War­burg in Rome

James Car­roll
  • Review
By – September 23, 2014

I n War­burg in Rome, award-win­ning author James Car­roll delves into the role of the Vat­i­can and of the Unit­ed States in sav­ing Euro­pean Jew­ish survivors. 

David War­burg arrives in Rome as the direc­tor of the Unit­ed States War Refugee Board. His mis­sion inter­twines with that of Mar­guerite D’Erasmo, a French-Ital­ian Red Cross work­er, and Mon­sign­or Kevin Deane, an Amer­i­can Catholic priest. They are all commit­ted to aid­ing the Jews in their own way, but Vat­i­can, Amer­i­can, British, and Ger­man pol­i­tics inter­fere and over­whelm their efforts. The three fig­ures are seem­ing­ly ide­al­ists on par­al­lel paths, but they can­not ful­ly trust one another. 

As the war winds down, defeat­ed Nazis are flee­ing Europe for Argenti­na via Italy, with the aid of mys­te­ri­ous­ly pro­vid­ed funds; mean­while, the des­ti­tute sur­viv­ing Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion is hin­dered in get­ting its basic needs met. Zion­ism is con­sid­ered a dirty word by all the coun­tries involved, and the British thwart Jew­ish attempts to get to rel­a­tive safe­ty in Pales­tine, derail­ing them to dis­placed per­sons camps in Cyprus. Sev­er­al groups of Jew­ish free­dom fight­ers are at war with the British Man­date in Pales­tine, try­ing to cre­ate a Jew­ish state. 

War­burg, Deane, and D’Erasmo each ratio­nal­ize and phi­los­o­phize about their actions and reli­gious beliefs at length, mak­ing their char­ac­ters feel real and devel­oped. The romance and intrigue woven into the sto­ry add to its read­abil­i­ty. This nov­el adds a valu­able dimen­sion to the trove of infor­ma­tion about anti-Semi­tism and the vil­i­fi­ca­tion of Jews in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry and is rel­e­vant to under­stand­ing the absolute neces­si­ty for a Jew­ish state. 

Car­roll uses both fic­tion­al and his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters to tell his tense, engross­ing sto­ry. The inter­nal pol­i­tics and cor­rup­tion with­in the Vat­i­can set against its offi­cial­ly neu­tral posi­tion dur­ing the War is ful­ly described: Car­roll ex­plores the intri­cate hid­den rela­tions between the Catholic Church and the Nazi regime, and the Church’s manip­u­la­tions against the despised advent of Russ­ian communism.

Relat­ed content:

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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