I just returned from a trip to Sicily with Dan & Lydia. We spent a couple of days in NYC and on Monday June 15, 2009 we met up with Elizabeth Bettina, the author of It Happened In Italy... She introduced us to two Holocaust survivors, Ursula Korn Selig and George B. Radan and let us participate in her initial interview with Mr. Radan. Meeting the two survivors was a rare privilege.

WWII survivors
L to r: myself, George B. Radan, Ursula Korn Selig, Elizabeth Bettina

Approximately twelve million innocent civilians died at the hands of the Nazi SS and its apparatus during WWII in implementation of Hitler's final solution. Approximately six million were civilian Jewish men, women and children. The other six million included outspoken priests, ministers, political opponents, gypsies, gays and lesbians, and an unending list of other "undesirables". Undesirables in the eyes of Hitler and his collaborators. The list of his collaborators is long, but we won't go into that here other than to say that it's a sad story of human frailty.

But there were other sides to the story. Many who could have turned a blind eye to what was happening, chose to risk their own lives to help. In Elizabeth Bettina's book, It Happened In Italy: Untold Stories Of How The People Of Italy Defied The Horrors Of The Holocaust, she tells one part of this story in the words of some of the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Men and women now in their late eighties and nineties who, appreciating the need to bear witness, put their pain aside long enough to recount their own experiences. What emerges is one story after another of individual goodness in the face of evil.

Reminiscent of Alexander Stille's stories in Benevolence and Betrayal, each survivor faced the impending evil in their own way. Some left Germany after reading a few pages of Mein Kampf, others fled later when the truth of the danger could no longer be denied. Many of these survivors express one theme in common as in this excerpt from Horst Stein to Elizabeth Bettina: "...And last---we need the truth. Thank you for telling the stories of how I and others survived in Italy."

This is the WWII era picture in Campagna, her grandparents' home town, that led Elizabeth Bettina to start her research. Elizabeth had visited Campagna every summer with her grandmother and thought she knew everything about her ancestral home. This picture proved otherwise and she decided to learn more. The book takes us with her on her journey of discovery.

WWII picture in Campagna

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