During the German occupation of Rome from 1942–1944, Irishman Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty ran an escape organization for Allied POWs and civilians, including Jews. Safe within the Vatican state, he regularly ventured out in disguise to continue his mission, which earned him the nickname “the Pimpernel of the Vatican.” When the Allies entered Rome, he and his collaborators— priests, nuns, and laypeople of numerous nationalities and religious beliefs—had saved the lives of over 6,500 people.
The first new telling of this extraordinary story in decades, this book also addresses the fascinating dichotomy between O’Flaherty and Herbert Kappler, the Gestapo chief in Rome who ordered him killed, and who, after the war, reconciled with the monsignor, and even asked him to perform his baptism.
For his heroic efforts, O’Flaherty was awarded the highest honors, including a Congressional Medal, and was the first Irishman named the Notary of the Holy Office. His story was immortalized in the 1983 film The Scarlet and the Black, which starred Gregory Peck as O’Flaherty.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a wonderful story. There are several versions of this story, and this one gave some details not mentioned by other writers. As a avid reader of WW II history, it filled in a few blanks in my knowledge base and was interestingly written. If you like this book, I suggest you also read The Scarlett Pimpernel, which is from another point of view, and also a wonderful read. The thing all books agree on is the Monsignor's complete dedication and willingness to place himself in danger repeatedly, sometimes beyond all reason, to save pretty much anyone from the Gestapo. He was a true Christian and an exemplary man. How I wish I could have met him!
This illustrates admirably the efforts of a great man in a time and place that I knew little about. The efforts of this humble priest and the rescue network and the risks they ran is profound and inspiring.
I was strongly motivated to read this book because I had seen the movie a few times. It was good to read, but by the time I was three parts of the way through the style of writing became a bit tiresome. It does give great attention to detail and the quotes are important. I am probably more used to reading literature that gives greater attention to the story telling than to the accumulation of facts.
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