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.