Rome: City in Terror – The Nazi Occupation 1943-44

By Victor Failmezger; reviewed by Michael Arnold, published 13th October 2020

Rome: City in Terror – The Nazi Occupation 1943-44, Victor Failmezger; Osprey Publishing, 2020, 496 pp, £25.00
ISBN 978-1-4728-4128-5 

Victor Failmezger has written a thorough and detailed narrative of the appalling conditions that existed in Rome in the period from the first Allied bombing of Rome in July 1943 to its liberation on 5 June 1994. Although there are accounts of some of the major events which affected native Romans, and in particular the massacre at the Ardeatine Caves and the partisan attack on the Germans that preceded it, the main focus of the book is the experience of Allied POWs in Rome and the assistance that the Vatican gave to them. 

The author has undertaken a large amount of research into such matters as the sums disbursed to POWs by the Vatican and the Allied representatives accredited to it; their living arrangements and daily challenges; and the betrayals and German raids which were faced by Jews and those who had escaped from POW camps or from behind enemy lines. Perhaps the person who emerges best from this account is Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty who, under the protection of his status at the Vatican, began by using his role visiting POW camps to ameliorate the conditions under which prisoners were held and then proceeded at much personal risk actively to assist Jews and POWs even when the Germans were aware of his activities. 

Not all of the threats to the local population came from Germans and those Italians still loyal to the Axis cause. Moroccan troops who formed part of the French Expeditionary Corps advancing on Rome were guilty of conduct every bit as egregious as that of Soviet troops invading Germany. 

One aspect of this work which deserves particular praise is the vast amount of information the author has included in a bibliography and appendices of acronyms, chronologies, Vatican extraterritoriality and people. It is recommended for those interested in war-time experiences under Nazi rule.