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  • Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II
  • JosÉ M. SÁnchez
Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II. By Harold H. Tittmann, Jr. Edited and with an Introduction by Harold H. Tittmann, III . ( New York: Doubleday. 2004. Pp. xiii, 224. $12.95 paperback.)

The career diplomat Harold H. Tittmann, Jr., was the assistant to Myron Taylor, President Franklin Roosevelt's personal representative to Pope Pius XII. He lived in Rome until Italy declared war on the United States, in December, 1941, and then moved into Vatican City along with all of the other Allied diplomats accredited to the Holy See. There he stayed until the liberation of Rome in the summer of 1944. These memoirs, edited and annotated by his son, who as an adolescent shared his Vatican exile, are the observations of his service and impressions of the Pope, the other Allied diplomats, and daily life in the Vatican. Since Taylor came to Rome only three times during the war, Tittmann had to bear much of the responsibility for American actions that displeased the Pope and his diplomats.

The memoirs provide interesting insights into the daily activities of and the camaraderie among the Allied diplomats exiled in Vatican City and unable to go around in Rome. The issues that Tittmann negotiated concerning relations between the United States and the Holy See were, first, the Pope's concern with trying to keep Italy out of the war; second, the Pontiff's fear of Communism, and therefore Soviet Russia, and his belief that Roosevelt was naïve about the survival of religion in the Soviet Union (although the Pope authorized a statement softening American Catholic opposition to aid to the Soviets); third, the Holy See's diplomatic recognition of Japan right after Pearl Harbor; and then as the Allied armies invaded Italy, the Pope's fears of Allied bombing of Rome's churches and artistic treasures and his attempts to have Rome declared an open city. None of these were resolved satisfactorily for the Vatican, and despite cordial relations between Roosevelt and the Pope, Vatican officials appeared to share the sharp 1942 observation of Monsignor Domenico Tardini, Secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, that "hardly any American understands the European situation, and . . . one must conclude that if National Socialism prepared and provoked the war, the US is itself gravely infected with nationalism, which bodes all kinds of ills and excludes every forecast of good."

On the important question of Pius' silence on the Holocaust and other German atrocities, particularly on the Catholic Poles' sufferings, Tittmann produced [End Page 387] a summary for the State Department in 1942. He listed "the arguments used in Vatican circles in support of the Pope's silence": that the Holy See could not condemn Nazi atrocities without condemning Soviet ones as well; that investigating the validity of war crimes would consume too much time; that the Pope had already spoken out in general terms against atrocities, and everyone knew that he was speaking of the Germans; that when bishops in the various countries spoke out against atrocities, everyone should realize that "it is the voice of the Pope speaking and that this should be sufficient"; and finally that more harm than good would result from a strong papal denunciation of Germany's crimes. Tittmann himself feels that the Pope should have stated at the beginning of the war that he would denounce all atrocities, pointing out that this meant no violation of traditional Vatican neutrality. "With such a public declaration to fall back on, the Holy Father might have shown more resolve." But he also states that the Pope "chose the better path by not speaking out and thereby saved many lives."

Tittmann's observation of the Pope emphasizes his "personal charm and [he] knew how to exploit it." Pius always sought the "best advice before taking action," but in fact was also "decisive and even autocratic in his handling of foreign relations," and "he was always thinking in terms of the Church's future centuries." And one of the most interesting observations that...