Monday, January 30, 2012

Front Page of i-Italy January 30, 2012


From the correspondence with Dr. Cappelli of the Calandra Institute prior to publication:

Due to constraints of space, which I exceeded by 10 words, I was unable to quote supporting sources, but they can be found in the Holocaust Encyclopedia of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Wiesenthal Center, and Renzo de Felice's The Jews in Fascist Italy: A History, among many other scientific documents.

I am aware of the recent trend by some in academia, most of them part of the post-WWII generation, to interpret racial laws in Italy as more native than previously established. However, I must point out that most of these studies take their conclusions from subjective interpretations of official documents. I speak of factual survivals as an objective result of the sheltering which so many Italians provided to fleeing foreign Jews. It is a historical fact that Italians as a people hated the Germans; if they were saving Jews for that reason alone, it would not diminish the magnitude of the results.

I too have read every word Primo Levi wrote about his experiences, as well as words of lesser know Italians, such as a late friend of mine, Sergio Sarri, a non-Jew imprisoned in Germany, who wrote Bits of String about his capture as an Italian Partisan from Torino. I have had long discussions by email, letter and telephone with Ms. Indrimi
[of the Primo Levi Institute in NY], before I gave up on trying to convince her that survival of any number of Jews is also a part of the story of the Holocaust. Every country seems proud that some of its citizens behaved admirably; why would Italy be different?

But  .... I refrained from .making my case ad hominem. All that the few of us remaining survivors are asking is that we not be denied now, as we surely will be denied once we all die away and make the point mute. It is my hope that the "reverse-denial" as I call it will not work in the end.

Once again, thank you for letting me set the record straight.

When I recently found on your digital pages a veiled attempt to deny the significance of the fact that many Italians helped foreign Jews survive the Holocaust, I asked to be given an opportunity for an opposing view. I thank you for allowing me to do express it.

 As an active Yugoslav Jewish antifascist in 1930s, I was too young to be accepted as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, but I got my chance to take action against Italian fascism in Split in 1941. There, I have earned my credentials against Mussolini and the black shirts on the streets of occupied Split in 1941. I have lived the whole of my 90 years opposing dictatorships and genocides, and what I have to say must be taken in that context.

I escaped my hometown from the Nazis because I was a Jew and my life was in danger. Had I stayed, I would have ended like more than 90% of Yugoslav Jews who perished for no other reason but for being Jewish. In Italian occupied Dalmatia, to where I fled, I was the enemy not for being a Jew but for being antifascist, a member of the underground. That was a fundamental distinction, which became even clearer in retrospect than it was at the time.

Territories occupied by fascist Italy were known to Jews from Salonica to Marseilles, everywhere in Europe, as the lesser evil; those Yugoslavs who did not perish in the Holocaust survived only because they escaped into Italian-held areas of Dalmatia and Montenegro.

 Uprooted and barely 19 at the time, I was taken as a civilian prisoner of war to an Italian hamlet in which the natives may have been circumspect about the foreigners, but not because we were Jewish. The churchgoing greengrocer’s wife asked us “sono veramente Ebrei”?, perhaps surprised that we didn’t look as sinister as the antisemitic propaganda was painting the Christ killers. She was the one who always gave us more than the prescribed rations of milk and bread “per gli bambini.”

I did not hate the fascists less because of that happenstance. But the Italians in Asolo did not behave as  one would have expected of members of a fascist nation.

When Mussolini fell in 1943 and we dispersed in various directions but all towards Rome, we were spared the fate of Italian Jews whose addresses were known to the new rulers - the Nazis and their Italian collaborators.  The refugees from Asolo, escaping with false documents given us personally by the highest government representative in the city, the Podesta, were not alone. Surviving with us were thousands of other foreign Jews from all over Italy, often thanks to active help from ordinary Italians.

This doesn’t by any means exonerate fascist Italy from being a participant in a bestial alliance with Hitler.

My political memoir, Requiem for a Country, juxtaposes our survival and the cruel fate suffered by Italian Jews deported in cattle cars from Milan, or burned in a crematorium in Trieste. The fleeing Jews were invisible to the authorities and that may have been the only reason they survived, but all along their route to salvation they found Italians who helped them hide, get food, move from one hideout to another.

I am to this day critical of the policies of Pius XII as being at best wishy-washy towards Hitler, but that doesn’t stop me from reporting that many a refugee, including myself, got assistance from at least some clergy in the Vatican. Was their number statistically significant? I don’t know. But I know the saying about the statistically tested parachute; I prefer that I had a good one at my side even if “scientifically” some may called it anecdotal. To the thousands of foreign Jewish survivors in Italy, escaping alive is a statistic, not an anecdote.

There are a diminishing number of us who still bear witness that in the barbaric times of WWII many Italians behaved better than most Europeans with the exception of the Danes. In my own country, we witnessed cruelties against Jews which made even the supervising SS cringe.

The modest joy at finding survivors in that corner of Europe only amplified the horror of the death of millions of others , including Italians, who perished in the Holocaust simply for being Jewish.

Honoring the good Italians does not dishonor the memory of the eight thousand murdered Italian Jews. It serves the historic truth.

Friday, January 13, 2012


It is interesting that the Digital Book World Conference & Expo (January 23-25, 2012) has on its agenda a forum named “Changing Author Publisher Relationship” with six speakers representing big name publishers, but no authors.
I have tried to draw this obvious deficiency to the conference organizers, but the only addresses one can reach are for registration. I have paid $25 for the exhibit day, but I do not have the hundreds of dollars I would need to attend (Individual Full Conference - $1,495.00).
So let me give a piece of my mind to the conference here on our website:
My take is that the publishers are feeling the competiton coming from people to whom they have been giving short shrift: the self published authors. We are already circumventing the barriers publisherdom has been setting in front of independent authors by uploading our stuff ourselves onto Kindle, Nook and other media, and printing our books as our own publishers. We pay the costs connected with making our works public, we promote ourselves at our own expense, and we wear out our own shoes peddling our books to bookstores and libraries.
No wonder there is writing on mainstream publishers’ walls.
If they want to prevent the approaching collective bankruptcy of their industry, they had better start talking to their bread and butter, which includes us, the “self-publishers,” aka independent authors,
Our organization is ready to start exploratory talks, and you, our members, can help by rounding up many more to give us clout as strong in numbers as it is in the principles we espouse.

I have published this blog also on the website -- the home of self-published and independent authors and their supporters. Join them
Digital Book World C

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


It is time for independent writers to change the vocabulary of publishing.
The truth is that everyone who writes and self-publishes is also publisher of her and his own works: All others provide the services that we need to see our books in print and in digital form.

An independent writer is his or her own publisher even though he or she gets books to market through services calling themselves "publishers."  CreateSpace, LuLu (and many of the unfortunately less ethical businesses) provide editorial, formatting, printing and/or uploading.SERVICES for which they get PAID.  They have or hire the presses which print our works for distribution on demand.  Their PR efforts on our behalf, if we choose to use them, are essentially mass mailings to lists of addresses, another service for which we pay.
That is not publishing.
When an author isn't under contract with someone else, isnʼt paid for his or her manuscript and isnʼt promoted by a publisher, THE AUTHOR IS THE PUBLISHER.  My latest book reflects that fact by carrying my own imprint: Editions JML HIBOU (French for owl, as in wise, a joke I am entitled to at my age).

I chose my own editor (a great one - I was lucky to find her), who also formatted the book for printing and uploading to various e-formats including Kindle and Nook. Had I used the editorial services of one of these firms, it would not mean that they are my publishers.

The cover was my design executed by a local artist. If I paid one of the services for it, that would not warrant calling them my publisher.

I am by necessity both the publicist and the marketer of my books until someone else buys them from me and makes a contract with me on their printing and distribution.

When I started writing Requiem for a Country, I had secured my own ISBN number, only to find that each printing press I chose insisted on issuing their own, thus curtailing my own freedom on the market. I paid LuLu to be listed (in their own sweet time) by Ingram, which will supposedly get me into the Books in Print. But this will not  get my book into the bookstores: I will have to buy and provide quantities and guarantee, at my own expense, their return if not sold.

If I have to do that, I am not only the author but the publisher, a businessman and a gambler. Try getting a bank to underwrite that!
Let me throw in a wild thought: should we gang together, could we use indiePENdents to negotiate with POD presses and dictate the terms of publishing? Probably unlikely, because our organization would have to become a kind of business that we have no inclination to be. As individuals in this group of independents, we should, however, collectively pursue imagining ways to promote our cause.

We should not be inhibited by having silly dreams: Bring on your ideas and I am sure some of them will become THE SOLUTION.

This blog appeared first on the website.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Italian Goodness co-existed with Italian Tragedy because the fascist rule did not succeed in snuffing out the Italian soul. That is why so many individual Italians share the honors among the righteous listed in Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, located in Jerusalem, Israel. And this is why I am proposing the establishment of foundation which -- as part and parcel of the homage to those who perished at the hands of the fascists -- will make sure that the collective example of the good people of Italy during WWII becomes known and not forgotten. 
I would like to live and see such a non-profit foundation pay homage to and promote the truth of the humanity the Italian people showed to Jews during World War II. While the fascist government in Rome was an ally of Nazi Germany, and as such introduced racial laws imitating Hitler's, the people of Italy by and 149 
large resisted racism. While millions perished in Europe, thousands of Jews who survived the Holocaust owe their lives to the fact that the majority of Italians never lost their human soul to the hatreds of the time. On the contrary, ordinary people of Italy — and even some of their lower rank clergy — played pivotal role in helping, hiding and protecting Jews against the Nazis and Mussolini‘s Salò Republic. The number of those deported would have been more tragic but for the active resistance of Italians to the raids and deportations. 
In the absence of general knowledge about this truth, and indeed against an unexpected resistance to it, it is my wish that the foundation should provide a balance by publicizing testimonies of survivors, spread documents on the righteousness of Italians in the face of grave danger to themselves, and promote the knowledge about the humane role of the Italians -- in the media, on campuses, in schools and universities, as well as in Holocaust Museums worldwide. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bosnia on my mind
. . . it never could be the same again, this shattered marble mosaic, now missing so many of its colorful Jewish chips. Out of 75,000 Yugoslav Jews, fewer than 5,000 found their way home, less than 1,000 to Sarajevo—a skeletal remnant of a once whole native people. I realize now, fifty years later, it was too late to return to the old coexistence, to dream of brotherhood, with an integral part of the community already wiped out. But for a time we continued to dream of co-existence, purposefully oblivious to the face of reality.
The gruesome slaughter of Sarajevo Jews had mostly been carried out by locals. In concentration camps in Croatia, for example in Jasenovac, the native koljači (throat-cutters) went about the killing in such a barbaric way that it shocked even the Germans. So many bodies were thrown into the Sava river that the downstream current ran red with blood all the way to Belgrade. 
Also there in search of the old hometown was my cousin Izzi, the nemesis of my youth, whom I’d last seen at the liberation of Rome on June 14th, 1944, as we welcomed the triumphant army of General Mark Clark. He was now a man of responsibility, father to Daniela, whom Flora had delivered just days before a most difficult exodus from Asolo to Rome. Our world was now at peace as Izzi and I walked these streets again, slowly taking in the familiar sights.  
I noticed a couple of field wagons, each pulled by two big Bavarian draft horses, the kind used to transport heavy loads of beer barrels. But they weren’t loaded with beer barrels.  They were piled high with some very familiar furniture.
“Hey,” I told Izzi, “that’s our stuff there!”
Our family’s furniture was easy to recognize, as it was all hand made to order. The kilim-covered divans from our Turkish Room; my parents’ pale beige-green bird’s-eye maple bedroom furniture; Art Nouveau, matte finish, black wood upholstered round armchairs. The shining grand piano had to be ours as well. I stopped the caravan, left Izzi to stand guard, and headed for the nearby police station. We confiscated the contraband, but I refused to press charges. I didn’t know these people, and I didn’t want to know who was behind all this wartime robbery. I set it aside, blocked it out, did my best to forget about it. 
I was twenty-four, ready to start life in the society of my dreams.
(From The Last Exile)