PASSINGS: Robert Katz, Mervyn Hardinge

Robert Katz
Historian wrote 'Death in Rome'

Robert Katz, 77, a writer and historian whose meticulous reconstruction of an infamous Nazi massacre in Rome brought him fame and sparked a trial over whether he defamed the pope, died Wednesday in a hospital near his home in Arezzo,



His wife, Beverly Gerstel, said he died of complications from cancer surgery.

on 20th-century Italian history in books, essays and articles, some of which were made into films. In "Days of Wrath," Katz chronicled the 1978 kidnapping and killing of

Aldo Moro

, a former premier, at the hands of the Red Brigades. In "The Battle for Rome" he looked at the months that followed the fall of

Benito Mussolini

at the end of

World War II

. Another book,

about European train travelers exposed to bubonic plague, was made into a film starring

Sophia Loren


Richard Harris


But it was his book "Death in Rome" — and the subsequent movie based on it, called "Massacre in Rome" — that made the biggest splash. The book dealt with the 1944 slaughter by


occupying troops of 335 innocent Italian men at the Ardeatine Caves in retaliation for an attack by Italian partisans the day before.

The book, published in 1967, stirred controversy because it suggested Pope Pius XII did not intervene to stop the massacre even though he knew about the


' plans. When the movie came out, a relative of the late pontiff brought a lawsuit against Katz.

A two-year criminal trial ended with the author being convicted and sentenced to 14 months in prison for defaming the pope's memory. The verdict was overturned on appeal and later the case was dismissed by Italy's highest court.

A native of


, N.Y., Katz moved to Italy in the mid-1960s.




, a medical researcher who specialized in vegetarian nutrition and founded the

in 1967, serving as its dean until 1976, died Sept. 20. He was 90.

-- Times staff and wire reports