On 16 October 1943, the German army tore 1,056 Jewish Italians from their homes, from their lives and loves, from their routine and familiar objects, and from their home city of Rome. The author of this book was not amongst them, because his father had prepared their flight. He was a Jewish boy of seven on the run and moving from house to house. He would never again see Rachel, the little girl who sat next to him at school. He was a "lucky" one, but as his story unfolds, it becomes clear just how harsh, lonely and terrifying that relative "luck" turned out to be. It took over sixty years for Renzo Modiano, a successful novelist, to write about this disturbing childhood experience. His school report issued in 1943, the twenty-first year of the short-lived "Fascist Era", contains the contemptible bureaucratic classification "of Jewish race" immediately after his name. The enormity of this crime is known to us, but the day-to-day horrors and fears of being on the run from absurd and arbitrary legislation and diktat and also the kindness and solidarity shown by exceptional individuals are perhaps less known.
Modiano's tale adds another dimension to Europe's most shameful moment, but it is also a call for us to remember and learn from history.