5 Nazi Plans That Prove They Were Dumber Than You Think
#5. Operation Pope Kill
Fun fact about Hitler: In the 1930s, he ordered Catholic schools to replace their classroom crucifixes with pictures of him. If ever there was a piece of trivia that encapsulated how Adolf saw himself in the larger world, that was probably it. In hindsight, it’s kind of easy to blast the papacy for not doing enough to help European Jews during the Holocaust, just so long as you remember that they were dealing with a guy who was only steps away from abolishing all religions and setting himself up as Germany’s lord and savior.
On one hand, militarism is terrifying. On the other hand, artillery would have made math class 4,000 percent more interesting.
Step one in that plan: Seize the Vatican. Step two: Kidnap the Pope. Step three: Hitler … is declared God, we guess?
By 1943, Pope Pius XII began making vague yet public condemnations of Nazi human rights abuses, and Hitler started making vague threats of killing him for it. Not to the world at large, of course, because he was crazy, not stupid. Or not that stupid, anyway. According to SS General Karl Wolff, Adolf himself gave him a special mission in September 1943, saying, “I want you and your troops to occupy Vatican City as soon as possible, secure its files and art treasures and take the Pope and curia to the north.”
“Once I have that hat, the armies of the Reich will be unstoppable!”
OK, but that’s just occupying the Vatican, kidnapping the Pope and stealing some art, right? All of which fits the Nazi profile we’ve come to know and loathe. But there was a second component to the plan. Once the first wave of soldiers secured the Vatican and got their hands on Pius, a second, secret group would come in under the pretense of rescuing the Pope, kill the first group under the pretense that the guys in the first group were really Italian assassins, then accidentally shoot the Pope in the chaotic melee that followed. But it would be cool, because the Nazis could blame the Italians for the gaffe when it was all over. What could possibly go wrong?
Fortunately, the plot never took place because one of the inside men alerted the Italians before it ever got underway. The craziest part is that the scheme even got past the “What if we took over the Vatican?” phase in the first place. According to historian Robert Katz, assassinating Pope Pius XII posed zero potential benefits to the Axis powers, and probably would have ushered in a global backlash that would have made “the Ten Plagues that rained down on the pharaoh … look like confetti.” Which is a hard thing to pull off, if you think about it.
You have to hand it to the Nazis. It takes hard work to be that consistently terrible.