CARACCIOLO, Nicola. Uncertain Refuge: Italy and the Jews During the Holocaust. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995. 176p. Resenha de: TOTTEN, Samuel. Canadian Social Studies, v.35, n.1, 2000.
Uncertain Refuge is a fascinating book. Comprised of a series of interviews conducted by Italian journalist Nicola Caracciolo of more than sixty Italian Jewish survivors and some of their rescuers, this book explores the complex and unique way the state of Italy and the Italian people reacted to Nazi pressure to ostracize, isolate, and expel Jews to Nazi-dominated territories. The interviewees talk about how Jews were harassed, denounced, terrorized and, in some cases, saved. The cumulative effect of the interviews provide a telling picture as to why and how in Italy, an ally of Germany, 42,000 of the 50,000 Jews survived the Nazis’ efforts to murder them.
The annotation of the interviews constitutes a particular strength. Such annotations are helpful in assisting readers to gain a clearer and more in-depth understanding of certain personages, events, situations, and organizations. While the book also includes an appendix, “Historical Personnel, Organizations, and Places”, in which the annotations are located, an introduction to each interview establishing the historical context vis-à-vis the information contained therein would have been helpful.
In places Caracciolo has the unfortunate habit of interrupting the interviewees in mid-sentence. Over and above that, he often neglects to bring the interviewee back to the point of interruption, thus losing key information. At times, he also tends to ask two questions at once, and then neglects to answer both. In some instances, he also neglects to ask follow-up questions, thus leaving the reader wondering about certain issues.
All-in-all, though, this is an informative and interesting book on a significant topic. For those teachers who are intent on ‘complicating’ the study of history for their students, this book is a must. It will avail students of the important point that not all countries or people reacted in the same way to the Holocaust; and that, in fact, various circumstances, perspectives and belief systems dictated how governments and individuals acted under varying conditions.
Samuel Totten – University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.