Robert Katz’s History of Modern Italy
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More Reviews and Praise...
for the Battle for Rome

Washington Post: An extraordinarily detailed account of the nine-month German occupation of the Italian capital. Drawing on new material, [the author] provides fresh insight into a complex saga of brutality, inefficiency, expediency and betrayal, leavened with occasional acts of moral courage and heroism. … Katz uses his own interviews with German occupiers, Italian partisans and Vatican officials, plus new documents from the Vatican and Italian archives, and – most dramatically – American wartime intelligence intercepts of radio messages between Berlin and Rome, declassified by the CIA over the past three years. These decoded intercepts are startling. They reveal that Washington and London had advance notice of the planned roundup and removal of the Roman Jews. This information, had it not been suppressed at the time, might have been used to rescue the captives. The documents also provide an indisputable paper trail linking Adolf Hitler directly to this act of genocide.

New Statesman: A fascinating blow-by-blow account of the battle for the city between daring leftist partisans, grand but brave Italian monarchists and a whole cast of German occupiers, some appalling thugs and bigots, others sensitive men seeking out the shades of gray in a black-and-white situation. Katz brings the daily grind of the occupation vividly alive … Katz has the novelist's gift for narrative… this is popular history at its best.

The Sunday Times of London: [A] moving account of Rome under Nazi occupation ... meticulous scholarship.

Jerusalem Post: What Robert Katz, in his engaging, and highly readable new book on the German occupation of Rome brings to the table is context. … Katz does a masterful job of weaving together disparate themes in this highly informative work. Here we discover the brave Italian partisans who fought a ferocious battle to take back their city from the Germans; the bravery of the Allied troops, as they fought their way north from Anzio to capture their first Axis capital, and the courage of the ordinary citizens of Rome who risked their lives to hide Jews and other undesirables. The personalities of Mark Clark, American commander of the Fifth Army who ultimately took Rome just one day before D-Day, as well as the German commander Field Marshal Kesselring, are brought substantially to life. … Katz's book is an important and timely read.

CNN Reviews, "Excellent Works Just out in paperback": Author, journalist and screenwriter ("Death in Rome") Katz has lived in Italy for the better part of the last half-century, and has spent large portions of it becoming one of the foremost experts on what the Vatican exactly did and did not do during the German occupation of Italy during World War II. Drawing on a wealth of primary source data, Katz re-enacts the events of the 10 months of the Italian capital under Nazi rule. His method of grouping the huge cast of historical figures into four groups, headed by carefully selected protagonists (including a partisan couple who conceived a child under a tree during an Allied bombing raid) moves the mountain of thoroughly documented material along with the pace of a thriller.

Chicago Tribune: Important revelations … in a timely book. [Robert] Katz, who has lived in Italy for years, has made use of recently released wartime archives and has reinterviewed some of his old sources to put together an account of the 270-day German occupation that is dramatic, revealing and in many instances disturbing. … Katz’s evidence that the pope was forewarned of German atrocities will reignite a long-running controversy. … a compelling narrative that combines tales of heroism, treachery, cowardice and appalling brutality.

The New Republic: Robert Katz's very fine rich in dramatic accounts and challenging analyses. Written with great journalistic verve, Katz's book is also remarkably well documented....[W]hat is an attempt to create a new international law for the more efficient regulation of this type of horrible warfare. Robert Katz's book provides fine arguments for this necessary debate.

Commonweal: Katz is a gifted reporter and something of a brilliant sleuth. … Although there have been many books on the period, he has unearthed important new material. … and has land[ed] extraordinary interviews.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: This detailed, almost day-to-day history of the six months when Rome was teetering between fascism and liberation turns out to be a gripping account that will satisfy anyone remotely interested in World War II.…While it might seem that a book this detailed would interest only professional historians, the gripping piece of world history should delight anyone with even a casual interest in the subject matter.



The New York Times: The fierce battle for Rome [is] the subject of Robert Katz's gripping new book. Drawing on a wealth of interviews with participants and the recent release of previously secret documents…Katz relates the tragic story of a great city held hostage to the fortunes of war…skillfully weaves into his narrative the experiences of a large, fascinating cast of characters - ordinary Roman citizens, informants, craven opportunists, spies and double agents, and some Germans who risked death in an effort to save Rome's Jews. During those terrible months Rome became a hotbed of murder, intrigue, betrayal and the bravery of resistance fighters who were relentlessly tortured by the Gestapo. … Katz draws on persuasive new evidence in The Battle for Rome to condemn unequivocally the "Faustian pact" between the Vatican and the Germans, in which the pope remained silent throughout "the whole range of Nazi and Fascist brutality in Rome." His book is a poignant, dramatic and definitive account of a tragic time, and it is likely to reopen the long-standing controversy over the role of the Vatican and Pope Pius XII during World War II.

Washington Times: Mr. Katz tells us in fascinating detail [what] was happening inside Rome. His account focuses on two well-bred young Romans... who became key members of the anti-Fascist, anti-German Resistance... an American who had spent his childhood in Rome and now returned secretly as an OSS officer. Still another is Pope Pius XII. ...The relationship between the Vatican and Rome's German occupiers was, Mr. Katz says, a Faustian pact. ... Robert Katz has written a well documented book about ...the drama and tragedy that was played out in wartime Rome. We are fortunate that Mr. Katz interviewed 18 of the key players over the last several decades. Their testimony helps make his book both eloquent and moving.

Booklist: Based overwhelmingly on U.S. intelligence files, Katz's history navigates the elaborate Roman underground of spies and counteragents, and even unearths a few surprises… This is challenging research presented fluidly, and Katz's fascination with a key moment for a fascinating city shines through.

  • Read The Battle for Rome excerpt on the First-Chapter feature of The New York Times On the Web >>>
  • Read the complete review by military historian Carlo D'Este in The New York Times Book Review >>>

Library Journal: Using recently released OSS records, Katz (Death in Rome) has produced a riveting account of the struggle for Rome in 1943-44. Katz examines the actions of the Germans, Allies, partisans, and the Vatican and highlights the internal struggles within each. He reveals a Pope Pius XII driven by two overriding fears: of communism and that Rome would be destroyed. These fears would undermine his own considerable moral authority with his silence and led to near collaboration with the Germans. The vanity and animosity among the Allied leaders is stunning ... an excellent work providing a rare look inside the Italian resistance movement. Recommended for all libraries.

Publishers Weekly:
Expanding upon his classic account of the 1944 Ardeatine Caves massacre, Death in Rome, Katz presents a vivid, well-researched history of German-occupied Rome, devoting particular attention the experiences of five individuals: an SS officer who ... ended up presiding over the [worst atrocity of the occupation]; the [American] OSS spy, who tried to make a useful network out of the brave individuals and quarreling factions residing in the Eternal City; a partisan couple who orchestrated the most effective attack on German police troops; and Pope Pius XII, whose insistence on the Vatican's neutrality endangered thousands of lives in Rome. Combined with Katz's broad historical knowledge and his personal experiences living in Rome, these narratives create an engrossing portrait of a confused, tragic period of Italy's history.

Kirkus Reviews:
In the best tradition of Harrison Salisbury and Cornelius Ryan, novelist/historian Katz (Days of Wrath, etc.) captures a tumultuous nine months in Rome's long history, with plenty of circumstantial detail and incidents having many actors...
Katz's account of the tangled politics that accompanied [the Allied campaign to liberate Rome] is one of the best parts of an already strong, swiftly moving narrative. An episodic reconstruction, complete with a dazzling dramatis personae, of Rome under the Nazi occupation and the Allied drive to free it."


"Robert Katz has written a fascinating, illuminating Pat Conroyand definitive history of the fall of Rome to the Allies in World War II.  The Battle for Rome tells us what the Germans were thinking, what the Partisans were plotting, when the Allies were coming, and what the Pope was failing to do.  It is a work both of great history and art.– Pat Conroy

Susan Zuccotti's latest book “With his customary lively and graceful prose, Robert Katz provides a sweeping yet detailed and well-documented description of the battle for Rome during the Second World War. All the players are here: the Allied forces slowly plodding north; the German army defending with fearful determination; cruel and vicious Nazi and Fascist fanatics; young Italian partisans and the American and British agents sent to support them; Jews caught in a deadly trap; and German diplomats and Vatican prelates, including Pope Pius XII, anxious for different reasons to preserve the Eternal City.  This is a book that is difficult to put down.” – Susan Zuccotti, historian; author, Under His Very Windows: the Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy, Yale University Press, 2002.

“A history, The Battle for Rome has everything a drama would ever want – a cast of characters (young partisan lovers, vicious Nazis, double-dealing spies, even a Pope, caught in the pincers of his own morality), a crisis, and most of all, a Marc Normansetting, Rome itself, the most glorious capital in the world.  Noted investigative journalist, screenwriter and novelist Robert Katz chronicles nine fateful months in the city's history, from the German occupation in the fall of 1943 to its liberation by the Allies in the spring of 1944.  His research doesn't stop at the standard sources – he also uncovers once-secret, now newly released OSS and Vatican documents, and even personal narratives and diaries of Romans themselves.  To all these, he adds his own shrewd insight to the daily drama of the Eternal City struggling to survive – and even defeat – its German occupiers.  All in all, a masterful job.– Marc Norman, Oscar-winning writer and producer, Shakespeare in Love.

Michael Phayer's latest book
“Giving equal attention to the Vatican, the German and Allied armies, and the Roman resistance, Katz weaves fascinating details into a flowing narrative. The Battle for Rome combines exhaustive historical research with literary talent. A great read.” – Michael Phayer, historian; author, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965, Indiana University Press, 2001. 

Book-of-the-Month Club:
"Katz conveys with consummate skill the disintegration of the special status of the [eternal] city. The Allies bombed Rome. The Germans executed 335 Italian men and boys in retaliation for a partisan attack on German troops in the city. A famine and a bloodbath, not seen in Rome since the barbarian invasions 1,500 years prior, seemed very possible. … this spellbinding book read[s] like a novel: Will famine overtake the population? Will there be street-to-street fighting for the city? Will the retreating Germans blow up the city? Will Italian political prisoners be shot in the final moments before the Allies arrive? Robert Katz, with exceptionally fine writing, and with newly-declassified documents at his disposal, is able to tell us not only what happened, but also why it happened, and who it was that made the critical decisions that have allowed future generations to say, in the present tense, 'Rome, the Eternal City.'" — BOMC Judge Nelson DeMille

History Book Club:
"This narrative of events in Rome between Italy’s surrender in September 1943 and the Allied capture of the city eight months later makes sophisticated use of newly released documents including previously classified OSS records, documents from the Vatican diplomatic service, and a series of recent war crimes trials, to describe four conflicting agendas. … Katz shifts effortlessly among points of view, depicting with power and verve the conflict between occupiers and resisters, … Katz’s depiction of the process of selecting and executing the victims [for the Ardeatine Caves massacre] is a tour de force in its own right. It is also a model case study in the bureaucratized, industrialized killing processes characteristic of the Third Reich. On the other hand not all readers will accept Katz’s analysis of Pius’s motives… Nevertheless Katz’s final critique of the proposal to elevate Pius to sainthood bites deep. The divine grace supposed to shine in a special servant of God would, Katz declares, light nothing in the path of this Saint of Silence." —Dennis Showalter, Professor of History at Colorado College.

QPB Book Club:
"Even fifty years after the fact, there is a popular legend that Rome was an "open city," during the Second World War, a place of refuge, free from military activity. As Robert Katz shows in his mesmerizing history, nothing could be farther from the truth. Rome, he writes, 'was a tinderbox of four conflicting parties' - the Allies waging a bloody campaign to capture the Eternal City; the defending Germans brutally repressing the population; the Partisans battling to regain Italy's honor; and, finally, the Pope compromising with the SS to save his city-and in doing so abetting the infamous German massacre of hundreds of Romans at the Ardeatine Caves. Making use of recently de-classified documents, The Battle for Rome is fresh and vivid history told through the eyes all participants, including Elena and Paolo, two young Partisan heroes (and lovers), and 24-year-old OSS agent Peter Tompkins, an Italian-speaking American who set up an espionage network right under the nose of the Nazis."



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