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Warburg in Rome
 
 

Warburg in Rome [Kindle Edition]

James Carroll

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David Warburg, newly minted director of the U.S. War Refugee Board, arrives in Rome at war’s end, determined to bring aid to the destitute European Jews streaming into the city. Marguerite d’Erasmo, a French-Italian Red Cross worker with a shadowed past, is initially Warburg’s guide to a complicated Rome; while a charismatic young American Catholic priest, Monsignor Kevin Deane, seems equally committed to aiding Italian Jews. But the city is a labyrinth of desperate fugitives, runaway Nazis, Jewish resisters, and criminal Church figures. Marguerite, caught between justice and revenge, is forced to play a double game. At the center of the maze, Warburg discovers one of history’s great scandals—the Vatican ratline, a clandestine escape route maintained by Church officials and providing scores of Nazi war criminals with secret passage to Argentina. Warburg’s disillusionment is complete when, turning to American intelligence officials, he learns that the dark secret is not so secret, and that even those he trusts may betray him.

James Carroll delivers an authoritative, stirring novel that reckons powerfully with the postwar complexities of good and evil in the Eternal City.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1530 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (1 July 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E78ICV0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #104,992 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  31 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A history lesson, in novel form... 31 May 2014
By Jill Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
During WW2, when did the idea of the Nazis as our enemy change to the notion that our real enemy was the Soviet Union? Was it after the Allied invasion at Normandy and subsequent push east was meeting the Soviet Army's push west through eastern Europe into Germany? Or was it even earlier? But, certainly, at some time, the allied governments were beginning to look past WW2 and at a showdown with the Soviet Union. And many of the defeated Nazi government officials, concentration camp personnel, the SS, etc, found common cause with some Allied officials as they were helped to escape capture and prosecution. These same war criminals often found solace and help in escaping justice by Vatican officials, who were helpful with the "ratlines" taking these men from Europe to South America. (And, of course, many were brought to the US to help with military weapons we thought we'd need against the Soviets, in that "next war"...)

James Carroll is a former Catholic priest turned historian and author. He has written both fiction and non-fiction, about the Church, Jewish history, the war in Vietnam, among other topics. He's an excellent writer. In his new book, "Warburg in Rome", James Carroll looks at Italy - and the Vatican, in particular - in the years 1943-1947. Allied forces have battled the Germans up the coast and now occupy Rome. The United States government is sending in aid organisations to help deal with the problems of refugees made homeless by war. As Italy has fallen to the Allies, reports - previously mostly sketchily told - of German atrocities against the Jews and others, are gaining credence as fact.

Into this end-of-war confusion step David Warburg, a Jewish lawyer working for the US Treasury Department, who is sent to Rome to coordinate post-war efforts to help refugees. On the plane to Rome, he meets and befriends Monsignor Kevin Deane, who represents New York City Archbishop Francis Spellman at the Vatican. The two men, both former basketball players, realise that their aims are similar and they begin to work together. They are stymied by both the US government policies and Vatican policies about post-war aid efforts. They are also stymied by the effects of the Vatican's - read: Pope Pius XII - attitude, both official and non-official towards the government of Nazi Germany in the 1930's and 1940's.

Also a large part of the book are the "ratlines", taking those Nazi-officials-on-the-run, from Europe to Argentina, with the help of the Vatican, and in some cases, the Red Cross. The Croatian Ustashe, a fascist group which helped the Nazis kill hundreds of thousands in Yugoslavia, had begun setting up these "ratlines", using compliant Catholic monasteries to channel the fugitives from eastern Europe to Rome and then to Italian ports where boats took these "refugees", often traveling on Vatican-issued passports, to South America.

In reading over this review, I realise I've made the plot sound complicated, with lots of characters. And it IS complicated, with lots of characters. But James Carroll is such a good author - and teacher - that the novel flows smoothly. This book is not for the casual reader. Carroll invokes the cruelties of WW2 and the post-war by different groups, and is not shy in guiding the reader towards the "ends" as the "means" take them in the book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A postwar intrigue about Vatican complicity with fleeing war criminals and the Holocaust itself 11 Aug 2014
By Daniel Berger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
James Carroll admirably takes on a most difficult subject in this novel about postwar Rome: the Vatican's involvement with fleeing war criminals of the worst sort.

And he touches on an even more explosive issue: the complicity of Roman Catholic clergy in the Holocaust itself.

He brings to life a cast of fictional characters representing the many parties plotting and maneuvering in Rome - Americans civilian and military, British diplomats, Vatican Curia, Communist Partisans, escaping Nazis, Croatian fascists hiding out on Church property, the Haganah, fleeing Holocaust survivors, you name it.

A high-ranking U.S. relief official has come to Rome to help send one shipload (there will never be another) of Jewish refugees to the States, and to find pathways of escape for Jews in Budapest, whom the Nazis are now sending to Auschwitz in wholesale numbers. The book suggests how Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg was enabled to save 30,000 Hungarian Jews: the U.S. blackmailed Sweden, which had allowed German troops passage across the country and supplied Hitler with arms and iron ore. This would be officially ignored if it played ball on Wallenberg.

Warburg must sort through the Vatican's confusing and conflicting record towards the Jews. It helped some while cozying up to their persecutors, but even its help is called into question once Warburg learns many were made to undergo baptism in order to find refuge. Accept the Cross or die, except that this is 1942, not 1542.

Meanwhile, Marguerite D'Erasmo, a young Italian Red Cross official, herself a fugitive from the Nazis, witnesses an atrocity that changes her life irretrievably. She is drawn more closely to Jocko Lionni, an Italian survivor who coordinated the hiding of hundreds of other Jews.

Kevin Deane, a deputy to powerful Cardinal Francis Spellman, arrives in Rome as his patron maneuvers to rise in the Curia, with the Americans now holding Europe's pursestrings and U.S. Catholic clergy well-positioned as power brokers. Deane becomes sensitized to the Jews' plight. He slowly begins to understand the anti-Semitism woven into his church's position on them, and even into his own attitudes.

But Roberto Lehmann, another influential deputy - half Argentine, half German, serving a German cardinal - assumes a key position as Nazis seek to escape to Argentina with Vatican protection. The Vatican is interested in fighting Communism and reestablishing Catholic influence in Eastern Europe, and not at all interested in how much blood its new friends have on their hands, or the origin of their war loot. Some of the worst war criminals in Europe are believed to be hiding out in or around the Vatican.

OSS officer Peter Mates starts plotting America's moves in the postwar - what will become the Cold War. The Communists are becoming enemies and thus their enemies, the Nazis, potential allies.

Complicating everyone's game is the wild card of the Jewish underground, itself riven into factions between the left and right, the Haganah and the Irgun, which is variously helping refugess immigrate, legally or illegally, into Palestine; beginning to strike against the British who rule it in the cause of establishing a Jewish state; and hunting down war criminals to kill them, since the world apparently doesn't care much what they did.

Carroll sees this from a largely Catholic perspective, making it far more interesting. It takes a Catholic to to understand the cross currents within the church - the many political threads plus the tenets of religious conscience that motivate, or fail to motivate, its leaders.

Deane and Sister Thomas, a British nun with access to sensitive Vatican information, are first stricken with remorse and guilt for what has been done to the Jews, but later recoil from Jewish terrorist strikes against the King David Hotel in Jerusalem - British military HQ there - and the British Embassy in Rome. Killing escaping Nazis is one thing, but attacking one of the principal Allies who fought the war against them?

D'Erasmo, herself a Catholic, finds herself increasingly alienated from the church as she entangles herself in the lives of those she helps. She takes a fateful step away from it.

Warburg, a secular Jew, can't ignore how little Washington is willing to help people in the direst need. He is effectively an agency of one. His War Refugee Board can't even include the word "Jewish" in its title, although it's clear Jews are by far the primary people in need of its help - countless numbers orphaned, wounded, starving, destitute, homeless, unable to return to hometowns where their neighbors turned them in or seized their property. Warburg must do what he can - armtwisting, cajoling, dropping names, pulling rank, guilting - to gain even the smallest kinds of support.

Carroll deals squarely with something the Church undoubtedly would rather have history forget - church complicity in the Holocaust in Croatia.

This was not a question of turning a blind eye, remaining silent or being too cozy with persecutors, but one of priests leading death squads. Carroll focuses on one venue: the death camp for children at Sisak. The Church has never adequately addressed this exceedingly shameful episode in its history. Its obscurity has been sustained by various factors:

Yugoslavia's relatively small Jewish population meant crimes there - and not by the SS, but by the less notorious (but equally vicious) Croatian Ustashe - haven't gotten the same attention that the huge concentration camps in Poland or the treatment of enormous Jewish ghettos in Eastern Europe have. The beginning of the Cold War meant U.S. and British intelligence both saw ex-Nazis as potential allies against the Communists, knowledgeable about the new foe, and found Jews' calls for justice to be an annoying distraction.

Croatia's fanatically loyal Catholicism meant that the Vatican let it get away with genocide as it maneuvered against the Serb monarchist Chetniks and the Communist Partisans for postwar position.

And Communist ascension to Yugoslav power meant true information about atrocities there was tainted by the ultimate Communist goal of smashing Catholic influence throughout Eastern Europe. The Communists aren't who you go to for historical truth. Their own war crimes tribunals were kangaroo courts full of misinformation, in contrast to the Nuremberg tribunal's painstaking efforts to create a factual historical base in a public court of law.

Carroll has done his homework, deriving the background for his fictional characters from some of the slowly accumulating major works in a field not yet adequately researched, including John Loftus and Mark Aaron's "Unholy Trinity", Susan Zuccotti's "The Italians and the Holocaust", Ruth Gruber's "Haven", and David Wyman's "The Abandonment of the Jews".

His story takes note, via its omissions, of the gaps in the historical record: What Pope Pius XII's position on all this was - we see the maneuvering of key underlings, but he remains invisible - and how complicit the Curia and Croatia's Archbishop Stepinac were in bloodshed involving Franciscan priests under their authority.

He sets the scene well in the Eternal City, with a great feeling for its many historical buildings, particularly the religious ones. And I like the interior lives he develops for his Catholic characters - priests and nuns with real feelings, not perfect, subject to human passions - and the difficulty they or any person of conscience must have had in trying to parse the innocence vs. guilt, justice vs. revenge, necessity vs. complicity, in those troubled times.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warburg in Rome 13 July 2014
By Patricia H. Parker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I saw the title of this book, I thought it would be the beginning of another detective\spy series. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it is, instead, a history thriller about the years in Europe between 1943 and 1947. It takes place, not in Northern Europe, but in Italy from the time the Allies secured Rome, through the surrender of Germany, to the threshold of Israeli Independence,
The Warburg of the title is a US Department of Treasury administrator who has been assigned to lead the U. S War Refugee Board. His position is set to become official as soon as the Allies, having stormed Anzio, take control of Rome. For Refugee, read Jews because this was the way the U.S. Administration got around the complaints from the U.S. "powers that be", that so many needed help as the Germans retreated into their own territory and displaced persons tried to return home , the Jews were being favored. It is hard, even for someone my age, to remember the degree of anti-Semitism which was loose in America even in the wake of the discovery of the extent of the Jewish holocaust. Warburg, who is a Jew from Vermont and who had never experienced the bias alive in other parts of the country, is startled by this reaction. He does his best to do his job by using the facilities available to him and his connections in other parts of the Allied Resettlement Community. These include certain people from the Italian Red Cross and members of Pro-Jewish Agencies such as Giacomo Lionni who had worked through the war under the noses of Germans to hide as many Jews as possible. There were also Roman Catholic priests of many degrees who also helped. They did this secretly as the published attitude of the Vatican was to stay neutral. However, real names are mentioned such as Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who sacrificed himself to save thousands of Jews in Hungary. It would seem that the last sighting of Mr. Wallenberg, alive, was six days after the retreat of the Nazis. (The United States has just struck a Medal of Freedom honor in Mr. Wallenberg’s name.) Although, Mr. Carroll states at the end of his book that most of the character names are fictional, the above mentioned people as well Archbishop of Istanbul, Giovanni Roncalli were not fiction, and Archbishop Roncalli, whom we know better as Pope John XXIII contributed greatly to saving Jews in contradiction of the policy of the Vatican at the time. John, XXIII also rescinded the Doctrine which for 2,000 years had blamed the Jews for Christ’s death.
I should tell future readers of this book that it is a difficult book to read. Because of its subject, it deals very early with the rumors(?) that the Vatican allowed its buildings and administrative processes to be used to help a number of high ranking Nazis out of Europe and into South America. Many people may be shocked by this information but I remember, as a teenager, hearing such rumors when they were still fresh. The rationalization was that it was important to save these ardent anti-communists before Stalin took over Europe. I am not a Jew or a Roman Catholic so I don't feel I can speak to this one way or the other. I do realize that the Pope's main mission was to insure the survival of his church in the face of the complete domination and illogical thinking of the Nazis who could turn on a dime and destroy without giving a reason. One other piece of information I found interesting was a suggestion that the genocide of the Muslims in the Balkans in 1992 may have been the continuation, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, of the “cleansing” of non-Christian populations which started before the Communist takeover with the removal of the Jews. Many of the Christians active in this earlier process were Croatians. The reader should remember it is easier to make black and white choices seventy years later and with the knowledge of subsequent happenings.
All in all, this is a fascinating book and a book to read. It makes me hope that Pope Francis will use his time in the Vatican to bring back the reforms with which Pope John XXIII tried to modernize the Roman Catholic Church.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History and Fiction Woven Together Responsibly 8 July 2014
By DEBORAH LIPSTADT` - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An excellent foray into a real world of Vatican manipulations at the end of the war to prevent Stalin from extending his reach in Europe. You will learn a lot about the role of NYC's Cardinal Spellman, American Catholics, Papal circles, the "Ratline" which helped Nazi war criminals [Mengle, Eichmann, etc.] escape.

Carroll has a wonderful way of weaving a story together with history without messing with the history and it's a good read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I hate trying to assign "I love it" stars to a ... 7 July 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I hate trying to assign "I love it" stars to a book that so deeply troubles me, but it is well-written, impeccably researched, and exposes the dark underbelly of institutions that should be beyond reproach, but were not then, and probably are not now. The anti-Semitism that infected Europe in the thirties, forties, and into the fifties is a bafflement to me. However, it is true, and that the Catholic Church was tainted by it is disturbing. And, the power struggles of that time period within governments, religions, and the oh-so-human individuals who make them up, are fascinating to see exposed in the harsh light of Carroll's unrelenting narrative.

Carroll has done his usual fine job of knitting fictitious characters in to the weave of history in a most compelling way. It is a great summertime read, with intriguing questions that will have the reader searching his own soul long after the reading is finished. Well done, indeed, James Carroll.
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