Annotated Bibliography

Partial Bibliography for A Thread of Grace

This is not an academic bibliography and includes only a small percentage of the books I consulted while writing. Nevertheless, I still feel a scholar’s duty to acknowledge my debt to a number of published sources.

For those interested in the issue of unforgivable sin, I recommend :

  • Simon Wiesenthal (1997) The Sunflower: On the possibilities and limits of forgiveness, Schoken Press, NY, with commentary from 53 theologians, philosophers, jurists, and victims of genocidal wars.

In addition to interviewing individuals listed in the Acknowledgment at the end of the book, I found inspiration in the following for important elements of the characters and events in A Thread of Grace.

  • Alexander Stille (1991) Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism, Summit Books, NY. The original impetus for A Thread of Grace; see especially The Rabbi, the Priest and the Aviator: a story of rescue in Genoa. Inspiration for the Soncini family, Renzo Leoni, and Don Osvaldo Tomitz.
  • Alfred Feldman (2001) One Step Ahead:A Jewish Fugitive in Hitler’s Europe, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. Details of the Jewish flight from occupied France to Italy on September 8, 1943; of Piemonte peasant life and of the welcome given to Jewish refugees. I also traveled to Piemonte and Liguria with Mr. Feldman in 1998, and he read an early draft of the story for me. Inspiration for the Blums’ story.
  • Harry Burger (1997) Biancastella: A Jewish Partisan in World War Two,University Press of Colorado, Niwat, Co. Memoir of a Jewish refugee who fled to Italy on September 8, 1943 and joined the Italian partisans. Inspiration for Duno Brossler.
  • Tullio Bruno Bertini (1998) Trapped in Tuscany: Liberated by the Buffalo Soldiers, Dante University Press, Boston. Extraordinarily detailed memoir of childhood in the Italian countryside during the war. Mr. Bertini also read an early draft of the novel for me. See below for Mr. Bertini’s translation of the Italian Race Laws of 1938.
  • Faye Schulman (1995) A Partisan’s Memoir: Woman of the Holocaust, Second Story Press, Toronto, Ontario. Details of partisan life in Poland; her experiences as a medic became inspiration for Duno’s.
  • Hermann Wygoda (1998) In the Shadow of the Swastika, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago. Wygoda’s story provided the inspiration for the character Jakub Landau and is the source of the assessment of female partisans as “the bravest of the brave.”
  • Roy F. Baumeister (1997) Evil: Inside Human Cruelty and Violence, WH Freeman, NY. The single best source I found for understanding perpetrators of evil; inspiration for Werner Schramm, and several other characters.
  • Robert N. Proctor (1988) Racial Hygiene: medicine under the Nazis, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. Details of German medical practice under Hitler; professional background for Schramm.
  • Robert N. Proctor (1999) The Nazi War on Cancer, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ. I didn’t make it up: they really did know that tobacco causes lung cancer.
  • Hugh Gregory Gallagher (1990) By Trust Betrayed: Patients, Physicians and the License to Kill in the Third Reich, Vandamere Press, Arlington VA. Tracks the development of Nazi T4 euthanasia program to the death camps; background for Schramm’s career.
  • Jonathan Kaplan (2001) The Dressing Station: a surgeon’s chronicle of war and medicine. Grove Press, NY. Technical background for Schramm’s skills.
  • Jack Olsen (1968) Silence on Monte Sole, Putnam, NY. Details of peasant life and inspiration for the destruction of San Mauro.
  • William Pickering (with Alan Hart) The Bandits of Cisterna, Leo Cooper, London. Details of partisan actions, and the inspiration for Simon Henley.
  • Eric Newby (1971) Love and War in the Apenines, Hodder and Stoughton, London. Details of peasant life, relationships between Italian peasants and downed RAF men.
  • Giovanni Pesce (1972) And No Quarter: an Italian Partisan in World War II. Ohio University Press translation. Memoir of urban and rural partisan warfare from the Communist perspective. I also interviewed Signor Pesce in 1999.
  • Edda Servi Machlin (1993) The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews I: Traditional Recipes and Menus, and a Memoir of a Vanished Way of Life, Giro Press, Croton on Hudson, NY. Many details of Italian Jewish family life, and the inspiration for Renzo’s first flight.
  • I interviewed her brother Gino Servi in 1999.
  • Iris Origo (1947) War in Val D’Orcia 1943-44: a diary. David R Godine, Boston. The Villa Malcovato and Mirella’s life there are based on this diary.
  • David Downie (1997) Enchanted Liguria, Rizzoli International Publications, NY. Descriptions of Ligurian life, food, architecture, etc.
  • Amery, Jean (1980, translation) At the Mind’s Limits: contemplation by a survivor of Auschwitz and its realities. Indiana University Press, Bloomington. The firsthand experience of torture; details used in the description of Don Osvald’s torture.
  • Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, Volker Riess (1988) The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by its Perpetrators and Bystanders. Konecky and Konecky, NY. Insight into Erhardt von Thadden and his officers.
  • Colin Heaton (2001) German Anti-Partisan Warfare in Europe 1939-1945, Schiffer Military History, Atglen PA. Details of co-opting native anti-communists to fight the Allies and their partisan supporters.
  • Gerald Reitlinger (1957) The SS: Alibi of a Nation. Viking Press, NY
  • Gordon Williamson (1995) SS: The Blood-Soaked Soil. Motorbooks International, Osceola Wisconsin
  • Nicola Caracciolo, ed. (1986) Uncertain Refuge: Italy and the Jews during the Holocaust, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago. Interviews with Italian rescuers and refugees. Inspiration for Bettina Lovera.
  • Ivor Herzer (1989) The Italian Refuge: rescue of Jews during the Holocaust, papers presented at the National Italian American Foundation Conference at Boston University Nov. 1986), Catholic University of America Press, Washington DC. Includes work by Italian and foreign Jews who were rescued by Italian Catholics, as well as political and historical details of the era.
  • Susan Zuccotti (1988) The Italians and the Holocaust : Persecution, Rescue and Survival. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE.
  • Susan Zuccotti (2000) Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy, Yale University Press, New Haven. Although I did not deal with the controversy about Pius XII during the war, this is a good study of the issue.
  • Meir Michaelis (1978) Mussolini and the Jews: German Italian Relations and the Jewish Question in Italy 1922-45. Detailed history.
  • Richard Lamb (1993) War in Italy, St. Martins Press, London.
  • John Strawson (1988) The Italian Campaign (1943-45), Carroll and Graf, NY.
  • Robert Katz (2003) The Battle for Rome: the Germans, the Allies, the Partisans and the Pope September 1943 – June 1944, Simon and Shuster, NY. Includes a lot about Carla Capponi, one of the partisans I interviewed in 1999.
  • Robert Waite (1993) Adolf Hitler: The Psychopathic God, Da Capo Press, NY. Source of details about the private life of Hitler.


Tullio Bertini has also translated the 1938 Race Laws from the original Italian. I include them here for anyone interested in the wording:

THE RACIAL LAWS OF 1938 (Fascist Italy)

Declaration on race

Translated by Tullio Bertini

The Declaration on Race was approved by the Grand Council of Fascism the 6th
 of October, 1938 and published on the “Foglio d’Ordine of the National Fascist
Party the 26th of October 1938.

The Grand Council of Fascism, following the conquest of the Empire, declares
the urgent timeliness of racial problems and the necessity of a racial conscience.
Remember that Fascism has evolved for 16 years and has developed a positive
activity, directed towards the quantity and quality of improvements that could
be compromised with political consequences from encounters and corruptions.
The Jewish problem is in aspect a problem of general character.

The Grand Council of Fascism declares or establishes:
a) the prohibition of marriages between Italians and Italians belonging to the
Semitic race and other non Arian races.
b) The prohibition for dependants of the State and public entities-personal and
military-to contract marriage with foreign women of any race.
c) The marriage of Italians and Italians with foreigners, also of Arian races, will
require approval of the Minister of Interior Affairs.
d) The regulations will be enforced against those that attempt to influence racial
 issues in the Empire.

Jews and Hebraism

The Grand Council of Fascism recalls that world wide Hebraism, especially after the
abolition of Masonry, was the instigator of anti-Fascism in all fields and that foreign
and Italian Hebraism was in the highest order in 1924-25 and during the Ethiopian
war was hostile towards Fascism. The immigration of foreign elements, increasingly
 accentuated from 1933 on, worsened the state of mind of Italian Jews in
conjunction with the Fascist regime. All the anti-Fascist forces are headed by
 Jewish elements.

Entrance in Italy prohibited and expulsion of foreign Jews      

The Grand Council of Fascism maintains that the laws regarding ingress in Italy,
of foreign Jews, could not be delayed, and the expulsion of the undesirable ones,
 according to the regulations, is indispensable. The Grand Council has decided
 that individual cases will be examined by a Commission from the Ministry of
 the Interior, and that will be applied to the expulsion regarding foreign Jews which:
a) are 65 or older
b) a valid mixed Italian marriage before the 1st of October, of the Fascist year XVI (1938)

Jews that are Italian citizens

The Grand Council of Fascism, regarding belonging to the Jewish race establishes the
a) He who is born from Jewish parents is a Jew.
b) He who is born from a Jewish father and a mother of a foreign nationality is a Jew.
c) He who is born from a mixed marriage and professes the Jewish religion is a Jew.
d) He, who is born from a mixed marriage, professes a different religion than Judaism,
is not considered a Jew, after the date of 1 October 1938.

Discrimination between Jews having Italian citizenship

There will not be any discrimination, except in the teachings in schools, regarding
 Jews that are Italian citizens, who belong to:
1) Families of men that perished in the previous four wars, in Libya, Ethiopia (Abyssinia),
 Spain and World War I.
2) Families of volunteers of war in Libya, Ethiopia, Spain and World War I.
3) Families of veterans of the wars that received medals of merit.
4) Families of men that died for the Fascist cause.
5) Families of disabled veterans, wounded in the fascist cause.
6) Families of Fascists enrolled in the Party in the years 1919, 1920,1921, 1922,
 and in the second semester of 1924.
7) Families having been recognized as being part of the Fascist events approved
by a commission.

Other Jews

Italian citizens of the Jewish race, not belonging to the above categories, waiting
for a new law regarding receiving an Italian citizenship, cannot:
a) Be enrolled in the Fascist Party
b) Be owners of businesses employing more that 100 people.
c) Be in possession of 100 hectares or more of property.
d) Serve in the military in peace or war.

In addition:
1) That the Jews dismissed from public employment retain the rights to the appropriate pension.
2) That any form of pressure on Jews, to obtain abjurations, be controlled.
3) The Hebrew community be allowed to practice their religion according to law.
4) That in addition to elementary schools, we allow Scuola Media
(Intermediate School) for Jews.

Immigration of Jews in Ethiopia

The Grand Council of Fascism does not exclude the possibility to concede, even
to switch the Jewish immigration from Palestine, a controlled immigration of
European Jews in some zones in Ethiopia.

Scholarships to study racism

The Grand Council of Fascism declared that the Ministry of Education has
established scholarships to study racism in the principal universities in Italy.

To the “black shirts” ( Camicie Nere)

The Grand Council of Fascism, while noting that the complexity of racial
problems has provoked an interest in the Italian population, announces
to the Fascists that the directive of the party must be considered as
undamental and binding for everyone and that the directives of the
Grand Council must inspire the laws that are prepared by the individual ministers.


Provisions for the defense of race in the fascist schools. Signed Vittorio
Emanuele III for the grace  of God and for the benefit of the nation,
Kng of Italy and Emperor of Ethiopia.

On the proposition of our Minister Secretary of State for national education
 in agreement with the Minister of Finances we have decreed the following:

Article 1: To the teachers in state schools of any order and grade and in the
 non-governmental schools, whose studies are recognized as legal studies,
 persons of the Jewish race cannot be admitted, even if they were previously
enrolled in programs. They also cannot be admitted to universities.

Article 2: To schools of an order or grade, in effect legal studies, Jews
cannot be enrolled.

Article 3: From the date of 16 October 1938 all the teachers of the Jewish
race employed by schools as explained in article 1, shall be suspended from
 service. Administrators, assistants, and supervisory people fall under
he category of dismissal. 

Article 4: Members of the Academies that are of the Jewish race, of the
institutes, science associations and academics will cease working in the
respective institutions starting on 16 October, 1938.

Article 5:Deviating from Article 2, in a temporary agreement Jewish students
already enrolled in programs in universities may continue their studies.

Article 6: Regarding the present decree, he who is born from parents that
are both Jewish will be considered  Jewish even if he professes another
eligion different from Hebrew.

Article 7: The present law, that will become effective on the date of
publication in the official newspaper of the nation shall be presented to parliament
for approval as a law. The minister of Education is responsible for the
presentation of the prospective law.

We order the following:

That the present decree, having a State Seal, be inserted in the laws of and
decrees of the nation of Italy, and that the laws will be enforced.

Distributed at San Rossore
5 settember 1938
Signed by:
Vittori Emanuele
Di Revel