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St. Louis Jewish Light

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St. Louis Jewish Light

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Neidorff family hosts Pulitzer winning author on Pope Pius XII and Hitler for vitural event


In late October 1941, a bishop in Slovakia wrote to Pope Pius XII  to alert him that the country’s Jews “are simply being shot, systematically murdered, without distinction of sex or age.” This was the first credible account of the pope learning of Nazi atrocities. We know this because in 2020 Pope Francis ordered 170 volumes of the “Jewish Files” or requests for help from the Catholic Church during World War II to be made available to historians.

One of the first scholars to gain access to these files was Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Kertzer. Kertzer, the son of a rabbi, will be the featured guest during a thought-provoking virtual event on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. CST.

The virtual event is completely free, thanks to the generous support of St. Louisans Noémi and Michael (z”l) Neidorff, in honor of her parents George and Alicia Karpati. The Neidorffs created The George and Alicia Karpati Lectureship in 2005 to bring outstanding authors and scholars in Jewish Studies, Eastern European history, and Holocaust Studies to Drew University, which is located in Madison, NJ.

Kertzer will discuss his latest book, The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler.

Click here to register

The Pope at War

Critics accuse Pope Pius XII of having turned a blind eye to Jewish suffering during World War II. ( (Wikimedia Commons))

An instant New York Times bestseller, the book chronicles Pope Pius XII’s actions as World War II expanded across Europe and the Nazis began exterminating millions of Jews. Kertzer reveals how the pope set aside moral leadership to preserve the church’s power. This ground-breaking work has been called “the most important book ever written about the Catholic Church and its conduct during World War II.”

“My new book brings to light for the first-time surprising findings from those newly opened archives, including the fact, kept hidden for over eight decades, that shortly after Pius XII became pope in 1939, Hitler saw an opportunity and sent a secret envoy to enter into negotiations with the pope, secret meetings that lasted many months,” said Kertzer.

Amazingly, Kertzer found virtual transcripts of the pope’s conversations with the German prince, Philipp von Hessen, who was Hitler’s envoy.

“The Vatican had been able to keep that secret for the past 80 years, till my book,” said Kertzer. “The transcripts certainly makes us understand the pope’s attitudes, at least in the beginning of the war. The pope is basically saying, ‘Look, if you just let up pressure on the church the Catholics will be your most loyal servants in the Third Reich.’ And saying nothing about why they shouldn’t be the most loyal servants of the Nazi regime. It gives a whole new dimension to our understanding.”

The book is based on thousands of never-before-seen documents not only from the Vatican, but from archives in Italy, Germany, France, Britain and the United States. Kertzer paints a new, dramatic portrait of what the pope did and did not do as war enveloped the continent and as the Nazis began their systematic mass murder of Europe’s Jews.

In his research Kertzer found documents connecting the pope to what was happening right in Rome.

“I discovered these documents from the middle of December 1943, which showed the actual attitude toward Jews in the Vatican at the time that they were being taken off to Auschwitz. I did find those kind of shocking — particularly the timing. October 16, 1943 was the roundup of the Jews of Rome, where over 1,000 were sent to Auschwitz, essentially to their death, and the pope kept silent,” said Kretzer.

The book clears away the myths and sheer falsehoods surrounding the pope’s actions from 1939 to 1945, showing why the pope repeatedly bent to the wills of Hitler and Mussolini.


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About the Contributor
Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer
Jordan worked at KSDK from 1995 to 2020. Jordan is a three-time Emmy award winner who produced every kind of show from news to specials during his tenure, creating Show Me St. Louis, The Cardinal Nation Show. He started ksdk.com in 2001 and won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for journalistic and website excellence in 2010, 2014 and 2020. Jordan has been married for 25 years and is the father of two college students. He is an avid biker, snowboarder, and beer lover. He created the blog drink314.com, focusing on the St. Louis beer community in 2015. Jordan has an incredible and vast knowledge of useless information and is the grandson of a Cleveland bootlegger.