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Robert Katz, historian, dies in Italy at 77

ROME - American writer and historian Robert Katz, whose meticulous reconstruction of a Nazi massacre in Rome sparked a trial over whether he defamed the pope, has died in Italy, his family said yesterday. He was 77.

Katz, a native of Brooklyn, was a longtime resident of Tuscany, and died Wednesday in a hospital there. His wife Beverly Gerstel told The Associated Press that he died of complications from cancer surgery.

Katz wrote extensively on 20th-century Italian history. In "Days of Wrath," he chronicled the 1978 kidnapping and killing of Aldo Moro, a former premier, at the hands of the Red Brigades.

His book "Death in Rome," and the movie based on it, "Massacre in Rome," made the biggest splash. The book dealt with the 1944 slaughter by German troops of 335 innocent Italian men at the Ardeatine Caves in retaliation for an attack by Italian partisans. The book, first published in 1967, suggested Pope Pius XII did not intervene to stop the massacre even though he knew about the Nazis' plans.

According to Katz's website, he was sentenced to 14 months in prison for defaming the pope's memory, but the verdict was overturned on appeal and later the case was dismissed. - AP

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