World War II

Monte Cassino: The Hardest-Fought Battle of World War II

by Matthew Parker

Monte Cassino is the true story of one of the bitterest and bloodiest of the Allied struggles against the Nazi army. Long neglected by historians, the horrific conflict saw over 350,000 casualties, while the worst winter in Italian memory and official incompetence and backbiting only worsened the carnage and turmoil. Combining groundbreaking research in military archives with interviews with 400 survivors, as well as soldier diaries and letters, Monte Cassino is both profoundly evocative and historically definitive. Clearly and precisely, Matthew Parker brilliantly reconstructs Europe’s largest land battle–which saw the destruction of the ancient monastery of Monte Cassino–and dramatically conveys the heroism and misery of the human face of war.

When Rome Falls: A Novel of World War II

by A.R. Homer

John “Jay Mack” MacPherson, an American major, leads the hidden POW organization with his contact, the gentle Father Francesco, a priest in a church on Vatican soil. Jay shares a billet with former POWs Buck Nolan, a plain-spoken GI, and David Lawrence, a British RAF Flight Lieutenant, in the home of Maria, a lovely Roman with whom Jay falls in love. When Maria is arrested for harboring POWs, an offense punishable by death, Jay’s grief knows no bounds. The three move their billet to the art-filled villa of Adriana, a rich socialite with a lover in the German officer corps and a son and daughter in the Resistance. Vittoria, her daughter, is an expert bomb-maker who inadvertently dooms a fellow partisan, Renzo, a survivor of the roundup of the Roman Jews, to a fateful mistake the night before a bold attack on an SS police column. The raid goes awry and Rome’s Gestapo chief, Herbert Kappler, is called upon to carry out a gruesome reprisal on hundreds of innocent Romans. Nazis and fascists, partisans and POWs in hiding – all await the liberation of the city, some with fear, others with hope. And among them lurks a spy, poised to betray the entire POW network when the American army enters Rome. When Rome Falls blends historical facts with fictional characters to deliver a fast-paced tale of breathtaking intrigue and razor-sharp plot twists.

The Mirror of Diana

by A. R. Homer

The time is 1943, a time of war. The place is the hill-perched town of Nemi, in the Alban Hills south of Rome, overlooking the crater lake where, 2000 years before, the Roman emperor Caligula sailed his gigantic ships to the Temple of Diana. Just a few years before the war, the ancient ships, sunk after Caligula’s death, were miraculously recovered from the lake and placed in a lakeside museum. Paolo, the museum curator, now struggles to protect these treasures from Allied bombs and the depredations of the Germans in a world where the struggle for simple survival makes such efforts seem irrelevant. He watches with disquiet as the German occupation brings together Rosanna, his daughter, whose innocence is brutalized by the horrors of the war, and Klaus, a German officer whose high ideals and love for Rosanna cause him soul-wrenching conflicts of loyalty. Love? Or duty?

The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey From the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau

by Alex Kershaw

From the invasion of Italy to the gates of Dachau, no World War II infantry unit in Europe saw more action or endured worse than the one commanded by Felix Sparks. A maverick officer – and the only man to survive his company’s wartime odyssey from bitter beginning to victorious end – Sparks’ remarkable true story is told here for the very first time.

Film and the Shoah in France and Italy

by Giacomo Lichtner

Now available in paperback, this book is a uniquely comparative analysis of the role of cinema in the development of collective memories of the Shoah in France and Italy. The work follows a chronological structure of which three French documentaries – “Night and Fog,” “The Sorrow and The Pity,” and “Shoah” – form the backbone. These three sections are linked by comparative case studies on famous and lesser-known fictional works, such as Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful,” Louis Malle’s “Lacombe Lucien,” Armand Gatti’s “The Enclosure,” and Radu Mihaileanu’s “Train of Life.” The book tackles crucial themes, such as the politics of history and its representation, the 1970s obsession with collaboration, and the ethical debate around cinema’s ability to adequately represent the Shoah. The book fulfills three complementary purposes: to offer a detailed historical and textual analysis of key cinematic works on the Shoah; to firmly situate the popular and institutional reception of these works within the political and socio-cultural context of the time, so as to link cinema to society’s attitudes towards the Shoah; and to show how these attitudes have changed over time, in order to evince the role cinema has played in the transmission of history and memory.

History: A Novel

by Elsa Morante, William Weaver (translator)

History was written nearly 30 years after Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia spent a year in hiding among remote farming villages in the mountains south of Rome. There she witnessed the full impact of the war and first formed the ambition to write an account of what history – the great political events driven by men of power, wealth, and ambition – does when it reaches the realm of ordinary people struggling for life and bread. The central character in this powerful and unforgiving novel is Ida Mancuso, a schoolteacher whose husband has died and whose feckless teenage son treats the war as his playground. A German soldier on his way to North Africa rapes her, falls in love with her, and leaves her pregnant with a boy whose survival becomes Ida’s passion. Around these two other characters come and go, each caught up by the war which is like a river in flood. We catch glimpses of bombing raids, street crimes, a cattle car from which human cries emerge, an Italian soldier succumbing to frostbite on the Russian front, the dumb endurance of peasants who have lived their whole lives with nothing and now must get by with less than nothing.

The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Monuments Officers Who Saved Italy’s Art During World War II

by Ilaria Dagnini Brey

In 1943, with the world convulsed by war and a Fascist defeat in Europe far from certain, a few visionaries–civilians and soldiers alike–saw past questions of life and death to realize that victory wasn’t the only thing at stake. So was the priceless cultural heritage of thousands of years. In the midst of the conflict, the Allied Forces appointed the monuments officers–a motley group of art historians, curators, architects, and artists–to ensure that the great masterworks of European art and architecture were not looted or bombed into oblivion. The journalist Ilaria Dagnini Brey focuses her spellbinding account on the monuments officers of Italy, quickly dubbed “the Venus Fixers” by bemused troops. In the course of her research, Brey gained unprecedented access to private archives and primary sources, and the result is a book at once thorough and grandly entertaining–a revelatory take on a little-known chapter of World War II history. The Venus Fixers is an adventure story with the gorgeous tints of a Botticelli landscape as its backdrop.

The Jews in Fascist Italy: A History

by Renzo De Felice

An extremely detailed account and history of the Italian Jews during Italy’s 23-year history of fascism and involvement in World War II. Renzo De Felice was the most honored and respected Italian historian of the 20th century. This book reflects his final revisions on the subject. There is simply no other book like this.

Target: Italy: The Secret War Against Mussolini 1940-1943

by Roderick Bailey

Drawing on long-classified documents, Target: Italy is the official history of the war waged by Britain’s Special Operations Executive on Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. It is the first full account of SOE’s clandestine efforts to strike at Italy and sever its alliance with Nazi Germany, uncovering missions as remarkable as a plot to assassinate Mussolini and plans to arm the Mafia. It is also the first in-depth history of SOE’s attempts at causing trouble inside an enemy country as opposed to an enemy-occupied one, issuing a sobering reminder of the terrible dangers that foreign agencies can encounter when trying to encourage resistance to powerful authoritarian regimes. This is a compelling tale of desperate daring and sacrifice, climaxing in one of the most extraordinary episodes of the war: the delicate and dramatic dealings between the Allies and the Italians that led to Italy’s surrender in 1943.

Anzio: Italy and the Battle for Rome – 1944

by Lloyd Clark

The Allied attack of Normandy beach and its resultant bloodbath have been immortalized in film and literature, but the U.S. campaign on the beaches of Western Italy reigns as perhaps the deadliest battle of World War II’s western theater. In January 1944, about six months before D-Day, an Allied force of 36,000 soldiers launched one of the first attacks on continental Europe at Anzio, a small coastal city 30 miles south of Rome. The assault was conceived as the first step toward an eventual siege of the Italian capital. But the advance stalled and Anzio beach became a death trap. After five months of brutal fighting and monumental casualties on both sides, the Allies finally cracked the German line and marched into Rome on June 5, one day before D-Day. Richly detailed and fueled by extensive archival research of newspapers, letters, and diaries—as well as scores of original interviews with surviving soldiers on both sides of the trenches—Anzio is a harrowing and incisive true story by one of today’s finest military historians.