What if Hitler had won?
Had Heir Hitler not been a megalomaniac who made arrogantly stupid strategic mistakes, he might well have won World War II in the early 1940’s. I don’t know what the outcome would have been for New Zealanders but I’m pretty sure my life would have ended in my mid-teens. I felt no personal fear of that outcome at the time but once Hitler’s Final Solution for European Jews became known, in all its incredible horror, it became quite clear that the Jewish people of the British Isles would have suffered the same fate as all those in Continental Europe.
These thoughts returned as I read “A thread of grace” by Mary Doria Russell whose later fictional tale of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, I have reviewed also. ‘A thread of grace’ is a fictional tale based on the little known fact that many thousands of Jewish refugees managed to struggle up and over the Maritime Alps which run between Southern France and Northern Italy in order to escape the Nazi killers. Once in Italy they found that despite the recent capitulation of the Italian Government and the death of Benito Mussolini, the German armies had taken control and they were fighting furiously to hold back the British and American forces which now had a foothold on the heel of Italy.
This is the story of the people involved in the struggle to survive, the fight to beat the Germans and the cat and mouse game of hiding the Jewish families throughout the Italian countryside. Amidst a desperate situation the courage of good people gives hope to those on the run. Mary Doria Russell spent several years researching this little known aspect of the war and she has produced a work of drama, warmth , humility and insight.
It is deserving of a wide readership. There have been a flood of novels about various aspects of World War II since 1945 but this one is well worth reading as it highlights the sacrificial ability of ordinary farming people who saved the lives of so many while the allies fought even more sacrificially to rid the world of fascism and the madness that was Hitler.