I was somewhat aware of the various controversies surrounding Pope Pius XII who was the Pope during WWII up to 1958. I remember the book “Hitler’s Pope” which I once saw for sale at a retreat center. Since that book came out their have been various books defending the Pope and setting the record straight in regards to helping the Jewish people. I also knew how the Rolf Hochhuth’s 1968 anti-Pius play “The Deputy” did much to change what was previously a favorable view of the Pope during WWII. That the play might well have been part of a KGB-led disinformation campaign.
So I thought I had a pretty good grasp regarding Pope Pius XII efforts to save Jews during WWII, which was mostly a behind-the-scenes effort. Then I heard author Mark Riebling being interviewed on Al Kresta’s show regarding his book “Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler”.
When he learned of the Holocaust, Pius played his cards close to his chest. He sent birthday cards to Hitler—while secretly plotting to kill him.
Church of Spies documents this cloak and dagger intrigue in shocking detail. Gun-toting Jesuits stole blueprints to Hitler’s homes. A Catholic book publisher flew a sports plane over the Alps with secrets filched from the head of Hitler’s bodyguard. The keeper of the Vatican crypt ran a spy ring that betrayed German war plans and wounded Hitler in a briefcase bombing.
That the Pope actually plotted to have Hitler killed seems to actually be accurate and this book details this. That the Pope took efforts regarding this on his own initiative and worked to separate this as an official act for the Vatican. That in this case he thought Tyrannicide to be warranted. The book is just full of interesting details regarding this. One tidbit was the installation of a Marconi wire recorder in the Vatican to record conversations covertly.
One of the central figures in the book is Josef Müller. His story is one of those that would seem outlandish in a novel. A lawyer who defended Nazi opponents including Jewish people and was part of the Catholic resistance against Nazi Germany. He was a central figure in carrying out a coup and passing intelligence personally to Pope Pius XII along with British intelligence. How he achieved this is simply astounding considering the watchful eyes he was under. He was later arrested, imprisoned, tortured repeatedly, and scheduled for execution. That he survived all this is another amazing story. Especially considering his connection to the various plots to assassinate Hitler including Operation Valkyrie with Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.
I listened to the Audiobook version and often I felt like I was listening to a Robert Ludlum novel. The book is just wonderfully descriptive and totally pulls you into the history. The mass of evidence is presented so integrally. This is likely a book I will listen to again as the story is just so amazing and so well told.
Initially I was going to buy the Kindle version of the book which is $16.99. Instead I bought the audiobook at downpour. The site downpour is a competitor to Audible and provides all their books without any DRM (Digital Rights Management) so that you can play they as you choose on any device. They have a $12.99 a month subscription where you can select one book a month along with buying extra credits at $12.99 (Audible forces you to buy 3 credits to add extra credits).