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