Pius XI worked toward a re-Christianization of society, an impulse revealed, among other places, in his 1925 encyclical Quas primas, which promoted the idea of “Christ the King”; and toward that end he preferred lay organizations such as Catholic Action over political parties. To the leaders of Catholic Action in 1938 the pontiff stated that Christ did not walk on earth “to promote a political regime in the usual vulgar sense of the word, but rather to bring to all souls the benefits of the
Kingdom of God” (p. 49). His mistrust of politics led to his “sacrifices” of the Italian Popular Party in the 1920s and the German Center Party in the 1930s. Fattorini traces much of Pius’s approach to the dictators from that triumph of spirituality over politics, a victory affirmed in a “spiritual conversion” as he faced his own mortality during the final, painful years of his life. Some of the most interesting passages of this book link the pontiff’s illness to his actions.
While Ratti may have undermined Catholic politics,
Fattorini also illustrates quite clearly that he was no friend of the Italian Fascist and the German National
Socialist regimes. Of the two, relations with the Duce’s government were more complex. As an Italian, the pope spoke of his shame regarding Fascism’s conduct, and the Vatican’s geographical location meant that its contacts with Mussolini’s (or any Italian) government held a certain degree of familiarity. And while Fattorini lists many occasions where Pius excoriated Mussolini, and vice versa, she points out that the dictator, perhaps searching for possible breaks on his pro-German course, could make the incredible suggestion to Pius that he excommunicate Hitler.
Pius’s disdain of Nazi Germany was straightforward from the start. He displayed his contempt again and again, most famously in his 1937 encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge and in 1938, when he left Rome for Castel
Gandolfo, thereby snubbing Hitler’s visit to Mussolini.
Fattorini shows how in the latter case, however, some of Pius’s anger may have come in reaction to Hitler’s apparent lack of interest in a call on the Vatican. This nevertheless reinforces Fattorini’s central point in that the Fu¨hrer’s indifference came from the fact that he loathed Pius XI. Any more forceful papal stands against
Nazism, however, were mitigated by the actions of others within the church, among them the nuncio to Berlin,
Cesare Orsenigo, and Secretary of State Pacelli. Fattorini dismisses the embarrassing Orsenigo as a political idiot who simply did not measure up to the demands of his position. Pacelli, of course, was a more challenging story. His fondness for Germany and his desires to pursue a more diplomatic track acted as brakes on the hot-headed pontiff. A turning point that quieted the doubters came with the 1938 Anschluss that brought
Austria into the Third Reich. The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Theodor Innitzer, led the nation’s episcopacy in brazenly welcoming the Nazis, placing his signature at the bottom of the document that concluded with “Heil Hitler!” No one could defend such actions.
Pius could not contain himself and immediately ordered Innitzer to the Roman carpet. After the dressing down, the hapless cardinal returned home, issued a retraction, and suffered a Nazi attack on himself and his palace. By this time the ailing Pius resolved to issue a more pointed condemnation of Nazi racism, and to compose it he contacted the American Jesuit John LaFarge, Jr. The pope stated that he had read and admired the priest’s book, Interracial Justice (1937), and therefore placed him in charge of a small group tasked with forging such an encyclical. Pius was working on the final touches but died before it could be released. His successor, the overly cautious Pacelli, ensured that it never would.
University of Scranton
BEN SHEPHERD. Terror in the Balkans: German Armies and Partisan Warfare. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2012. Pp. vi, 342. $45.00.
The title of Ben Shepherd’s new monograph on German anti-partisan warfare is misleading. The book does not handle the entire Balkan region but rather the territories of former Yugoslavia, more specifically Serbia,
Croatia, and Bosnia. Shepherd demonstrates a clear understanding of the ethnic complexities of the region and provides the reader with an extremely detailed, blow-by-blow account of the counterinsurgency operations of German infantry divisions in Yugoslavia between spring 1941 and early 1943. In the opening three chapters Shepherd performs an effective juggling act in tracing the parallel development of mentalities within the Austrian and the German officer corps, respectively, from the late nineteenth century to World War
II. The next seven chapters deal with the period from 1941 to 1943 and as such constitute the study’s core.
The author notes that 1943 saw the largest German anti-partisan operations in Yugoslavia, and it was not until this year that the Germans committed genuinely powerful forces to combating Josip Broz Tito’s partisans. It was also in 1943 that the Western Allies formally switched their support from Drazˇa Mihailovic´’s
Chetnik movement to the partisans. Despite this, only one of the seven chapters constituting the study’s core actually focuses on 1943. This seems odd at first glance, yet it is never Shepherd’s objective to provide a comprehensive treatment of German counterinsurgency operations in Yugoslavia. His main concern is not why the Wehrmacht’s anti-partisan campaign there ultimately failed but rather to determine “what motivated
German army commanders to conduct the campaign in the way that they did” (p. 236). To this end, Shepherd provides case studies of four different divisions between spring 1941 and early 1943: the 704th, the 342nd, the 718th, and the 369th Infantry Divisions.
The German invasion of Yugoslavia (April 6–17, 1941), in particular the German response to the Serb uprising of July 1941, set precedents for brutality against real and alleged partisans, and as such acted as something of a prelude to the subsequent German campaign in the Soviet Union. On April 2, 1941, before the 960 Reviews of Books