The photograph on the cover of the British edition of John Corn-well's Hitler's Pope underwent a transformation in the American edition. 

The first cause for suspicion is on the cover of Cornwell’s book.  The dust jacket of the British edition shows Nuncio Pacelli leaving a reception given for German President Hindenburg in 1927.  The photograph, a favorite of those who seek to portray Pius XII in an unfavorable light, shows the nuncio dressed in formal diplomatic regalia (which could easily be confused with papal garments), as he exits a building.  On each side of him stand soldiers of the Weimar republic.  In front of him stands a chauffeur saluting and holding open the square-looking door, typical of automobiles from the 1920s.  Those who do not recognize the differences in uniform details could easily confuse the Weimar soldiers with Nazi soldiers because of their distinctive helmets associated with Nazi-era German soldiers.

        Use of this photograph, especially when coupled with a provocative title such as “Hitler’s Pope,” gives the impression that Pope Pius XII is seen leaving a meeting with Hitler.  Making matters even worse is the caption from inside the dust jacket on early British editions of the book.  This caption says that the photograph is from March 1939.  By this time, Hitler was Chancellor of Germany, and this was the month Pacelli was made Pope.  A fair-minded person reading the caption could easily conclude that Cardinal Pacelli paid a visit to Hitler immediately prior to being elected Pope. 

        When I criticized Cornwell for his use of this photograph in an exchange we had in Brill’s Content magazine (April 2000), he said only the worst form of apologist would criticize photographic evidence.  He also said that not everyone was so ignorant of history as to associate the distinctive helmets with the Nazis.  Frankly, almost everyone to whom I have spoken did think that these were Nazi soldiers.  Of course, Cornwell made it virtually impossible to tell otherwise.

        The American version of Hitler’s Pope never had the wrong date, but–given that the date might have been an honest error–it is far more revealing about the intentional mis-information that went into the marketing of this book.  The U.S. edition uses the same photograph as the British edition, but it is cropped to eliminate two important points of reference: The soldier nearest the camera and the square door of the automobile.  Both of those images provide clues to the true date of this photo (1927), and despite his claims in Brill’s Content, Cornwell did not want that known.   The photo also has been significantly darkened, giving it a more sinister feel.  Even more telling is the intentional blurring of the background.  Looking at this cover, Nuncio Pacelli is in focus, but the soldier to his left and the chauffeur are both badly blurred.  They are so badly blurred that it is impossible even for a well-trained observer to recognize that the soldier wears a Weimar uniform rather than a Nazi uniform.  The chauffeur, due to the blurring and cropping that eliminates the car door, takes on the appearance of a saluting SS officer.  Even a civilian in the background could seem to be a military (Nazi) official.

        Since none of the images on the British edition are blurred, and since Nuncio Pacelli’s face is in focus on the U.S. cover, but the other images are blurred, the only logical conclusion is that the photo was intentionally altered to support Cornwell’s thesis.


The following is a speculation as to how the photo may have been modified.

First the image is cropped, so that the Weimar soldier on the left no longer appears and it is no longer evident that Pacelli in about to enter a vehicle.  (This and the further modifications presented below were done with Adobe Photoshop.)

A neutral coloration is added to the image...

...and the image is darkened to lend it a more dramatic, if not sinister, character.

In preparation to blur everything in the image except the figure of Pacelli, a mask is created around Pacelli's figure, which will protect it from the blurring operation --


An effect called Motion Blur is applied to the unmasked portion of the image --

And this is the finished result. Could the Weimar soldier in the background now be mistaken for an SS trooper?

Again, the cover of the American edition --