Thursday, June 4, 2009

Book Review: "It Happened in Italy" by Elizabeth Bettina

Elizabeth Bettina, in her book "It Happened in Italy," tells the story of how the citizens of Italy worked together to protect Italian-born Jews and foreign-born Jews from the atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II. Within the pages of Elizabeth Bettina's "It Happened in Italy," a physical and emotional journey is chronicled. Historic facts coupled with personal testimony from the Jewish people who survived paint a picture of concentration camp life contrary to the well-documented camps like Auschwitz or Treblinka. Italian camps kept families together, healthy, fed and allowed Jews to practice Judiasm. All of these freedoms unheard of in death camps in other parts of Europe.

Bettina's conversational tone is inviting and her excitement over each new discovery is contagious. Through personal interviews with survivors such as Walter Wolff, Horst Stein and Herta Pollak, Bettina purposefully expresses the difference between being interred in an Italian camp and being tortured in extermination camps in other parts of the continent. She illustrates beautifully how Italians worked together to both defy Nazi orders and allow the Jews to live life with normalcy.

As a researcher, writer and someone who holds a degree in History, I was excited to read a book on a subject that has not been covered extensively. Bettina's use of personal testimony was the most interesting portion of the book. My only negative comment is that the book was rather lengthy and could have made an equal impact with one hundred fewer pages.

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