A Child Al Con­fi­no: The True Sto­ry of a Jew­ish Boy and His Moth­er in Mus­solin­i’s Italy

  • Review
By – September 13, 2011
In his Author’s Note” Lamet writes that while he would nev­er want to relive his 67 months in Ospedalet­to, the small moun­tain town to which he and his moth­er were deport­ed, today, 60 years lat­er, he cher­ish­es the mem­o­ries. Although most of the author’s extend­ed fam­i­ly lived in Poland, his grandun­cle had emi­grat­ed to Aus­tria, even­tu­al­ly estab­lish­ing a posh hotel where the author’s father worked. The author and his fam­i­ly lived an upper mid­dle-class life until Hitler invad­ed. At that point, the deci­sion was made to walk away from every­thing, as if they would be gone but a day. While his father returned to Poland, where his fam­i­ly and two broth­ers lived, to wait out a visa for the Unit­ed States, thanks to the ini­tia­tive and inge­nu­ity of the author’s moth­er they moved from Vien­na to Milan, to Paris, to Nice, and to San Remo to keep one step ahead of the author­i­ties, until final­ly, after Mus­soli­ni joined the Axis part­ners, Jews and oth­ers were deport­ed to with­in Italy; to a moun­tain­ous region, many years behind the rest of the world, with its own cus­toms, lan­guage, and morés. The adjust­ment was not easy, but nei­ther was it inten­tion­al­ly pun­ish­ing. In fact, they were giv­en a month­ly stipend by the gov­ern­ment! The hous­ing was prim­i­tive com­pared to what they were used to — espe­cial­ly the bath­rooms and kitchens. They had to scrounge for food, try to find some type of edu­ca­tion for the author, then a boy of twelve, and to adjust to a new dialect. They strug­gled, but his moth­er was so charm­ing and so clever, they were blessed with new friends — both expa­tri­ates and some vil­lagers; and his moth­er — with a new love. This is an inter­est­ing, enter­tain­ing, sad, ful­ly-fleshed out memoir.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

Discussion Questions