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Out of Their Depth
on 6 May 2010
The story of the Papacy's role in the Second World War is an important one and deserves to be studied in depth. Unfortunately, the authors of this book are out of their depth in their propositions, narrative and conclusions. Their presentation is strong on condemnation, weak on analysis and, in some cases, subject to so many qualifications as to be as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Their thesis is simple: the Vatican was at the centre of an international conspiracy involving intelligence services in the USA, UK and Soviet Union, all of whom participated in allowing Nazi war criminals escape justice through the Ratlines. The contradicatory nature of their claims, however, undermines their credibility. After boldly stating, "The truth is that the Vatican knew exactly what it was doing at critical points an adopted policies which led to its own disgrace" they qualify it by stating "this is simply the authors' opinion of the international scope of the Ratlines."
Too often the authors rely on an argument from silence rather than an argument based on evidence. Those matters which can be checked such as the claim that Kurt Waldheim was recruited by Soviet intelligence fail to meet the minimum requirement for acceptable evidence. In respect of Italy they claim "The P2 scandal involving an extreme right wing intelligence group that supported neo-Fascist terrorism in an attempted coup, follows the pattern of Soviet agent provocateur successes in otehr Western countries which harboured Fascist cliques." Not only was the P2 scandal separate from the proposed coup by a small number of elderly generals, its support was minimal in Europe. The P2 was a masonic lodge, which had Mafia connections, supported by a number of people of varying influence including the current Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who, at that time, was not active in politics. An absence of balance is shown by the lack of reference to the attack on Italian democracy by the Red Brigades.
The authors assert connections without proof. For example, "all German experts on bacteriological and chemical were handed over to British custody. There is some cicumstantial evidence that the British made a deal with Mengele for his nerve gas records" which does not accord with what is known about Mengele's postwar history. The International Rescue Committee, founded in 1933 at the suggestion of Albert Einstein to facilitate the flight of refugees from Nazi Germany, is written off as a front organisation for laundering money to Fascist groups. Its humanitarian assistance to all refugees is overlooked and downgraded without proof.
They accuse Pius X11 and Cardinal Montini (later Paul V1) of activity which favoured Nazi war criminals while admitting, "We do not claim that the evidence is sufficient to convict, only enough to warrant a belief amongst reasonable people that crimes were committed." Amongst the allegations are crimes against peace, obstruction of justice, receiving stolen goods and abuse of diplomatic privileges.
However, having proclaimed the evidence to be insufficient to convict, they claim to have "sufficient evidence to accuse the Vatican of receiving stolen property." The authors also claim Paul Vl was recruited as a secret intelligent source for the CIA. Such a conspiratorial theory of history is reproduced on extremist websites with favourable comment.
It is inevitable when history relies on innuendo and gossip rather than records and facts the intellectual background of the authors is checked out. John Loftus is a former intelligence officer which may account for his inability to distinguish between information and misinformation. In 2005 Loftus misidentified an address as the residence of a terrorist resulting in an innocent family being threatened, harrassed and requiring police protection. In fact, the alleged "terrorist" named was tracked down and cleared of any involvement in terrorism. As a result Fox News sacked Loftus. Loftus's The Intelligence Summit is bankrolled by Michael Cherney who is suspected of money laundering, connections with the Russian Mafia and has been barred from entering the United States. Mark Aarons comes from a long family of Australian Communists which may account for his tendency towards the conspiracy theory of history. Apparently the Reds are no longer under the bed they have expropriated the bedroom.
From a historian's viewpoint this book is an amateurish attempt to explain history in terms of a conspiracy of the powerful against the weak on much the same lines as Mein Kampf blamed society's problems on a worldwide Jewish conspiracy and others allege the existence of the Illuminati. This is a pity because, as stated at the outset of this review, the subject deserves to be studied (objectively) in depth. The cock-up theory of history is far more productive than the conspiracy theory and no book on history deserves to be accorded respectability if it relies on conspiracy as an explanation. Provided one discounts the authors' conclusions there is a useful, if somewhat dated, bibliography and the book is easy to read. Just about worth three stars.