ROME (JTA) — Robert Katz, an Italy-based American author, journalist and screenwriter who wrote extensively about the World War II fate of Jews in Rome, has died.
His wife told The Associated Press that Katz, who had lived in Tuscany for many years, died Thursday of complications from cancer surgery. He was 77.
Katz wrote extensively about 20th century Italian history. His most famous book was "Death in Rome," published in 1967. It detailed the Nazi massacre of 335 men and boys, many of them Jews, at the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome in retaliation for an Italian partisan attack the day before.
The book suggested that Pope Pius XII had known about the planned mass execution but had not intervened to stop it. It was turned into a 1973 movie, "Massacre in Rome," starring Richard Burton and Marcello Mastroianni.
According to Katz’s website, "The book aroused international religious and political controversy; the film brought the controversy to court, culminating in a two-year criminal trial. Katz was ultimately convicted and sentenced to fourteen months in prison for defaming the memory of Pope Pius XII. The verdict was overturned on appeal and later the case was dismissed by Italy’s Supreme Court."
Years later, Katz also wrote about Erich Priebke, a former SS officer who in 1994 was located in Argentina, brought back to Italy, tried and given a life sentence for his role in the massacre.