top of page
  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

The Nazis, the Vatican, and the Jews of Rome

Reviewed by Catholic Social Science

Much of new book, The Nazis, the Vatican, and the Jews of Rome, reads like a novel, with the author providing a micro-level description of the lives of various individuals among the Germans, Italians, Jews and Allies, while simultaneously addressing the larger issues of papal diplomacy in trying to prevent the deportation of the Jews and an end to the war.

The final chapters provide dramatic and sometimes graphic depictions of individuals swept up in the “Black Saturday” raid of the old Roman ghetto on October 16, 1943. Their journey from the ghetto to the Collegio Militare, the notorious Regina Coeli prison, the Tiburtina train station and finally the five-day train ride to Auschwitz is described in agonizing detail. After being robbed and abused by sadistic guards, the Jews are confronted by Dr. Josef Mengele who divides them into two groups. Those who seem physically able are sent to forced labor, while the rest are marched directly to the crematoria.

Most illuminating is the author’s description of the conflicting backgrounds, personalities and tactics of Rome’s Jewish community leaders during the nine-month German occupation of the city. Specifically, Chief Rabbi Israel Zolli, a Polish immigrant to Italy, had bitter disagreements with ex-Fascists Ugo Foa and Dante Almansi, who believed that their contacts in the Fascist Party would somehow protect the Jews from the fate of their co-religionists elsewhere. In particular, Foa and Almansi, as leaders of the Jewish Community of Rome (CER) and the Italian Jewish

bottom of page