Literary Las Vegas: Ben Wood

May 7, 2012 — Print this Page


“Defying Evil: How the Italian Army Saved Croatian Jews During the Holocaust.”

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”Defying Evil: How the Italian Army Saved Croatian Jews During the Holocaust.”

It’s estimated that approximately 3,500 Jewish men, women and children owe their lives to Italian government officials who refused to surrender Jews fleeing into Italian areas of occupation during World War II. In “Defying Evil: How the Italian Army Saved Croatian Jews During the Holocaust,” high school history teacher Ben Wood outlines the bureaucratic strategies used to thwart the operations of the Nazi-occupied Croatian government.

Wood isn’t about to tell anyone that Benito Mussolini was a nice guy. In his introduction, he explains that “the fact that Italian soldiers and statesmen saved Jews in Croatia does not of course absolve Italy of the atrocities it committed against civilians prior to and during the Second World War. “

But he goes on to write that “the courage and compassion the Italians displayed in challenging Nazi authority and standing up for a powerless minority provide a true bright spot in a very dark chapter in history.”

Wood studied political science and international and comparative politics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and went on to earn a graduate degree from the London School of Economics. The Las Vegas author is scheduled to sign copies of his book at 1 p.m. Saturday at the 2191 N. Rainbow Blvd. Barnes & Noble.

Excerpt from Defying Evil: How the Italian Army Saved Croatian Jews During the Holocaust
As the internments began, Jews were confused as to what exactly was happening. Reactions ranged from surprise to outright panic. Sadly, there were even a few cases of suicide. Hearing rumors about what was taking place in other parts of Europe, the internees feared they would be handed over to the Germans. They knew nothing about the diplomatic maneuvers that were taking place behind the scenes. One Jewish internee, Imre Rochlitz, remembered the Jews being taken by Italian soldiers and placed onto trucks to be driven to an unknown destination. Everyone knew there was a fork in the road: to the right led inland, toward Croatian controlled territory, while to the left the road continued toward the Dalmatian coast. For hours the tension continued to build until it became almost unbearable. Finally a palpable sigh of relief was heard as the convoy veered to the left.


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