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Friday, June 19, 2009

A true story of humanity during World War II

Don't let the title fool you; It Happened in Italy is not a chick-lit book. The subtitle, Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust, gives the reader a better idea of the substance of this non-fiction book.

Told in simple style by author Elizabeth Bettina, it recounts her discovery of how Jewish people fled to Italy from Germany to escape the Nazi regime, and were hidden by many courageous Italians, one of whom, Giovanni Palatucci, was sent to a German camp and killed for his participation.

Bettina fits the description, coined by Malcolm Gladwell, of a "connector"; a person who connects other people together. In this case, she connects Jewish survivors with the Italian people who saved them and their families, and with the Vatican. Her persistence that this unknown story must be told forms the basis for this intriguing book.

She uses many photos and documents kept by survivors and the Italians and sprinkles them in the text where relevant. I liked this format as it allows the reader to see immediately what she is referring to, rather than placed in the middle of the book where they are often found.

The stories of the survivors and their benefactors are interesting, a tale of true humanity during an inhumane period of history. The contrast between how the Jews in Italy were treated, with dignity and respect, and those Jews who were sent to death camps in Germany, is startling. This is an important story; thank goodness Elizabeth Bettina told it.

Rating 3.5 of 5 stars


  1. You got my attention with the subtitle of the book, and the reference to THE TIPPING POINT. I'm forever pegging people according to Gladwell's personality types, and like how you used this to describe Bettina.

    I enjoy non-textbook non-fiction, and it sounds like this fits the bill - photos and documents keep me turning pages in a history book.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. I do the same thing with people regarding Gladwell. When I read his book, I was going over all of my friends in my mind and placing them in his categories. I gave THE TIPPING POINT to my father-in-law, and he loved it. The rest of family was not happy with me, though, because he would constantly refer to the book and describe passages to everyone for months. I think I am banned from giving him any more books.

    Thanks for the comment- I appreciate it!