible for rounding up 1,000 Roman Jews for deportation to Auschwitz, as well as the cold-blooded massacre of 325 prisoners in the Ardeatine Caves in 1944. While O’Flaherty was celebrated after the war, Kappler was tried and imprisoned for life.
Another extraordinary story of how the bravery of one individual halted the tide of evil.