Memoirs, research add reality to Holocaust novel
By Bob Zyskowski

Catholic News Service (
A Thread of Grace, by Mary Doria Russell. Ballantine Books (New York, 2005). 426 pp., $14.95.

From The Diary of Anne Frank and Schindler’s List, the stories are well-known of people across Europe who saved Jews from the Holocaust.

With A Thread of Grace, Mary Doria Russell shines a long-missing spotlight on the people of northwestern Italy – including Catholic priests, nuns and laity – whose actions on behalf of Jews are deserving of heroic literary treatment.

While bullets flew and bombs fell, and facing threats from a brutal Nazi occupying force, Italian peasants and townspeople risked their lives to hide and protect their Jewish neighbors and thousands of Jews from other countries who fled the Germans during the Second World War.

Russell has turned the memoirs of Jewish survivors and historical research into a work of fiction that is a novel, to be sure. But A Thread of Grace bears the weight of integrity in telling the world how Italians hid, fed and saved Jews during a period of history when many others did not act so nobly.