Robert Katz’s History of Modern Italy
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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
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 book...is rich in dramatic accounts and challenging analyses. Written with great journalistic verve, Katz's book is also remarkably well documented....[W]hat is needed...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.
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.
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.
"Robert Katz has written a fascinating, illuminating and 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
“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.
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,
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
“Giving equal attention to the
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