Kertzer is unflinching and relentless in his exposure of the Vatican’s shocking actions.



More deeply troubling revelations around Vatican collaboration with evil. 

With the unsealing of archives in 2006 concerning the papacy of Pius XI, Kertzer (Social Science, Anthropology and Italian Studies/Brown Univ.; Amalia's Tale: A Poor Peasant, an Ambitious Attorney, and a Fight for Justice, 2008, etc.) found the call to scrutinize them “irresistible.” The author spares no toes in his crushing of the church’s “comforting narrative” around its relationship with Mussolini’s fascist regime. The signing of the Lateran Accord in 1929 between the Holy See and the dictator established the Vatican as sovereign territory and bound the Catholic Church and the regime to a new period of codependence. Having been elected to the papacy just as Italy was rocked by cataclysmic violence between fascists thugs and socialists, Pius XI and his advisers “began to question the wisdom of opposing Mussolini’s crusade.” While Mussolini had previously spoken out against the power and holdings of the church, and the fascists unleashed a campaign of beatings of priests and Catholic activists, Mussolini’s sudden and opportunistic embrace of the church by 1922—for example, asking for “God’s help” in his first address to parliament—charmed Pius into thinking he had an ally to bring the church more firmly back into Italian life, which had been challenged by modernism. Although Mussolini’s increasing cultivation of cult status alarmed Pius, his minions and, indeed, the church organ extolled fascism for seeking to “place spiritual values once again in the place of honor they once occupied, especially as required by the battle against liberalism.” Even Mussolini’s suppression of the pope’s darling Catholic Action youth groups did not fray collaboration between them to marginalize Italian Protestants and Jews, until Pius grew ill and it was too late to change course.

Kertzer is unflinching and relentless in his exposure of the Vatican’s shocking actions.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9346-2

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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