Uncertain Refuge

Nicola Caracciolo, Author, Caracciola, Author, Florette Rechnitz Koffler, Author
Nicola Caracciolo, Author, Caracciola, Author, Florette Rechnitz Koffler, Author University of Illinois Press $39.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-252-01923-4
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-252-06424-1
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Although these interviews with Jews who lived in Fascist Italy are interesting, and Caracciolo has performed a public service by collecting them, they suffer from a flawed presentation. Except for what the subjects reveal themselves, there is virtually no material about who these people are. The reader must turn to notes tucked in the back in order to discover, for example, that the Rabbi Elio Toaff is now the Chief Rabbi of Rome, ``the most prominent of Italian rabbis.'' Also, there is evidence throughout of a sometimes questionable zeal to make the Italians heroes. Historian Renzo De Felice goes so far in his foreword as to say that ``In Italy racism was unknown, and anti-Semitism did not have a real tradition of its own or a mass presence. Catholic anti-Semitism was kept within circumscribed limits.'' Journalist Caracciolo's leading interviewing tactics almost force his interviewees to agree with his generous assessment of Italians. For example, Feri and Zlata Noiman, who wed at the Ferramonti concentration camp, are asked whether their 41-year marriage has been happy. When they answer in the affirmative, Caracciolo prompts, ``Could one say, could you say, that you owe this happiness... your life, to the Italians?'' There are touching stories here of the heroism of people like Father Libero Raganella, who hid Jews in convents, but readers will need to sort through the poor organization and shoddy journalism. (July)
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