Improbable Heroes: The True Story of How Clergy and Ordinary Citizens Risked Their Lives to Save Jews In Italy

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AuthorHouse, Nov 7, 2005 - Fiction - 384 pages
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Improbable Heroes is the true story of how Jews were saved by extraordinary acts of bravery by ordinary Italians and the clergy.

        The vain and often delusional Mussolini sought to ingratiate himself with Hitler by adopting Germany’s anti-Semitic programs and laws.  Following the Italian leader’s overthrow and a German takeover of Italy, some Jewish leaders worked feverishly with the Catholic clergy and partisans to hide, disguise and spirit Jews out of the harm’s way.  Catholic and Jewish artisans counterfeited false papers, baptismal certificates and ration cards; Jews were dressed as priests and nuns and hidden in convents, churches and abbeys—some even in the Vatican. 

        The Germans, harassed by Christian and Jewish partisans, and furious at being unable to round up significant numbers of Jews, committed unspeakable atrocities against Italian citizens and clergy.  Improbable Heroes traces the terrifying experiences of Jewish families, Italian and non-Italian, who dodged the Gestapo, traveled under false papers and disguise, and were hidden by brave priests, nuns and citizens, some right under the noses of the SS.  Others were escorted as “pilgrims”—Jews dressed as priests—through German lines to safety by the gentle monks of St. Francis of Assisi.

Improbable Heroes also explores how the plans of Pope Pius XI to condemn the Nazi persecution of the Jews were derailed by his untimely death and the ambivalence of his successor, Pope Pius XII, to condemn the Germans, but balanced by the aggressive efforts of some cardinals and bishops, when they ordered, sometimes in the pope’s name, Catholic clergy to assist Jews, and Catholic churches and convents to hide them.

As a result of acts of improbable heroes, over 85% of the Jews in Italy survived, a rate unmatched in any other German-occupied European country.  This is their proud story.

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About the author (2005)

Carl Steinhouse had been a federal prosecutor for the United States Department of Justice and then entered into private practice specializing in class actions, white-collar crime, and antitrust investigations and trials.  He served in the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps, with a tour of duty overseas during the Korean War.

Mr. Steinhouse wrote and edited books on grand jury practice, criminal trial practice, criminal jury instructions and model criminal jury instructions for the American Bar Association.  He was a frequent lecturer and participant in the ABA National Institutes. 

At the time of the crisis for Soviet Jewry, he was active on an international level for the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, making several trips to Jerusalem and Helsinki on fact-finding missions and to the Soviet Union, aiding Refusniks (those Jews the Soviets refused to let emigrate).  A former member of board of the Cleveland Anti-Defamation League and ADL’s National Legal Affairs and National Fact Finding Committees, he remains active in ADL matters, including monitoring activities of hate groups.

Mr. Steinhouse, who had family in German-occupied territory during World War II, and had been personally affected by the Holocaust, became interested in research on the rescuers of Jews after a visit to Budapest where he spoke with survivors of the Holocaust who related stories of how they were saved by the brave righteous Gentiles in adventures rivaling those in the imagination of any fiction writer.  This resulted in his first two published books, Wallenberg is Here! and Righteous and Courageous that received rave reviews from Holocaust scholars and authors.  Steinhouse used his considerable research skills, honed by thirty-five years in law enforcement and litigation practice, to marshal the facts surrounding improbable saviors of Jews.

The author is happily married and lives in Naples, Florida, where he does his writing.


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