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Warburg in Rome Hardcover – 1 Aug 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (1 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547738900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547738901
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,942,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"James Carroll has written a novel with the breathtaking pace of a thriller and the gravitas of a genuine moral center--as if John LeCarre and Graham Greene collaborated to produce "Warburg in Rome""--Mary Gordon, author of "Pearl" and "The Love of My Youth"  

"Carroll, winner of the National Book Award for An American Requiem (1996) and the PEN/Galbraith Award for House of War (2006), both nonfiction, has also written numerous novels in multiple genres. Here he combines fact and fiction in a historical thriller. Carroll makes clear in an author's note that, while the "main characters and their story" are fictional, everything else in the book, centering on the treatment of Italian Jews during and after WWII, and including a Vatican plot called the "ratline," which secretly relocated Nazi war criminals to Argentina, is based on fact. This author's note, which appears at the end of the novel, might have been better placed at the beginning, since what Carroll describes is so horrifying (as in details on a children's concentration camp) as to seem fictional. The man who encounters this tangle of evil is David Warburg, sent to Rome by the U.S. War Refugee Board at the end of WWII to help bring aid to the European Jews arriving in Rome. Warburg has two guides to the inferno of postwar Rome: a woman Red Cross worker and a young American priest. Their efforts are met, first with bureaucratic roadblocks, and later with full-out betrayal. Carroll's depictions of the chaos in Rome, along with his insights into the Vatican ratline, are unforgettable. Recommend this utterly engaging thriller to fans of Joseph Kanon's The Good German (2001) and James R. Benn's Death's Door (2012)."--Booklist, STARRED review "James Carroll has written a novel with the breathtaking pace of a thriller and the gravitas of a genuine moral center--as if John LeCarre and Graham Greene collaborated to produce Warburg in Rome"--Mary Gordon, author of Pearl and The Love of My Youth

"Carroll, who explored the history of Catholic anti-Semitism in the nonfiction account Constantine's Sword, returns to this theme with a suspenseful historical drama set in Rome at the end of WWII and centering on Vatican complicity in the flight of Nazi fugitives to Argentina. David Warburg, a U.S. Treasury Department lawyer, is sent to the city to organize the War Refugee Board, a front for aiding Jewish refugees and helping to create their hoped-for homeland in Palestine. While in Rome, Warburg meets ruthless OSS counterintelligence head Col. Peter Mates, who is opposing Soviet domination of Central Europe through covert means. Warburg and Mates draw Father Kevin Deane, an American priest, and Marguerite d'Erasmo, a French-Italian Red Cross worker, into their plans, not realizing that both have hidden allegiances and motives. As Carroll cleverly weaves these characters among an assortment of liars, schemers, and charlatans, one character sums it all up: "None of us here is innocent." While high-placed Catholic officials aid escaped war criminals, other factions seek revenge for wartime brutality, and still others begin the bloody struggle for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. And at the heart of all the treachery, murder, and tragedy is the Eternal City."--Publishers Weekly

"A well-paced thriller from longtime Vatican watcher Carroll (Crusade, 2004, etc.) set in post-World War II Rome, with the Catholic Church athwart a tangle of scandalous politics and incriminating deeds.
"Sanctuary, Sister, is for the guilty. We may not like it, but there it is." So remarks an American monsignor, Kevin Deane, who's working to provide relief to Italian Jews, even as others in the Vatican are seeking to extend that sanctuary to their Nazi persecutors. Into this conflict comes refugee coordinator David Warburg, a confidant of Henry Morgenthau, who has warned him that "[o]nce Mark Clark captures it, Rome will be the nerve center and the escape hatch both." If Morgenthau only knew how deeply tunneled that escape hatch was....Helping Warburg--or is she?--is a Red Cross worker named Marguerite d'Erasmo, who "came of age as if she were a nun" but who has hidden resources, to say nothing of secrets. Marguerite is a person of faith much shaken, for this is a time in which "the Madonna seemed indifferent to everyone but her Son," while Warburg is a coolly efficient explorer of the surprising alleys his quest takes him down--not just the Vatican "ratline" that sweeps Nazis out of the path of the conquering Allies (Rome, as Warburg sees it, is "halfway between Vienna and Buenos Aires"), but also a complex storyline that finds highly placed elements within the Vatican opposing Jewish immigration to Palestine on the grounds that by doing so, they are helping to preserve the Holy Land, even as others are aligned with the revived cause of Zionism. Carroll blends a solid command of modern history with a sense for the varieties of evil that have inhabited it--not just the villains, but also the bureaucrats who have self-servingly helped them along and the apologists who have made the world safe for both classes of people.
Though without the white-knuckle tension of Graham Greene's The Third Man, a yarn that's of a piece with it--and a worthy successor."--Kirkus Reviews

"Warburg In Rome creates the atmosphere of a thriller with deeply serious historical undertones - the immediate aftermath of the German occupation of Rome. And the laying down of the infamous ratlines that allowed Nazi principals to escape allied capture with aid from the church. And Roosevelt's belated plan to save Jews still in Nazi territory. That's the history part. Fiction enters with a main character named David Warburg, a secular American Jew from northern New England. Roosevelt has charged him with directing the U.S. War Refugee Board and sends him on a mission to Rome, just after the Nazi retreat. Plenty of other strong characters gather around Warburg - some to help and some to disrupt. There's American priest, whom New York's ambitious Cardinal Spellman has assigned to advance his purposes, while in Rome and 24-year-old Marguerite D'Erasmo, a half-French, half-Italian beauty, whom Warburg finds both attractive and useful for his own plans. She's been working in tandem with a group of resisting priests and local Jewish leaders to save the lives of Jews still in fascist captivity. A long struggle ensues to find justice and love in the wake of the war. But the novel remains consistently entertaining, never didactic - even as a reader moves along, hip-deep in the history of the period."Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered

"Former priest Carroll (An American Requiem) returns with this complex and compelling novel of the Vatican and morality during World War II. The happenings here are dark indeed, and it's often difficult to believe that the novel is based on real-life events. Lawyer David Warburg comes to Rome to help set up and direct the new U.S. War Refugee Board, an effort that aims to help European Jews rebuild their lives as the war comes to a close. In the course of his humanitarian work, he meets Marguerite d'Erasmo, a Red Cross worker who is motivated by much more than meets the eye. Soon David learns of the Vatican ratline, a system that the Church used to smuggle Nazi war criminals to safety in Argentina. No longer sure whom to trust, he turns to U.S. Intelligence, only to find that the ratline isn't much of a secret after all. VERDICT This is a fresh look at a scandalous chapter of history, and one that reminds us that even when the war was over, the horrors were not. Sensitive readers should beware, as there are some graphic and extremely unsettling scenes. This book deserves a wide readership, and should especially appeal to readers interested in political and religious history."--Library Journal

"James Carroll's 'Warburg in Rome' has many of the ingredients of a great spy thriller: a high-stakes battle between good and evil; a plot full of twists and turns; a cultural capital both seductive and corrupt; characters caught in ethical thickets; and a moment of existential crisis when all the world's troubles seem to converge on a single point on the map, bringing out the best and the worst in all who happen to find themselves at the fractured center of civilization."--The Boston Globe

"A gripping political thriller set in a world of troubling moral complexity."--WBUR

From the Inside Flap

From the best-selling author of Constantine s Sword, a powerfully imagined novel that mines the dark and little-known history of postwar Rome, the Vatican, and Italy s surviving Jews
David Warburg, a 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 greatest scandals the Vatican ratline providing scores of Nazi war criminals with secret passage to Argentina. Warburg s disillusionment is com-plete 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.

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Format: Hardcover
The constant machinations of the Vatican and its hierarchy as they played all sides during the post-war years of World War II emphasize the fact that the Nazi Holocaust was only one of the horrors faced by Jews in the 1940s. The Holy See, dedicated to the Gospel of love and charity, became so involved in international politics and so protective of its own power that it contributed to another whole level of international abuse of the Jews. Pope Pius XII, papal nuncio to Germany from 1917 – 1929, had long-standing relationships with all the members of the church hierarchy in Germany, and many of them accompanied him to Rome when he became Pope. Their institutional anti-Semitism is one of the primary subjects of this dramatic and eye-opening novel by former priest James Carroll.

The Holy See was not alone in its anti-Semitism. Most countries, including the United States, would not accept the boatloads of refugees escaping for their lives, the US ultimately welcoming only a few thousand of the millions of imperiled Jews. Instead, the leaders of well-meaning nations established organizations within Europe, like the War Refugee Board sponsored by the US, leaving their directors to negotiate with the various postwar governments and partisan groups in order to feed and house the thousands of refugees. As arguments arose over jurisdictions, Nazi war criminals were obtaining passports secretly from sympathetic passport officials in countries across Europe, including the Vatican.

James Carroll uses his knowledge of the church to illustrate all these postwar complications, creating vivid characters who, themselves, are not perfect.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 74 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed the book 25 Sept. 2014
By V in Mass. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thoroughly enjoyed the book, but to be honest, James Carroll is one of my favorite authors. My reading habits are eclectic in that
I read a wide mix of fiction and non fiction with a bit of focus on history. The Boston Globe reviewer commented that if Carroll had wanted to write a history book he should have done so rather than trying to bury history lessons in fiction or in supposed discussions or arguments between characters. To me, the point of good historical fiction is that the author stays close to the facts of history and then attempts to impart how these facts of history may have impacted the actions and feelings of people through the creation of hi/her characters. James Carroll did that in this book. A side note to my pleasure in the book comes from the fact that he did mention the Safe Haven established in Oswego, NY. The creation of this Haven was a too little done a little too late, but it was the only ever done to my knowledge anyplace at any time. I wasn't even born at the time but it is a part of the history of the city in which I was born. There is a museum there now dedicated to that history that is small quite excellent.
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploring another of the never-ending, fascinating facets of World War II 18 Oct. 2014
By RSRS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
How unfortunate that we've had so many wars in the last half of the twentieth century. Don't all those belligerent folks realize we haven't yet had time to thoroughly analyze all the nuances of World War II? There's no time to follow the distractions of more recent conflicts. Can't we all just get along for, say, the next hundred years, in order to focus our full attention on the big one?

World War II was the "good war." But the more I read about it, the more I wonder just how good it actually was. Lots of killing, of course, but that's always the down side of any conflict. After reading dozens (hundreds?) of tomes on the political, diplomatic, and social aspects of the war, I don't seem any closer to finding out who the good guys really were. Of course the Allied cause was just, but after the horrors of the Holocaust the Brits battled to keep the Jews out of Palestine. Meanwhile, Americans paved the way for certain Nazis to emigrate to the U.S., provided they helped us develop ever more destructive weapons. And how many Jews did we allow to emigrate to the U.S. during the war - one boat load? On the other hand, the Catholic church was pure as the driven snow - Nazis to Argentina, for example. Partisans good? Well, how about those who turned out to be Communists?

Since the author, James Carroll, left the Catholic priesthood in disgust, I was certain he would have a totally unbiased view of the church's role in the war. Surprisingly he seemed at least partially unbiased. Pope Pius XII a Nazi? Well, no, but I hoped for a definitive view on the Pope's role in the war and postwar periods. I want to get all these folks lined up as either black or white hats. No such luck. Indeed, the church did provide assistance to the Nazis during the war, but the idea was to help them crush the Communists. Just say no to Soviet control of the Eastern European nations, especially since they were primarily Catholic.

"Warburg in Rome" is a fascinating book. It takes a slice of World War II, then mixes fictional characters into a real-time scenario - Rome during and immediately after the war, the question of European refugees (mostly Jewish?), role of the church, U.S. interests, postwar chaos - even Cardinal Spellman makes a cameo appearance. The major characters - Warburg, Marguerite D'Erasmo, Monsignor Kevin Deane, Colonel Peter Mates - represent competing/cooperating elements in the mixture. Bordered on five stars, but some of the major characters weren't sufficiently developed - although the political/diplomatic angles were well covered.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never again........ 24 Aug. 2014
By Joan Grayson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
James Carroll's book illuminates one of the darkest periods in modern history. The cynicism and denial that were implicit in the way that European Jewish survivors were treated in the years after the end of the war are ALMOST beyond belief. I found myself pausing while reading Warburg in Rome to verify certain historical events and found that the author put his fictitious characters in a milieu that was all too accurately portrayed. And then I happened to read Deborah E. Lipstadt's recent op-ed in the NYT entitled WHY JEWS ARE WORRIED. It provided a disturbing coda to this outstanding book. This is a very readable and accurate novel, I hope it gets the wide audience it deserves.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great historical fiction novel 15 July 2014
By easy read - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A great historical fiction novel. I found myself going to google to research the Italian and Croation camps. The books went into detail about the rat line escape routes, and the use of Nazi war criminals by the United States in research and as a counterbalance to The Soviet Union in the cold war. James Carroll is a former priest and explains the role of the Vatican during and after the war. Good read which will hold your interest.
4.0 out of 5 stars It tells a terrible tale of the Catholic Church during and immediately after ... 18 Sept. 2014
By Jerome L. Shapiro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an important book...not as a result of its literary value, rather because it tells an important story, gleaned from a large number of references. It tells a terrible tale of the Catholic Church during and immediately after WW II, when the Church was passionately crazy about the godless Russian heathens and preferred the Nazis. The "Holiness" Pope Pius XII was "above it all" but
steely in supporting the Aussweg, the German name for their safe path out of Europe and into South America..

Interwoven within this, the Author puts in some characters who fight the losing battle against the stalwarts of the Church.
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