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A Special Mission

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A Special Mission
Hitler's Secret Plot to Seize the Vatican and Kidnap Pope Pius XII. By Dan Kurzman. (Da Capo Press: 2008. Pg. 320.) ISBN: 0306816172

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - November 5, 2007

Unbeknownst to many, during the dark days of World War II, Adolph Hitler and his Nazi henchmen concocted a scheme to kidnap Pope Pius XII. Their goal was fairly straightforward. They wanted to silence the Pope before he could decry the planned mass murder of Rome's and Greater Italy's Jewish population when the Nazi's moved in to take over of Italy in 1943, after Benito Mussolini's overthrow. While they were at it, they planned on robbing the Vatican of its great storehouse of treasures, and anything else that took their fancy. In charge of this 'special mission' was SS General Karl Wolff. Not one to stay his hand when it came to the mass murder of Jews, or anyone else he was ordered to destroy, Wolff bulked at kidnapping the Pope, for both his own political and personal reasons.

In A Special Mission: Hitler's Secret Plot to Seize the Vatican and Kidnap Pope Pius XII, Dan Kurzman chronicles this dastardly plot, its implications to the war effort had it been successful, and what resulted in its ultimate failure. In researching this book, Kurzman not only interviewed Karl Wolff after his release from prison for War Crimes, but also Vatican staffers, military officials, and other individuals who are knowledgeable about this plot. He also dug through the available documentary evidence in order to craft this gripping story full of intrigue, betrayal, and very real danger.

With a plot line worthy of a novel, and the writing skills of a master of popular histories, Kurzman has crafted a story that will hold your interest from beginning to end - and which will acquaint you with an aspect of history that in the past has been more often treated as myth than as the fact that it was. Kurzman sets the record straight about the plot, and clearly documents his various sources of evidence upon which he verified that this was indeed a very real plot, one that may have even gone beyond the scope of just kidnapping the Pope, with the ultimate goal being the Pope's murder.

A Special Mission is a compelling read that will intrigue anyone with an interest in World War II, military history, the history of the Vatican and the Catholic Church during the war, the history of Italy, and the destruction of Italian Jews during the war. Written as a popular history of the event, this book should be read by students and academicians with an interest in any aspect of World War II history.

Related Reviews:

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A Concise History of the Third Reich, by Wolfgang Benz.
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