Reviews for The Popes Against the Jews
"Important....Fascinating....[A] riveting piece of historical detective work."
-The New York Times
"Scrupulous....Significant and compelling."
-The Washington Post
"The material is dynamite."
-The Times [London]
-The Toronto Globe and Mail
"The Popes Against the Jews...demolishes the findings of 'We Remember'."
-The Boston Globe
"This reviewer is grateful to Kertzer for having written such a compelling narrative. His thesis is shocking and disturbing....An important book."
-The Irish Times
"Kertzer [has the] extraordinary ability to present the most painful, religiously radioactive material with a coolness that makes his findings...devastating....Its superb, meticulous scholarship is a benchmark by which other books on the subject must now be judged."
"[A] profoundly well-documented book....It is a work of brilliant narrative quality, an oppressive, unremitting and enraging report on what may be the most lethal period of official and quasi-official Catholic anti-Semitism."
"Important.... [Kertzer] challenges much of the received wisdom about the Holy See's role in the evolution of modern anti-Semitism.... Commands serious attention."
- The New Leader
"A powerful and shocking book."
- Times Literary Supplement
"Finely written.... Kertzer's book is valuable. It shows the extent to which anti-Semitic fanatics were tolerated in the Catholicism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It makes a case that calls for an answer."
- The New York Review of Books
"Brilliant.... Wonderfully written and jarring, it reads like a terrifying novel"
"Kertzer's bill of indictment is a formidable one—a reminder of what a mighty institution may choose to overlook when sitting in judgrnent on itself."
- The Economist
"For any Catholic, the book makes profoundly uncomfortable and shameful reading.... As a contribution to the rapprochement between Catholicism and Judaism, [The Popes Against the Jews] has an. important role to play."
- The Independent
"David Kertzer's book is a devastating review of the part played by popes, priests and prelates in the centuries leading up to the ultimate tragedy of the Holocaust. Carefully researched, often from documents which have only now become available from Vatican archives, it is both the most gripping and most depressing volume I have read in years."
"This is not a perfect book, but it just might be a great one. Kertzer (social science and anthropology, Brown Univ., and author of The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, CH, Nov'97) takes issue with the Catholic commission that produced "We Remember," a document that blames the holocaust on nationalism, not religious intolerance. The Catholic Church has long distinguished between anti-Judaism and antisemitism, arguing that the Church fostered only negative religious views of Jews, not the more dangerous stereotypes. That distinction now can be laid to rest. Taking the focus off of Pius XII, Kertzer examines the 19th-century roots of Catholic antisemitism. He brilliantly connects Church prejudices to anxiety about modernity. The Jews benefited greatly from the rise of modern nation-states, and Catholic officials resented that. As the Catholic political agenda was blocked, Catholic leaders scapegoated the Jews. ...Wonderfully written and jarring, it reads like a terrifying novel. This book definitely belongs in every academic library."
"Kertzer expands on a theme he first developed in The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (LJ 5/1/97). In his latest book, he exposes a trail of anti-Semitic papal policies and practices that stretched from the French Revolution to the era of the Final Solution. Kertzer argues that the modern popes and their minions helped create and perpetuate an anti-Semitic Catholic culture that facilitated the eventual extermination of six million European Jews. He asserts that despite occasional denunciations of the persecution of the Jews, the Roman Curia for political and theological reasons persistently demonized the European Jews by accusing them of such heinous crimes as the ritualistic murder of Christian children. His thesis is grounded on a thorough examination of recently released Vatican archival material and a penetrating analysis of Catholic journals and newspapers. Kertzer reveals a far more systemic pattern of papal anti-Semitism than even John Cornwell confronts in Hitler's Pope (LJ 5/15/99). His book promises to stir up considerable controversy and belongs on the shelves of both public and academic libraries."
"A number of excellent studies have recently addressed the political and social role of the Catholic Church in Europe during the Holocaust. Along comes a book that explores the church's role in setting the stage for that Holocaust. If the title of The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism isn't enough of a hint, David Kertzer spells out his thesis in the introduction: Although "the Vatican never approved the extermination of the Jews... the teachings and actions of the Church, including those of the popes themselves, helped make it possible." Kertzer argues that centuries of the church's demonization of the Jews paved the way for genocide."
"A careful examination of the role of the Catholic Church in persecution, pogroms, and, eventually, the Holocaust. In 1987, Pope John Paul II ordered the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews to investigate whether the church was in any way accountable for the slaughter of millions of Jews earlier in the century. The commission returned, 11 years later, with a carefully worded report admitting that the church had been guilty of "anti-Judaism," that is, opposition to the Jewish religion, but not of anti-Semitism, opposition to the Jewish people. Comforting though it may have been to worried clerics, the commission's finding was an evasion of historical reality, argues Kertzer (History/Brown Univ.; The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, 1997). He charges that the Vatican's leaders instead engaged in a conscious campaign to denounce Jews "not only as enemies of the Church but as enemies of the nation, not only as threats to the Christian religion but to Christian people." As late as the mid-19th century, he wri! tes, the church demanded that Jews within Italy be confined to ghettos and limited to selling used goods for a living; when a Tuscan duke considered allowing the Napoleonic emancipation of the Jews to stand, Pius X angrily reminded him that "the spirit of the Church . . . has always been to keep Catholics as much as possible from having any contact with the infidels." That spirit drove generations of hate-mongers, as Kertzer shows, and with only rare exceptions, such as the comparatively liberal Benedict XV, the popes of the 19th and 20th centuries actively gave ideological and material aid and comfort to the persecutors of Europe's Jews. Their acts of complicity culminated in mass murder-an outcome, Kertzer suggests, that was all but inevitable. On firmer ground than John Cornwell's error-plagued Hitler's Pope, and far better written, Kertzer's study is nonetheless likely to be challenged."