Monday, May 11, 2009

It Happened in Italy - by Elizabeth Bettina

In occupied Europe, 75-80% of the Jewish population during World War II was executed.  And, yet what if I told you that in one country, approximately 75-80% of the Jewish population in that same period survived.  What if I told you that number may not include thousands of more foreign Jews living in that nation?  What I then told you that this nation where so many Jews was one that was Hitler's prime ally?

Of course you read the title of the post so you know by now it happened in Italy - fascist Italy.  But if you were didn't know all this you were like me and most students of history and you were like the author.

 Elizabeth Bettina  takes us on a journey of discovery in her first book -   It Happened In Italy: Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust .  As you dive into this easy read its more than just a book of facts but more a personal journal of how Bettina unearths a little known history.  We travel with her as her journey begins during a visit to Campagna, Italy and Bettina discovers a doctoral thesis and a photo of a rabbi and a priest on the steps of the church were her grandparents were married.  From this one photo, the passion of Bettina is seen through the pages as she discovers survivor after survivor of Italian Internment camps.  She discovers that their experience is diametrically opposed to what was going on in Germany and other parts of Europe.  

Bettina, a Roman Catholic who grew up in a Jewish neighbor of New York, is the perfect tour guide to reconnect the past and tell the story takes you all the way to audience with the Pope.  You feel like you not only learn how the Italians lived out the command to "Love thy neighbor as thyself" but you see how the author follows this same command and takes it upon herself with zeal to honor those who made the story happen.

I warmly recommend It Happened in Italy.  

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