Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy describes what the Vatican did–or did not do–to help Jews in Italy in World War II. Author Susan Zuccotti, who has written two other books about the Holocaust, demonstrates that little help of any kind came from Popes Pius XI and XII or their senior officials. She finds that the most significant gestures of help offered by the Church to Jews in Italy were made by clerics and believers–mostly nuns, monks, and priests–uninvolved in top-level Vatican discussions. By 1942, the pope “knew and believed a great deal about the exterminations.” In 1943, when Germans took control of northern and central Italy and attempted to exterminate the region’s Jewish population, the Vatican knew very clearly the magnitude of the genocide. The Vatican’s silence, Zuccotti argues, still resonates in the Church’s statements about the Holocaust today.
The Church has not yet completed the process of dealing honestly with its history during the Holocaust. It has not yet made clear whether popes and high Vatican officials are to be included among its sons and daughters in every age who sometimes committed regrettable errors.
Zuccotti’s research ranges wide, from the anti-Jewish tone of Jesuit publications in the years leading up to World War II to contemporary interviews with Holocaust survivors. Her book is a significant addition to a chapter of Christian history that the Church has still to reckon with. — Michael Joseph Gross