Read It Happened in Italy: Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust by Elizabeth Bettina Online


Holocaust. Over a half century ago, many of Campagna's residents defied the Nazis and risked their very lives to shelter and save hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust. . . ....

Title : It Happened in Italy: Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust
Author :
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ISBN : 9781595551023
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

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

  • Violet wells
    2019-02-26 09:55

    Shame this book isn’t what it claims to be. I thought I was going to read a book about how foreign Jews fared in Italy during WW2. Instead it’s a book almost entirely about the author and her endeavours to put this book together. It’s almost comical in its relentless narcissisms. In 340 pages perhaps twenty are devoted to the stories of the survivors she meets. A less scholarly book would be hard to imagine. Bettina wants to portray Italian concentration camps as more like holiday camps than the nightmare camps in other European countries and the Italian people as a whole unified in helping the Jews. I’ve seen a couple of documentaries on Italian TV about Jewish experiences in Italy during the war and their stories are very different. While it’s true lots of Italians were very courageous in offering assistance to Jewish refugees let’s not forget, as Bettina seems to want, that official Italian policy was reprehensible and in 1938 all Italian Jews were stripped of fundamental human rights and made to feel like pariahs. It’s hard to blame Bettina herself for the naivety and sweeping half-truths of this book because her enthusiasm for her quest seems genuine but I’m not sure I understand why anyone would publish such a thin, poorly conceived cottage industry work on such a sensitive subject.

  • Kristy Miller
    2019-03-10 16:38

    This is not a bad book, but the author is not a great author and the book is not quite what I expected. It is written like a blog, short chapters focusing on one event, thought, or person. And it is more about the authors journey of discovery, and work on finding these stories than it is about the actual stories of survival. Not to say that her story isn't interesting, as I identified with her quite a bit, but it wasn't why I bought the book. We only get the barest of details about the survivors lives, how they got to Italy, how they survived the war, and what happened to them after. That is the part I wanted to hear about most. I will say that Ms. Bettina includes her sources, and lots of photos, which made the book very interesting.This book is worth your time,and it is a quick read. But if you are looking for a story about survival during the war I recommend Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell. Yes, it is historical fiction, but she does meticulous research and framed her story around true stories of survival.

  • Allie
    2019-03-22 09:57

    Typed into the Star of David, set on the bottom left hand corner of this book is the tagline that goes something like this; the true story of the untold horrors the Italian Jews suffered during the Holocaust. Based on the first couple of pages of this book and this tagline, I thought for sure this book would be a great story about how people overcame the horrors of the Holocaust and survived, with help from their Italian neighbors. I can say after finishing that I was extremely disappointed in this book. There are a few stories of holocaust survivors, but mostly, this is a story about Elizabeth Bettina's quest for self fulfillment and recognition. At least, that's what I got from the story. She barely focused on these "untold stories" and instead spent most of the book talking about how she got to meet the Pope and go to Italy an unprecedented amount of time. I thought after the first few chapters she would go back into the stories of the survivors and drop off talking about herself, but that never happened. In short, this book was not at all what it claimed to be, and not in anyway helpful. As far as I'm concerned there are still untold stories of the Holocaust in Italy, because the stories were never told in the first place. Huge disappointment.

  • Michael Gerald
    2019-03-19 10:57

    This is one of the most uplifting and inspiring books I have read. In a continent cast into darkness by war and genocide in the 1940s, Italy and most Italians stood as a beacon of light and good. Despite being a nominal ally of Nazi Germany and having discriminatory racial laws, the Italians never murdered (officially or not) the Jews who went to Italy for refuge. The Italian government did intern the Jews in camps, but those camps were way different from the Nazi camps. It was almost like the Jews in Italian camps were on vacation. They had decent quarters, they had parties, they had weddings, they had visitors, they can leave for a time, and they were able to practice their religion.In short, they were treated as human beings. The Italians did not see them as otherwise. The government, the Church, and ordinary Italians saved thousands of lives.I have always been an admirer of Italy, and this piece of history made me more so. (I also love Italian food.) And I am also proud that the Philippines made its own decent contribution to helping the persecuted Jews in the 1930s, when President Manuel Quezon and the Commonwealth government at the time offered visas for Jews who wanted to flee Germany. Around 1,200 Jews availed of the offer and were saved.Italy and the Philippines did not sit idly by and watch or did not care. They cared and did something. A big thing.

  • Jennifer
    2019-03-07 14:35

    This is probably more of a rant than a review but I was just so disappointed with the book this was compared to the book I thought it was going to be. Maybe I shouldn't judge a book just on my expectations, but I also believe the title was misleading so the publishers or author created those same expectations.What kind of book should one expect with that title? I was expecting a oral history, or a non-fiction historical account of the people that survived the Holocaust while living in Italy, the Italians that helped them, and some chapters explaining the political situation in Italy and why it may have been different. Unfortunately, there was very little of that. Instead, I got to read about Elizabeth Bettina and how she discovered that there was once a concentration camp near the village that her grandmother was from, that a larger percentage of Italy's Jewish population survived the Holocaust than those of other European countries (with the exception of Denmark), and how it inspired her to do research and make people aware of this story. This book is less her sharing the story of the Holocaust and more her sharing her journey of discovery. And while that journey very well may have its place, such as in an introduction and/or afterword, or the first and last chapters of the book I described, that's really not what I thought this book would be.I agree that this would be a great story to tell, but she is not the one to tell it. The first hundred pages are basically all about her (and I honestly don't get the impression that she is purposely self-absorbed but it doesn't negate the fact that the book is more about her than the "untold story" she claims to tell, or at least her part in it). There are two or three chapters that specifically focus on survivor stories but even these are told more conversationally with her quoting them rather than letting her subjects speak for themselves and tell of their experiences. I absolutely believe that Bettina did a lot of work compiling their stories and tracking down the survivors, but I wish she would have shared the results in this book, not the work. She mentions that she is working on a documentary and I wonder if that documentary would show more of this story.Bettina also describes the various trips back to Italy that she organized for the survivors and how she arranged meetings with the Vatican, and eventually even the Pope. Again, I think that would have been a great epilogue or afterword to the Holocaust story but instead it was the center of the story. Maybe if I was Catholic or gave a shit about religion, that would have been fascinating. As it was, I didn't really care. Considering that the subtitle is "how people of Italy defied the horrors of the Holocaust" I would much rather be hearing from elderly Italians or Jews.The other thing is that the book lacks nuisance as a result of her focus on the modern day. She paints a very rosy picture of how things were in Italy, focusing on the fact that 80% of the Jewish population survived. That still leaves 20% dead, and while that is a much better number than from a country like Poland, it doesn't mean that she can argue that Italians were just such good Catholic people. Last I checked the Poles were Catholic, too. There are a variety of factors that caused that number, and I can only guess at the intricacies involved, including the different relationships Germany had with Poland and Italy, those countries' histories, and pre-existing anti-semitic attitudes, among many other things. Before this, the only thing I'd read that focused on Italy and the Holocaust was Mary Doria Russell's amazing novel A Thread of Grace, and not all Italians came off as great humanitarians. Some were, some weren't. I'm not denying that there is a difference, and there should definitely more exploration of the topic but I'm sure it is more complicated than Bettina's "Italians are awesome" analysis in this book. Plus, being more humane than the Nazis still doesn't mean that policies weren't racist.My one other complaint about this book, besides her focus on the wrong part of the story, is her writing style. It felt like every sentence should have ended with an exclamation point because she! was! so! excited! "Oh my god, you were at the same camp as this other survivor I've been talking to?! How crazy and awesome and amazing!" It's called statistics, woman! There are only so many camps and so many survivors.Having said all that, I think the stories alluded to would be fascinating, and if this documentary is ever released, I hope it would focus on the interviews, because in that case the documentary could be very good. Bettina also talks about filming these interviews, so at least this part of history is now preserved for posterity so I will applaud Bettina for that. I just wish the history had made up more of this book.

  • rjp316
    2019-03-12 10:53

    I loved the concept of this book. It was fascinating to learn that Italy actually had concentration/internment camps during WWII. These camps were thousands of times better than the concentration camps in Germany and elsewhere where millions of Jews died. In Italy – the prisoners were allowed to walk the streets, play soccer, get married, kept their own closes and even pray and attend service at the synagogue. This was about those prisoners and those courageous Italians who risked everything to save their fellow humans from certain death by not sending them north to German camps. The story is true and develops after Bettina became fascinated with the Jewish population in Italy during WWII, after seeing a photo with a rabbi, priest, and police officers together. She learns that just yards from her grandparents house in Italy there was once one of these concentration camps that held hundreds of Jews. Bettina finds survivors from these camps and tells their stories and the stores of the Italian people who helped save them. That said this story was not written very well. It was hugely repetitive – the “milk mother” story must have been told 5 times in this book as was the dreadful phase “Miss American sash”. The storyline skips around way too much and everything is a huge surprise. The book seemed to be all about her and how she is connecting these people – not about their lives. Plus one thing I really did not like is that this appears to be all about how wonderful all Italians were during WWII - she fails to mention that this was just a very tiny group of people. In fact 15% of Italian Jews were murdered during WWII. Plus there was huge anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church during this time, which she hugely praises during the book and her numerous trips to the Vatican. The Jews in these camps were not treated “ok” they still were not allowed to leave their town, hold jobs, and had to report to the police every day – this sounds like a restriction of their basic freedoms so they were being treated still like non-citizens and were in fact in prisons. Not sure if I would recommend this book to friends. It was interesting to read this positive side to WWII and that not all concentration camps were horrible as we have learned from history but we need to realize this was only a very very small percentage of Jewish history and 5.3 MILLION Jews did die during the war, so these survivors from Italy were certainly in the minority.

  • Jessica
    2019-03-14 09:55

    I found this book to be more of a documentary style about the author rather than telling the stories of the survivors of the Holocaust in Italy. She told more about her adventures to find people and meeting with Italian officials than the actual stories of the survivors.I was amazed to find out that there had been concentration camps in Italy, but that they were very different from the typical concentration camps associated with Germany in World War II. I was amazed that the people were treated like humans instead of garbage.I did enjoy reading about the survivors but wasn't sold on it the whole time due to the author centered nature most of the time. It does make me more curious about Italian Jews during World War II, so now I'll be on the lookout for other information or books about it!

  • Josh Dellorto
    2019-03-10 09:32

    Elizabeth Bettina discovers that her grandmothers small village of campaña in Italy was a town that kept Jews safe during World War 2. She has been visiting there since childhood and now discovers this great story. She soon learns that most cities and towns in Italy helped Jewish people instead of turning them over to the nazis. During this story she meets survivors of is terrible event that teach others how Italy was here safe haven.I would no recommend this book if you are looking for excitement. This book moves very slow and has lots of boring chapters. Overall this book is very informational and if you are interested in learning about World War 2 in Italy for the Jewish community than this is the book for you.

  • Julie
    2019-03-02 11:47

    Another one for the half star system, in my books -- 1.5 would do it, because it rests marginally above "i didn't like it" and marginally beneath "it was OK". Oh dear. This book is representative of a huge marketing miss -- ironic only because the author works in the marketing industry, according to the dust jacket. The jacket promises, "untold stories of how the people of Italy defied the horrors of the Holocaust", but there aren't very many stories told. Oh, wait ... perhaps the joke is on me: the fact that she promises "untold stories" and that those stories remain "untold" is indeed accurate. Hmmm... Let me ponder the marketing genius of that little trope.There is too much of Bettina in here, and not enough about the Jews, the Italians, or the Holocaust. The author indulges in too much "gee-whiz-golly-look-at-me-and-what-I-did" than zeroing in on the stories, and making them the focus of her book. There is a self-indulgent element, it strikes me, that doesn't sit well with the ponderous nature of her topic. During the first hundred pages or so, I was indulgent enough to think, "She's a sweet person who is overwhelmed by her topic, and her discovery, and is finding it difficult to separate that discovery from the importance of the work." After a couple hundred more pages, I came to believe that there is nobody in the world that is quite that disingenuous. Especially someone who works in Marketing. It is sad to have a book promise so much, and deliver so little, especially when the topic is so important -- seminal, I would dare say in the history of the Holocaust, and of Italy. Still, I commend her for bringing this topic to light. At the very least, she has provided names, places and dates from which many researchers can begin their own quest. Hopefully, one day, a more cohesive narrative will emerge on how much the Italians actually contributed to helping the Jews in World War II.

  • Sara
    2019-02-22 09:35

    The topic of this book is so enthralling and the few stories as told by the survivors of the detention camps in Italy are fascinating - but the author, sad to say, is just a terrible writer. I kept looking through the credits of the book to be sure that there really was an editor involved, because I was certain that no one could have read this book and approved the author's writing - yes, it was that bad. This is such an important story which needs to be told and I do have to give credit to the author for arranging the visits and interviews, but she shares so little of their stories and is very repetitive. I'm enthralled by the compassion of the Italian people during the Nazi years and will always remember that nugget of information because of this book, but as much as I wish I could, I just can't recommend this book to others. (The 2 stars is only for the very important but very scant little known history that I found in the book, otherwise I would have to give it zero stars.)

  • Kristi Thielen
    2019-03-03 10:51

    A folksy, sunny account of Ms. Bettina's efforts to take Jews who survived the Holocaust in Italy, back to the sites where they lived, including some very unusual "concentration camps" where Jews were not only NOT harmed - but lived peaceably and even practiced their faith. Bettina's emotions are heartfelt and the story - one of the few bright spots of the era - is well worth telling. My only discomfort was with Bettina's views of the church. Clearly a devout Roman Catholic and a near-groupie of all things Vatican (there is MUCH coverage of several trips to see cardinals and the Pope) she chalks up the decency of the Italian people to their religion far more than I believe she should. Instead, this decency seems much more a function of the innate character and temperment of the Italian people, as a culture.

  • Deigh
    2019-03-06 16:28

    This is simply an awful book. I could not plow through any more of it than the first 100 pages. It is a very important story of love and courage in Italy during WWII but the author in her attempt to be cute and folksy ends up being trite and self serving and thus trivializes an important story. The book is filled with nonsense put in to make her look cute and the real information is scattered in bits and pieces. The story is greatand heroic but there really is not enough of it to make a book - more like a story in The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly. This book is enough to make me want to get a Kindle so that there is no possibility that any trees were wasted printing this crap.

  • Carly
    2019-03-16 10:52

    The only thing that saves this book from a one-star rating is the novelty of the subject. Learning about the Jews in Italy brought to attention a part of history that is not well known. However, the number of pages that is about that part if history probably take up one tenth of the book, with the rest being all about the author. This book felt very selfish, given that it Aa supposed to be about others.

  • Diane
    2019-02-25 17:57

    Loved this book. So glad that something good came out of a terrible time. It was amazing how the Jews were treated in Italy compared to the rest of Europe.Makes me even prouder of my Italian heritage.

  • Will Staton
    2019-02-21 15:40

    The author is correct that the stories within “need to be told,” but her telling of them is disjointed, poorly-written, and centers on the author. I was expecting serious nonfiction complete with research, but instead got only small anecdotes, most of which were about the author. The stories about the Jews who survived the Holocaust in Italy are generally cut short and more or less amount to “we only survived bc we were in Italy,” with few other details about the how and why that survival was made possible. Although the tales are heroic, and the tone of the book uplifting and positive, this is not a serious read, and isn’t worth it for serious historians. It’s likely also not worth it for the more casual reader either as - again - the book reads more like a memoir of the author’s “calling” (her words). Pick up something different.

  • Siobhan Mazzoni
    2019-02-23 17:43

    Finally finished "It Happened in Italy" by Elizabeth Bettina. I never knew this part of WWII and Italy's history. During the war, many Italians helped hide Jewish families, and camps allowed the Jews to keep their belongings, sleep in beds, play soccer, teach children, and pray. It's almost impossible to believe that an ally of Germany treated the Jewish people with such compassion, but it's all true. I recommend for history nerds!

  • Robyn
    2019-02-26 15:53

    What an amazing story. One that needed to be told. It's an easy read with just enough detail to be interesting but not overwhelmed.

  • Dana Dinowitz
    2019-02-23 11:29

    I simply never knew... Four stars for the content. The writing is two stars, sorry.

  • Joe
    2019-03-13 09:39

    I’m not the kind of person who can talk to just anyone. I make friends fairly easy, but in a crowded room where I don’t know anyone, I’m more likely to grab a drink, open a book, and keep to myself (which is why the idea of “networking lunches” at conferences makes me nauseous). It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. And I genuinely enjoy talking and getting to know them and making connections. I’m just not very comfortable forcing it. I’m better at it when it happens naturally — or naturally for me at least. I’m also a little sluggish on acting on some of the things I consider doing. I’m not afraid to jump in and get on with it, but I sometimes lack a little motivation on the front end. Which is what makes Elizabeth Bettina’s new work of non-fiction cum memoir, It Happened in Italy, so fascinating.In a book that purports to tell the “Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust,” as its subtitle suggests, Bettina really tells us the story of how she gathered the stories, and how valuable it is to make connections. It’s as much about her as it is the Jewish people who survived World War II by being interned in concentration camps in Italy. And while at first it’s a little off-putting, even mildly-irritating, it soon becomes exhilarating and inspiring, and even refreshing in the manner in which it tells us these stories.Imagine a story told something like this:“Oh My God, so I look at the picture and I say to myself, ‘what’s a rabbi doing in this picture,’ and I call my friend and I tell him he has to sit down, and I’m thinking I’m just a nice Italian girl from new york who grew up in a Jewish neighborhood and then there’s the pope and the cabs and the mayor is wearing a Miss America sash and, can you believe, they went for ice cream? No one went for ice cream in Auschwitz or Dachau. And there’s a synagogue and they’re playing soccer and the Italian police shrug and we get some espresso and Oh My God, I couldn’t believe it, I’m on a plane to Nashville and the guy’s mother was in Campagna and she lives in Queens and it’s in my neighborhood and there’s an accordion player and the guy at the Vatican does a hand motion and we walk past the Swiss guards and oh my God, imagine my surprise….”I’m over-simplifying of course, but you get the idea. Bettina’s story reads like she’s sitting across from me and we’re sharing a bottle of wine and every time she gets to a photo in her story, she just happens to have the photo with her and pulls it out of a bag to show me. It’s a conversational way to tell a story, and while nothing can truly overshadow the amazing stories of the survivors that she pulls together, the narrative device — delivering them in the voices of the survivors as she discovers them — works.What we get is not only the inspiring stories of people who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, and the courageous stories of those who risked their lives to save others — namely Giovanni Palatucci — but we also get an inspiring story of someone who decided she was going to do something, and did it. When Bettina first came across that picture of a rabbi on the steps of the Church of San Bartolemeo in Campagna, Italy and soon learned of the thousands of Jews interned in dozens of Campo di Concentramento in Campagna and throughout Italy who survived simply as a result of being interned in these camps, she knew immediately she had to tell their story. Why? As Dachau liberator Jimmy Gentry tells her, “it is a story of goodness amidst evil. You must tell this story. If you don’t, who will?.”So I thank Bettina for not only telling the story of Giovanni Palatucci, and the thousands of “other Palatuccis” (as the book jacket summary tells us) that sheltered and helped Jews throughout Italy. As a first generation Italian-American, it’s a proud reminder of the true nature of my descendants. I thank her also for telling her story. So many times I find myself inspired and moved, and decide that something must be done or a story must told, and I do not follow through. It Happened in Italy is a reminder of what we can accomplish when we do, and why we must.

  • Joan
    2019-03-17 14:32

    Elizabeth Bettina is an Italian-American Catholic who spent her childhood summers with relatives in Campagna, Italy. During one visit as an adult, she discovered that Jews had been interned in Campagna during the war. She was fascinated by this, wondered why it wasn't talked about, and proceeded to become deeply involved in finding people who had been interned, telling their story and taking them back to the places where they had been. This should have been an absolutely riveting book. It's not. It's dreadful. I finished reading this book for one reason, and one reason only: I got it through the Amazon Vine program and owed them a review. I cannot count the number of times I wanted to throw it against the wall or gritted my teeth in frustration and irritation. It is one of the worst books I have ever read. And that is sad. Because there is a story to be told here, a story about how and why some Italians helped their Jewish neighbors. But, oh lord, Bettina hasn't got a clue about how to tell it. She cannot write a straight-forward narrative. She hops, skips and jumps all over the place, repeats herself, and talks about people who haven't been introduced yet. Her language is repetitious. Every phone call requires the recipient to sit down. Everything is a surprise, unbelieveable, "unimaginable". If she described a sindaco's (mayor's) badge of office as a "Miss America sash" one more time, I'd have screamed. And that's another thing! She constantly throws in Italian words and phrases for no reason or any reason. It's bad enough when she's quoting, because why pick out a few words in the quotation to put in Italian and translate? But "[t:]the people . . . took note of the two stranieri, foreigners." "I [was:] imagining the fogli, pieces of paper . . ." It's not only annoying; it's pretentious. Worse, it's all about her. Everything is presented through her reactions, how she felt, what she did. The survivors are mere stick figures. One has no sense of them as individuals. Even when she is quoting them (and she was taping and filming so the dialogue is presumably accurate), there is no emotion. I don't know if that's due to her editing or if she simply hasn't got a clue about interviewing people. (If you want to know how to do oral history, read Studs Terkel!) We barely meet the "good" Italians she is so proud of. But we get Bettina, ad nauseum, ad infinitum. More disturbing to me was the substance of this book, or, should I say, it's lack of substance. There is absolutely no attempt at any analysis of why Italy was different (if it was). I compare this to another book I've read,The Mezuzah in the Madonna's Foot: Marranos and Other Secret Jews--A Woman Discovers Her Spiritual Heritage , which at least tries to answer the perhaps unanswerable question: why did Fascist Spain open its borders to Jewish refugees from the Holocaust?) It seems as though it never occurs to Bettina to ask the question. Nor does Bettina make any effort to contextualize her story. Look. I know that the concentration camps in Italy were not death camps. I know that conditions were better there than elsewhere (though to say that is rather like Berlusconi telling the survivors of the L'Aquila earthquake to treat the experience like a camping weekend). I know that some Italians did their best to save Jewish lives. And I know that this book is focused on a sliver of Holocaust history. But do not toss a glance at the racial laws, at the anti-Semitic policies that prevented Jews from attending school or practicing their professions, and act as though that was nothing. It wasn't nothing! Do not ignore the effect of the profound, historic anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church! Do not ignore the murder of 15% of Italy's Jewish population! Do not ignore the failure of the Pope to speak out! Acknowledge these things! Now perhaps someone will go out and write a good book on this subject.

  • Weavre
    2019-03-12 09:28

    Learning about the history of the Holocaust has always seemed more important than enjoyable, something I feel I ought to do rather than something I really want to do. This book is different. In fact, I'd even recommend it as a great summer "beach read". Uplifting, positive, lighthearted, and filled with true stories of human goodness, it's not like any other Holocaust history I've ever seen. For anyone weighed down with knowledge of the Milgram experiments and the atrocities people are capable of committing when given license, and even orders, to do so, It Happened in Italy offers a breath of fresh air. Ordered to send Italy's Jews to Hitler's death camps, whole towns cooperated to conceal Jewish families they hadn't even met before the war. Ordered to build concentration camps of their own, Italy's people responded with the notion of "free internment," providing apartments and stipends for Jews whose only remaining restrictions were to stay in town and report once a day for a cup of coffee with the police captain.Could such far-fetched stories be true? Bettina presents one survivor report after another, supported by photographic evidence of swimming parties, weddings, childbirths, and more among the communities of "interned" Jews. Wearing their own clothes and not marked by any yellow stars, the Jews confined in Italy received the same food rations as did the townspeople. They formed musical groups, played cards, and practiced their religion openly. They took photographs of their families to commemorate special events, practiced their professions underground, and after the war often returned to find their homes and belongings had been preserved intact, cared for by neighbors awaiting the homecoming of old friends.While certainly not a utopia--Italy's Jews were not completely free, after all, and there was a rather nasty war going on--the simple stories of human beings who simply did the right thing in an otherwise horrid time explain why Italy's Holocaust survivors look back on the towns where they were interned with deeply felt gratitude. Bettina's sometimes naive, always-faithful belief in the rightness of telling these people's stories has led her to create her own amazing narrative. As she returns to Italy with one group of Holocaust survivors after another, she witnesses a former prisoner joyfully embracing the former officer in charge of internment. She meets extraordinary people from small villages, and incredibly visits with Italian and Vatican dignitaries--including the Pope. In fact, although she might disagree, Bettina's own story emerges as quite the equal of most of the survivor narratives she brings to light.The straightforward writing style, large type font, and abundance of photographs make this book particularly accessible to almost any reader. The incredible story makes it impossible to put down. The small size (for a hardback) even makes it easy to tuck in that beach bag ... so read it!

  • Trupti Dorge
    2019-03-03 17:51

    Rating: 2.5 rounded to 2It 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. 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.First posted at

  • Dave
    2019-03-03 11:44

    Elizabeth Bettina’s “It Happened in Italy” is a difficult book for me to rate and review. On the one hand you have an incredibly interesting story and a likeable person in Elizabeth Bettina, and on the other hand, you have a narrative that goes all over the place; sometimes telling the story of the Holocaust in Italy and how many Italians protected Jews and other times telling you the story of how Elizabeth Bettina learned about the story, and still other sections in which the author tells us her views on pocketbooks and cell phones. The weakness is a big one. The telling of the story is too important, and to jump from history, to behind-the-scenes documentary, to memoir and finally reaction and opinion of the modern world is very distracting to the reader. Another distraction is the repeated statements about how unbelievable the events which took place, and are taking place at the time of the writing are to the author. To be sure, many of the events are amazing, but it is not necessary to tell the reader that, it comes from the details of the stories themselves. For much of the book I was aiming at giving it a two-star rating, and I really would like to see this book get a great deal of editing to see it reach its full potential. Of course, one has to review what is actually on the page and not what it could be under different circumstances.The strengths of the book are also strong though, starting with an amazingly good and heartwarming story about one group of people putting their own lives in danger to help protect and save another group of people who they really don’t know all that well. That is the basic definition of what a hero is, and it is equally heartwarming to feel the love and appreciation that those who were saved feel to this very day for those who helped them survive. Another strength of the book is that Elizabeth Bettina is very likeable. In spite of the quirky and distracting narrative at times, she really grows on you as the book progresses, and even when she is discussing things which don’t appear to have much to do with the story of the Holocaust and the survivors, she is still likeable.What changed my mind to the point where I am giving this book three stars is the end. When reading the last few chapters, one realizes that the narrative has improved, and in particular the telling of the wonderful story of Walter Kleinmann and Rocco Giacomino was very well done. It should also be noted that a Bibliography is provided to assist with learning more about what went on in Italy during the Holocaust. Since this book is not really a history as much as it is the telling of Elizabeth Bettina’s discovery of the story and what she did to become involved in it, this is very much appreciated for those of us who will want to read more on the subject.

  • Doreen
    2019-03-16 11:32

    Loved this book, which uncovers the story of Jews interned in Italy during WWII. I have never been taught about the treatment of Jews in Italy. No history professor nor text has ever mentioned this part of the Holocaust to me. With Italy participating as part of Hitler's Axis powers, Jews were sent to camps within Italy, that were safe, clean, and accommodating to families. For the most part, Jews were allowed to live freely under the protection of the Italian government. There are photos of daily life as well as social occasions, showing Jews living safely and happily during the swimsuits, on bicycles,and such. Jews were allowed to pray and worship openly, too. When Italy quit the Axis and joined the Allies, following the overthrow of Mussolini, it became quite dangerous for citizens and local government officials to continue to harbor Jews and help them to safety. Still, the Italian people respected the Jews and refused to take part in Hitler's plan. This book contains beautiful stories from Jews who were in Italy during the war, particularly those who were sent to southern Italy; to Campagna. The situation had changed when Italy became Hitler's enemy. The invading Germans wanted Jews in Italy rounded up and sent to 'real' concentration camps, like Auschwitz and Dachau. The empathy and goodness of the Italian people proved to be a strong force against the Germans. The Italians harbored Jews, moving them when necessary, to avoid capture. Entire villages worked together to save the lives of the Jewish people who had become their neighbors and friends. To the Italians, Jews were fellow human beings, not the low life-form that Hitler would have liked the world to believe. Elizabeth Bettina chronicles her journey as she discovers the towns and people that were involved in this part of history. At times, the author can seem condescending. She describes the black pants, black shirt, and white collar of priests, and then continues using quotes, "priest clothes" throughout the book whenever she mentions a holy man in this traditional garb. She also uses italics for almost all Italian words, even when the English version of the word is fairly obvious. Example: professionisti/professionals. I only mention this as an advance warning to readers. I don't believe the author means any of it as condescension. As you read the book, I hope readers will see that her explanations and descriptions are a result of her exuberance in the subject matter. This is a very personal book for her, a labor of love. So please accept these minor annoyances as a side effect of her earnestness and excitement for the discoveries made in this very personal journey. Read the book. It's definitely worth it!

  • Maltaise
    2019-03-21 15:52

    It Happened in Italy tells the story of little known part of history during World War II, about the Jewish population in Italy. While this aspect of the story is quite interesting and not a subject that I was familiar with the book itself is average at best. Bettina became fascinated with the Jewish population in Italy after seeing a photo with a rabbi, priest, and police officers together. What she saw in this photo led her to research how this could be.Campagna, Ferramonti and other remote Italian villages in Italy housed a sizable Jewish people during the war. The population here lived in internment camps or where free to live within the boundaries of the village. Unlike Germany and Poland these camps were neither concentration or labor camps. The occupants lived a relatively docile and comfortable life during the war. It is hard to believe that in a nation that was an ally of Hitler, Jewish people were free to live without a star pinned to their clothing. The Jewish population was free to pray, attend service at the synagogue and marry. Every effort was made to keep families together. The population spent their days playing cards and soccer.When the Germans did come for the Jewish people, the Italian villagers helped the Jews hide in the mountains. Apparently no Jewish people were voluntarily turned over to the Germans.Bettina finds survivors from Italy that are still alive today. The book tells their stories and her efforts to find more survivors. Bettina must be credited for bringing these people together and taking them back to Italy to meet the pope, the police officers that guarded them and the people that helped them survive. However the book dwells too much on her efforts and accomplishments in making this happen. At times I found the story hard to follow, as it jumped between what she was doing to tell this story and the stories of the survivors. What makes this book slightly different from other Holocaust survivor stories is that it does not spend much time on the survivors life during the war. This may be because their life was relatively normal during the war.While this is a fascinating tale, the book was rather tedious to read.

  • Carole
    2019-03-13 17:37

    "I always told Fred that he had a picnic in Italy. I said to him, 'You complained that sometimes you had too much soup, while I was lucky to get a few spoons of some dirty water,' " recalled Edith Moskovitch Birns. Edith is a survivor of Auschwitz, while the man who would become her husband, Alfred (Fred) Birns, survived the Holocaust in Italy.For me, these opening lines sum up the theme of this amazing and almost unheard of story. Compared to the millions of Jews who perished in the Concentration Camps in Germany and Poland, many more thousands would live a life of luxury (almost) in Italy in Internment Camps.Elizabeth Bettina's life was changed when she was give a book by a relative when she visited Italy a few years ago. In it was a picture of a rabbi standing next to various people, including a bishop, on the steps of the Catholic Church in the small Italian village called Campagna where her grandparents were married. The year was 1940. Elizabeth, who had no idea that any Jews were in her village during the War, resolved to find out what happened and this book is what she discovered.It is made up of peoples stories of their lives in the Camps, how they got there, how they lived, some even got married there! The book contains so many fascinating pictures - they do say that pictures speak a thousand words! It tells the story of how they were helped by Italian people who risked their lives to keep them from the hands of the Nazis.Somehow she even arranged for some of the survivors to re-visit the small towns where they were interred all those years ago, which was lovely to read.Though it was incredibly interesting reading about something that was so little known, I just wish the author didn't keep repeating how wonderful the Italian people were, I'm afraid it got quite annoying reading it for the umpteenth time.Having said that I think this is definitely recommended reading for anyone interested in the Holocaust and the role of Italians in WWII.

  • Bob H
    2019-03-17 14:46

    An interesting, oddly warm, story of how Jews in WWII Italy survived the Holocaust, aided by sympathetic Italians, official and unofficial, including an internment center in the author's ancestral home in Campagna. The internment centers could be relatively easygoing, even pleasant, refuges.Readers should be aware that this book is more of a diary, a journal of the author's trips and meetings to interview those who lived through this experience. The narrative follows Ms. Bettina, not a single chain of events in history, and it's written in a chatty prose that may take some getting used to. The book's value may serve in providing other historians with a collection of first-person accounts of this period, and of how Italy was one of a few countries that made an effort, an organized effort of sorts, to frustrate the Holocaust.One caveat: the survivors she interviewed, and the names on the camp registries, appear to be mostly non-Italian Jews. Ms. Bettina doesn't place much emphasis on this, but foreign nationals in a country at war would have been, in some way, sequestered, in a different way than Italy's Jewish community. The Italians seem to have been decent about this. It would have helped to hear more of how Italian foreign and police officials made this happen.I would have liked to have read more, in particular, about Giovanni Palatucci, the Italian official who tucked these Jews away in sympathetic locations, away from German reach, for which he died in Dachau. Since the book follows the living witnesses, there's less on him than on those who survived, but that may be a story to be told by other authors, and this book, at least, is a start.

  • Renee
    2019-03-23 14:50

    It Happened in Italy is the untold stories of how the people of Italy defied the horrors of the holocaust. Bettina (the author) discovers the story of Giovanni Palatucci and his connection to her family's village of Campagna,Italy. Palatucci was an Italian that had access to records of Italy's foreign residents. Instead of using the information (including their religion) to turn them in to be exterminated in Germany, he makes the choice to protect them in camps throughout southern Italy (one of them being in Campagna). Palatucci paid the ultimate price - his life.I was amazed while reading this book. I had heard and read so many times of how the Catholic Church did little to stop the Holocaust, yet here was proof that many Italian Catholics including nuns, priests and bishops did risk their lives to hide Jews in Italy and save them from Hitler. I'm thankful that Bettina was moved to research and discover those in Italy that helped to save Jews from undeserved deaths. I'm especially impressed with how she was able to arrange meetings of Jewish survivors with their rescuers, bishops and even Pope Benedict. The only downside to this book is that I felt it needed better editing. At times I felt as if I were reading a high school research paper and not a scholarly work of non-fiction. Thank you to Bettina for telling the story that needed to be told. And a thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing this book to me to read and review as a part of the Review Blogger program

  • Diane
    2019-03-03 15:30

    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, and it is a tale of true humanity during an inhumane period of history. The contrast between how the Jews in Italy are 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.

  • ShareStories
    2019-02-24 15:54

    It Happened in Italy>/i> by Elizabeth Bettina tells the important story of the kind and dignified treatment of the Jews living in Italy during World War II by the Italians. It is a story that needs to be told and archived for history's sake and sheds a glimmer of hope in an era of heinous world wide crime against humanity. The humane treatment of the Jews by the Italians during this time says a lot about Italian culture and values and those of the Church. The stark contrast with Germany and other countries where most of the citizens cooperated with the Nazi regime only serves to heighten our awareness of what most Jews during World War II went through.Given the emotional nature of the Holocaust story, however, I was surprised that the writing did not make me feel as if I were there. It was more like I was reading an email. For whatever reason, the author was not able to delve deeply into individual emotions of her characters in any great detail.Also, as the author admits, many of the people's stories are very similar, which tends to cause the individual survivors to blend together in the book. It may have helped if the book's appendixes were moved to the beginning to give the reader an idea of the structure of the story before it is read.While I am very glad that this story has been so well researched, it could have been better told.