John Cornwell made one of the first attempts to look deeper into the role which Catholic religious leaders played in the development and expansion of Nazism in Europe. His book about Eugenio Pacelli, the Catholic Pope during the World War II, was too sensational to be untrue. The author relied on the primary documents, to reveal the astonishing truth about the Pope, his attitudes toward Jews, and his role in the development of diplomatic ties between Nazi Germany and other European allies. Despite a wealth of historic information provided by Cornwell, his personal “negative” attitudes toward the Pope were too obvious to conceal and often compromised the need to be historically objective and unbiased.
That the topic of Catholic religion during the times of Nazism had always been underresearched pushed John Cornwell to explore the subject in greater detail. His book was the product of his own analysis and the growing interest toward the issues of papacy in Nazi Germany. Cornwell acknowledged that in his book, he wanted to resolve the eternal conflict of beliefs about the Pope: “some historians were confident that Eugenio Pacelli shamed the Catholic Church by failing to denounce the Final Solution; others believed that the issue lacked historical evidence and proofs”.1 The topic was increasingly interesting to everyone who sought to feel the information void in the contemporary research about religion during the times of Nazism. Pope Eugenio Pacelli was an exemplary object of historical research, due to the significant role he played in church during the World War II and the number of mysteries that surrounded his personality during and after his religious triumph. The popularity of the Pope’s figure was difficult to underestimate – Cornwell wrote that his picture had been looking at him at every wall of every classroom.2 What else could a professional historian need to produce a sensation? – only an access to the secret documents