Under His Very Windows


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The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy

Susan Zuccotti

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Pope Pius XII has often been criticized for his silence during the extermination of European Jewry during World War II. In his defense, some have alleged that the pope was doing a great deal to help the Jews but that his efforts were necessarily behind the scenes. This meticulously researched and balanced book examines exactly what the pope, his advisers, and his assistants at the Vatican Secretariat of State did to help the Jews of Italy. It finds that they did very little.

The book begins by discussing prewar Vatican and Jesuit publications, in which Zuccotti uncovers a hitherto unsuspected prevalence of anti-Jewish sentiment. These publications, along with archival documents, indicate that Vatican protests against Italian anti-Jewish laws were limited to measures affecting converts and Jews in mixed marriages with Catholics, as was help with emigration; the papal nuncio’s visits to foreign Jews in Italian internment camps did not differ from those to non-Jews and in no way eased their material discomfort; and interventions by diplomats of the Holy See for Jews threatened with deportation were rare, always polite, and seldom decisive.

Above all, Zuccotti finds no evidence of a papal directive to church institutions to shelter Jews and much evidence to suggest that the pope remained uninvolved. The notion that Pius XII was benevolent and helpful to Jews behind the scenes proves to be a myth.

Susan Zuccotti’s previous books include The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecution, Rescue, and Survival and The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews.

“The silence of Pius XII. The Catholic rescue of much of Italian Jewry. Susan Zuccotti reconciles the contradiction between the two in a subtle, many-layered history of heroism, cowardice, and tragically, often culpably missed opportunities.”—Jack Miles

“A convincing analysis of a tragic history. Zuccotti’s work honors Catholic heroes while making the broad failure of Catholic leaders irrefutably clear. This book sets a new standard, changes the debate, moves this painful question closer to resolution.”—James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews

“In Zuccotti’s devastating indictment of Pius . . . she draws on a wealth of documents, archival material, published memoirs, and personal interviews to explore such themes as the history of the Vatican and anti-Semitism, Italian anti-Jewish laws during the papacy of Pius XII, and the pope’s personal knowledge of the treatment of the Jews. . . . Meticulously researched, balanced, and free of bias.”—Booklist

"Under His Very Windows is now the most comprehensive study of the Holocaust in Italy and in the Italian zones of occupation in southeastern France and Croatia. It is also a useful addition to the ever-growing literature on the Vatican, Pope Pius XII, and the Holocaust."—Frank Nicosia, Bulletin of the Center for Holocaust Studies

“Susan Zuccotti’s solid work will be the standard by which other books will be judged.”—Arnold Ages, Chicago Jewish Star

“Using the archival resources and secondary analyses available, Zuccotti has produced a lucid and definitive account of the actions of Popes Pius XI and Pius XII to help the Jews in Italy. . . . Assiduously separating fact from myth, she concludes that these two men did little to help the Jews in Italy before and during the war, revealing their anti-Judaic leanings and illuminating their psychodynamics as they confronted Nazism and Fascism. . . . This book will not be superseded soon.”—Choice

“Zuccotti’s conclusion is . . . absolute and thorough. . . . [S]he ends by confronting ‘the myth of papal involvement in the rescue of Jews.’”—Commonweal

“A heavily researched and well-documented study. . . . Drawing on local archives and interviews with Jewish survivors, Zuccotti provides valuable and instructive new material about the courage of ordinary religious leaders.”—Hadassah Magazine

“This book will only further enhance Zuccotti’s reputation for balance, scholarship, and appropriate gravitas. She gives serious hearing to all points of view and permits the evidence to determine her conclusions.”—Michael Berenbaum
“One of the boldest contributions to the history of the Holocaust in the last decade. Zuccotti presents what will surely be a most controversial study examining the steps Pope Pius XII took to help Italian Jews during the Holocaust. . . . Stunning.”—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)


“This important book is recommended for all academic libraries and for public libraries interested in World War II and Roman Catholic history.”—Library Journal

“Based on extensive careful research into one locale after another, Zuccotti methodically debunks claims that Pius XII was active on behalf of the Jews. . . . [An] important book exposing comforting and falsely heroizing fictions about Pius XII, the church, and the Holocaust.”—Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, New Republic

“To definitively separate myth from reality, historian Zuccotti’s new book . . . is an authoritative, balanced and, in the end, devastating indictment of moral failure on the part of the Church as an institution. . . . Zuccotti’s treatise will stand for many as the greatest access to the truth available.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Meticulous scholarship underlies every aspect of Zuccotti’s argumentation. . . . This work will remain indispensable for serious scholars."—Francis J. Murphy, The Historian

“[A] detailed and beautifully written book.”—Elisabeth Hagen, Trenton Times

“Zuccotti’s highly engaging and saddening study fills out the urgency of assessing Catholic guilt as the world debates the merit of declaring Pope Pius XII a saint.”—Virginia Quarterly Review

“Rigorously researched, judiciously argued and lucidly composed, Zuccotti’s study demonstrates that, contrary to his defenders’ claims, Pius XII, pope during the Holocaust, did next to nothing to rescue Jews from the Nazis anywhere in Italy. . . . Zuccotti provides the first detailed study of the Vatican’s virtual non-role in the rescue of Jews in Genoa, Turin, Milan, Florence, Venice and Trieste, as well as in convents, monasteries, Catholic hospitals and schools in Rome—even after the Pope knew that mass murder was under way.”—Paul Breines, Washington Post Book World

“Two facts are not in dispute. First, Pius XII never publicly denounced Nazi Germany’s attempt to exterminate the Jews. Second, Catholics and Catholic institutions in Italy quietly saved thousands of Jews from certain death. The question is whether the rescue required or can be seen in retrospect to explain the silence. Susan Zuccotti answers that the rescue does not explain the silence; but in giving her own explanation for it, she provides both a riveting account of the rescue and a fascinating reconstruction of the Vatican’s strategy of neutrality. Rather than simply an indictment of Catholic anti-Semitism, hers is a story of tragically missed opportunities, the many-layered history of a tortured time.”—Jack Miles

Winner of the 2000 National Jewish Book Award in the Jewish-Christian Relations category, awarded by the Jewish Book Council

Winner of the 2002 Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Prize given by the German Studies Association
ISBN: 9780300093100
Publication Date: February 8, 2002
436 pages, 5 x 8
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The Jews of Saint-Martin-Vésubie and Their Flight through France and Italy

Susan Zuccotti

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