This review was written by Casa Italia Genealogy Department Manager Jennifer Holik.

A few weeks ago I was watching a movie on Netflix about the Pope in World War II and his actions in regards to saving the Jews in Rome. It was a good movie and the fact that he had done that was something I didn’t know. We learn something new every day right? The next day I went to Casa Italia and was a given a stack of books that I can sell at programs. One was called It Happened in Italy by Elizabeth Bettina. This book was also about the Jews in Italy during World War II. Elizabeth mentions a few villages where camps were located. Campagna, Tossicia, Ferramonti, and Potenza/Tito.

Did you know……

  • Italy interred the Jews during the War and that the camps were the complete opposite of what Hitler had in Germany and elsewhere. This is one of the ‘best kept secrets.’
  • These camps were in villages where the Jews had to report in with the police each morning. After reporting, they were free to go about their business.
  • Most camps allowed Jews to practice their faith.
  • Jews were allowed to make a request to be transferred from one camp to another to be with their families if they were separated.
  • That some residents of these villages today have no idea Jews ever lived in their villages, let alone that they have paperwork to prove it?
  • That many of these survivors returned to Italy to give thanks to the residents of villages where their lives were saved?

The stories the survivors tell are unbelievable when first told – how is it possible so many survived? There is much more to this story but I think you should get the book and read it. You will be shocked at some of the things that happen to the survivors as the story moves in time.

You will cry and laugh with joy as you move through the story and learn about the lives that were saved in Italy and the amazing things that happened when Elizabeth began her work to tell the stories. It is incredible what can be done when you have a dream and make bold moves toward fulfilling that dream. The book moves along at a quick rate as the chapters are short and the writing makes you want to keep reading. The book is also an excellent resource for genealogists because there is a list of names for one camp in the back of the book.

I highly recommend reading It Happened In Italy by Elizabeth Bettina if you want to be filled with joy as you see just how loving we can be to our neighbors. If you have read it please tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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