Monday, June 22, 2009

It Happened In Italy by Elizabeth Bettina

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 side of the Holocaust I was anxious to read it.

"It Happened in Italy," lovingly written by Elizabeth Bettina, is an account of how she found out that her grandparent's village, Campagna in southern Italy, had aided Jews during the Holocaust. She discovered 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. It made me wonder why this didn't happen in other countries, it's a great testament to the Italian people.

The book was written in a warm easy to read style with short chapters. The survivor's recollections, documents and photographs were 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. 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 book, it certainly whet my appetite for more.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 21, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1595551023
Hardcover: Pages 384
Price: $24.99