The destructive legacy of the Holocaust affected not only those who lived through the persecution, evacuations and internments but their future generations as well. Memoirs written by the children of survivors relate stories of how the atrocities suffered by their parents fractured family relationships for years afterwards. When I learned there was a book that presented a different perspective of the Holocaust I was anxious to read it.
"It Happened In Italy: Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust" is written by Elizabeth Bettina. It is an account what happened when she found out that her grandparent's village, Campagna in southern Italy, had aided Jews during the Holocaust. She learned that Italian run internment camps were not death camps, but detainment camps where Jews were given a certain amount of freedom and treated with dignity and respect. It led her to look further and inspired her to chronicle the stories of survivors who were helped by the Italian people during World War II. Jewish families were kept together and fake documents provided. They wore their own clothes, ate well, played cards and were permitted to practice their religion. Those who were from Italy often returned to their homes after the war and found their belongings waiting for them, taken care of by neighbors.
The book was written in Bettina's first person narrative, a warm easy to read style with short chapters. However they are not well organized and jump around quite a bit. The author became friends with many of the people she interviewed and I was able to see them as real people instead of just characters in a book. She includes scanned documents and photographs that support the survivor's recollections. Their stories are interesting and deserving of preservation, but I came away feeling like something was missing. It seemed the focus of the book was more on how the author researched the stories and gathered her information. There was way too much detail about how trips were organized and appointments made. The survivor's stories were short and mainly expressions of their gratitude toward the Italian people. I would have liked more detail about lives before the war, how things changed during and after, and whether there were Italian people who were not so willing to help. Despite the flaws I was glad for the opportunity to read the book. Elizabeth Bettina obviously worked hard to present an incredible story that's been long overlooked.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 21, 2009)
Hardcover: Pages 384