Pope vs. Hitler
Thursday, September 1, 2016
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A panel discussion will follow this sneak preview screening. The film premieres on National Geographic Channel on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 9/8c.
About the Film
In the darkest days of World War II, St. Peter’s was shrouded in the shadow of the swastika. But even as the Führer surrounded him, the Pope was plotting a secret counter-offensive. Wartime Pontiff Pius XII has been derided for his public silence about the Holocaust. But evidence suggests his silence may have been subterfuge. And the man branded as “Hitler’s Pope” may actually have wanted to eliminate him.
Pope V. Hitler is a thrilling two-hour docudrama special that explores one of the least known stories of World War II – the role of the Vatican in the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
By the time the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939, Hitler and the new Pope Pius XII – formerly Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli – had been at odds for the better part of a decade. Hitler’s crackdown on the Catholic Church inside Germany – including the persecution of priests, destruction of churches and closure of Catholic schools – had incensed the Vatican, and prompted Cardinal Pacelli to create a network of secret Church couriers within Germany to relay intelligence about Nazi atrocities to the Holy See. Among its couriers was Josef Muller – a gregarious Bavarian lawyer who would become the Vatican’s top German spy – and almost die for the cause.
Meanwhile, a group of high-ranking German officers were growing increasingly concerned about their supreme commander. When Hitler instructed them to invade Poland and ruthlessly execute its intellectual leaders – especially priests – a conspiracy against him began to take shape.
In early 1940 – with Josef Muller acting as his go-between – Pius feverishly brokered negotiations between rebels in the German military and the British government, effectively giving the rebels an Allied green-light to take out Hitler. Understanding his efforts may lead to murder, Pius found moral justification in the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, which endorsed the killing of tyrants in extreme circumstances. Pius believed the Nazis were a “satanic force” and counseled the conspirators to “change the regime and good things will happen.”
For the next four years, the Pope was kept apprised of numerous attempts to kill Hitler, several coming within seconds or inches of success. But with each failed attempt, his frustration only grew. Meanwhile, Hitler’s army was closing in on Rome, and in September 1943, Nazi paratroopers surrounded the Vatican, and rumors swirled that they would invade St. Peter’s and kidnap – or even kill – the Pope. His Cardinals were instructed to have suitcases packed and be ready to flee, while priceless artwork and top-secret documents were hastily hidden beneath the marble floors.
But as Hitler pondered a direct attack on the Pope, one of his bravest warriors was beginning to plot an attack on him. Catholic Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg had been gravely wounded in Tunisia. As he recovered he vowed to dedicate his life to the cause of ending Hitler’s. His daring attempt would nearly succeed, and prove to be the climax in the long quest to cut the head off the Nazi snake. But Hitler’s revenge would prove fast and furious.
Told with heart pounding suspense and lavishly depicted with premium scripted dramatizations, POPE v. HITLER reveals this cloak and dagger intrigue in shocking detail. It is a chapter of the war long forgotten. A secret showdown between the vicar of Christ… and the anti-Christ. The Pope… versus Hitler.