Brief Reviews, Midweek Edition, VOLUME 2

[Midweek Edition] Brief Review: IT HAPPENED IN ITALY by E. Bettina

A Brief Review of IT HAPPENED IN ITALY:
UNTOLD STORIES OF HOW THE PEOPLE OF ITALY
DEFIED THE HORRORS OF THE HOLOCAUST
.
by Elizabeth Bettina.

Hardcover: Thomas Nelson, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

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and the book is told in a lively conversational tone and is liberally peppered with photographs and reproductions of historical documents.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.   

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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