The Vatican

Alvarez, David. Spies in the Vatican: Espionage and Intrigue from Napoleon to the Holocaust. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2002.

Peake, Studies 47.1 (2003), views this work as "well documented and well told." The author "tells about Vatican involvement in a wide variety of intelligence functions, from espionage and counterintelligence to codebreaking and propaganda." Alvarez believes that the "intelligence capabilities of the Papacy" have been exaggerated, concluding that "the Vatican had 'neither the ability nor the appetite to employ ... espionage and clandestine operations' to the degree imagined by others."

According to Brooks, NIPQ 19.3, the author "spends more time enumerating the various espionage attempts by world powers against the Vatican than [he] spends detailing the very limited capabilities of the Pope's tiny diplomatic service." (emphasis in original)

Hess, JIH 3.2, notes that "with the disappearance of the Papal States [in 1870,] the Pope's intelligence capabilities largely vanished." From World War I through World War II, "the world and certainly its European and North-American regions underwent an intelligence revolution.... 'This intelligence revolution completely bypassed the Papacy.'" Spies in the Vatican "provides fascinating reading," is written in "elegant and at times witty and always precise language," and "needs to be read together with the extensive notes. They contain many stories and details, which would otherwise evade the reader's attention."

For Keefe, I&NS 18.3, "[t]his entertaining and thought-provoking study will provide the Papacy's critics and supporters with an unique perspective and some convincing arguments about the place of the Vatican in the world of espionage." Schwab, IJI&C 18.1 (Spring 2005), is somewhat more negative about this work, noting that "the lack of a clearly stated thesis is surprising.... From a stylistic perspective, Spies in the Vatican is an uneven work." Nonetheless, the author "has produced a useful work for students of diplomatic and intelligence history to consult."

Alvarez, David. "Vatican Intelligence Capabilities in the Second World War." Intelligence and National Security 6, no. 3 (Jul. 1991): 593-607.

"The evidence suggests that the wartime intelligence capabilities of the Papacy have been exaggerated, or at least misperceived. The Holy See was usually no more informed about events than many secular powers; often it was less informed." The author includes two brief case studies in support of his main point, looking at the information available to the Vatican on Operation Barbarossa and the Final Solution in the period 1941-1942.

Alvarez, David, and Robert A. Graham. Nothing Sacred: Nazi Espionage against the Vatican, 1939-1945. London: Frank Cass, 1997.

Kruh, Cryptologia 22.2, points out that the Nazis "considered the Catholic Church in general and the Vatican in particular, a serious threat to their domestic security and international ambitions." Consequently, they made efforts to recruit informants in Germany and penetrations of the Papacy. The latter were largely unsuccessful, but "the German codebreaking operation was more successful." According to Denniston, I&NS 16.1, this is a "definitive account of what turned out to be largely futile German cryptologic enterprise against Vatican cipher security in World War II."

Katz, Robert. The Battle for Rome: The Germans, the Allies, the Partisans, and the Pope, September 1943-June 1944. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. 2004. [pb]

From Publishers Weekly (via The author "presents a vivid, well-researched history of German-occupied Rome, from the fall of Mussolini in 1943 to the Allied Liberation 10 months later." In Katz's telling, Pope Pius XII "appears as a cold-hearted politico whose insistence on the Vatican's neutrality endangered thousands of lives in Rome." Pinck, OSS Society Newsletter (Spring 2007), sees this as a "well-crafted book," in which the author capitalizes on newly available sources.

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