It Hap­pened in Italy: Untold Sto­ries of How the Peo­ple of Italy Defied the Hor­rors of the Holocaust

Eliz­a­beth Bettina
  • Review
By – October 5, 2011

What a con­trast was the Jews’ chilly treat­ment in Switzer­land and Nor­way to the warm, help­ful atti­tude of ordi­nary Ital­ians toward Jew­ish refugees in Italy, where when the police were told to plan a raid they would warn the Jews the pre­vi­ous day. In It Hap­pened In Italy, we get anoth­er facet of this great sto­ry in a decep­tive­ly chat­ty book that dis­guis­es the strength and resolve of its author, Eliz­a­beth Bet­ti­na. A woman of great intel­li­gence, inge­nu­ity, and deter­mi­na­tion, she reached the high­est lev­els of Ital­ian gov­ern­ment and the Papa­cy to bring the sto­ry of her family’s vil­lage of Cam­pagna, Italy dur­ing the Holo­caust to the pub­lic, par­tic­u­lar­ly how Gio­van­ni Palatuc­ci, an Ital­ian police offi­cial work­ing under Mus­soli­ni, saved thou­sands of peo­ple from being deport­ed to Nazi death camps, result­ing in the sac­ri­fice of his own life by the Nazis. Even though he had a visa for Switzer­land, he gave it to his sweet­heart, a Jew­ish woman, so that she might escape. This is the sto­ry of how Italy — which demand­ed no visas — and the Ital­ian peo­ple were help­ful to the Jews so that not only did 85% of them sur­vive, but the intern­ment camps served good food, no one wore uni­forms and the Jews were allowed the free­dom of the towns dur­ing the day. Bet­ti­na tries to explain these details by point­ing out that Ital­ians char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly don’t lis­ten to rules, that they do what they think is best. There are many heart­felt sto­ries here and the author is look­ing for more; she can be con­tact­ed at www​.eliz​a​beth​bet​ti​na​.com.

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.

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