Archives For Holocaust


“The ongoing dilemmas of every human heart

A review of

Quiet Americans: Stories.
By Erika Dreifus.

Review by Rebecca Henderson.

QUIET AMERICANS - Erika DreifusQuiet Americans: Stories.
By Erika Dreifus.

Paperback: Last Light Studio, 2011.
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The real and lasting effects of war and genocide are more vividly portrayed in the personal stories of individual lives than in the timelines and statistics of history books. In Quiet Americans, her first book of fiction, Erika Dreifus explores the continuing impact of the Holocaust on survivors and their families, while delving into her characters’ relationships with both their loved ones and their aggressors. Quiet Americans is a book of historical detail combined with the intimacy and emotion of everyday happenings in the days, years, and decades after tragedy.

Past and future, death and birth, memories and hope, the themes of Dreifus’s stories engage the reader on a level that connects the extraordinary events of a devastating period of history to the ongoing dilemmas of every human heart. How do victims of atrocity, whose deep wounds may no longer throb but have turned to jagged scars, handle the humanity of their attackers? When given a choice of doing good or turning away from an enemy in time of need, how do they retain their own compassion, while not excusing the wicked done against them—especially when millions of others weren’t given that choice? How do they honor their family members who endured unspeakable suffering, never forgetting the past that shapes them, but finding ways to live in the present, to enjoy the closeness of loved ones in this moment, and to rebuild a “normal” life for future generations?

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by Elizabeth Bettina.

Hardcover: Thomas Nelson, 2009.
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Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Elizabeth Bettina’s It Happened in Italy, despite its rather lackluster title, poignantly tells many stories of the hospitality and kindness that Italians extended to Jews during World War II.  It also chronicles the author’s efforts to reconnect herself and several friends (most notably Walter Wolff, a Holocaust survivor who was freed from Dachau, but later sent to an interment camp in Campagna, Italy, the hometown of Ms. Bettina’s family) to the places and people of these stories. The latter stories of present-day reconnection, which tend to overshadow the original stories from World War II, are no less miraculous – think personal audiences arranged with the Pope and two high-ranking cardinals (one of which invites the author and Mr. Wolff to his home).  The story of the protection and kindness that the Italians showed to the Jews is an amazing one, on par with those of Jews sheltered elsewhere in Europe – e.g., Corrie Ten Boom and her family in Holland or Andre Trocme and his church in France (as chronicled in Philip Hallie’s Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed).  I was, however, disappointed that the historical narrative too frequently took a backseat to present day narrative of reconnection.  Ms. Bettina is an excellent storyteller, who can barely hold back her excitement at watching these stories unfold, and the book is told in a lively conversational tone and is liberally peppered with photographs and reproductions of historical documents.  It Happened in Italy is an important book and one whose stories – both historical and present day – will surely enthrall readers, and especially those with a connection to Italy or to the stories of Holocaust survivors.