It happened in Italy: Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust

it_happened_in_italyTitle: It happened in Italy
Author: Elizabeth Bettina
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (April 21, 2009)
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

My Review:It happened in Italy shows a different side to Holocaust and the concentrations camps. Only the camps mentioned in this book are not located in Germany but in Italy. I don’t know about others, but I had no idea there were concentration camps in Italy. Neither did author Elizabeth Bettina.

The research starts when the author discovers her Catholic parents wedding photographs outside a church with a priest standing next to a Rabbi. Since the author’s grandmother was from Italy, she is surprised that she never heard about Jews send to concentration camps in Italy. So she decides to dig further and stumbles upon many stories of Jews who were given shelter in Italy and saved from Hitler’s madness.

Elizabeth attends a lecture given by a holocaust survivor Walter (name?). She is surprised when she learns that he was in Campagna, small Italian town during the World War. Together with Walter and then Vince, who is an encyclopedia in everything holocaust, Elizabeth embarks on a journey to find and record the lives of all those who were in Italian concentration camps and were still alive.

Some parts of the book describe Elizabeth’s search for those people and then talking them to Italy to revisit those camps and the people who had once sheltered them (she also managed to meet the Pope in the process) and parts of it deal with stories from various survivors. The book is filled with many photographs and documents that prove the story.

The stories were all very repetitive and after a couple of them I could tell what was going to come next. The gist is that Italians were very good to the Jews at a time when everyone else was throwing them in German concentration camps. They defied official orders, hid the Jews in their homes and basically helped them survive and escape. The story needs to be told, yes, but frankly after around 150 pages I was bored. I rolled my eyes every time the author said ‘Amazing’ and ‘Unbelievable’. Yes, I get it. It was amazing but saying it on every alternate page was a little too much.

The tagline says ‘Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust’. But I found this book to be more about Elizabeth’s journey and her story about finding these people. I would have liked a more personal account from the survivors. Also, there were so many names just thrown in for no reason. First of all, they are Italian names and are difficult to remember. So why throw in the name of a person who had nothing to do with the main story and who was not mentioned more than once? It was a little annoying. Also, a little modesty would have really helped.

Finally, as I said, the story needs to be told but in a better way.

17 thoughts on “It happened in Italy: Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust

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  1. I’m reading a fiction book now that deals with the same topic. It’s called A THREAD OF GRACE, and it’s by Mary Doria Russell. This book is FANTASTIC. The writing is gorgeous and I feel like I am right there with the characters as they experience the last days of the war in Italy. I highly recommend it, especially based on your complaints about this book.


      1. I’m moderating an online discussion of this book this month. If you happen to pick it up within the next week or so, I’d be happy to add you to the discussion list and forward you the notes so far. Of course, if you’re like me when I find a new book, you won’t get to this book for months!


        1. oh I would have loved to, I’m going to the bookstore tomorrow, if I get it, I would love to, but I don’t have a lot of hope of finding the book 🙂

          I’ll definitely let you know if I find the book though.


  2. I didn’t know about the camps there either! I guess it makes sense when one thinks about it though. I’m sorry the actual book didn’t pan out 😦


  3. I’m sorry this one didn’t turn out better. I am really interested in all things WWII related and so, of course, was excited to see mention of a book I haven’t yet heard of. Heather’s got me really curious about A THREAD OF GRACE. I’ll have to see if my local bookstore has a copy.


  4. It seems that a lot of you are interested in A THREAD OF GRACE – I’ll be reviewing it on my blog before the end of this month, and I’d love those who are interested to stop by and check out my final thoughts on it.


  5. I didn’t know about camps in Italy either. It’s too bad that it wasn’t better because I was really excited when I saw the description. I’ll have to check out A Thread of Grace.


  6. Wow, this sounds so interesting. You never learn about Italy during the war. I love learning about the wars and it would be interesting to learn about the little-mentioned countries during that time.


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