Père Marie-Benoît and Jewish Rescue: How a French Priest Together with Jewish Friends Saved Thousands During the Holocaust

Susan Zuccotti, Author
Susan Zuccotti. Indiana Univ, $35 (264p) ISBN 978-0-253-00853-4
Reviewed on: 02/04/2013
Release date: 04/17/2013
Open Ebook - 296 pages - 978-0-253-00866-4
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-61050-7
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Who better to rescue from obscurity an Oskar Schindler–like hero than historian Zuccotti (The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews)? She has written extensively on the experience of French and Italian Jews in the Holocaust, but it’s more than her impressive credentials and knowledge base that makes this biography an intellectual page-turner accessible to a general audience. This account of the life of Capuchin priest Père Marie-Benoît and his successful efforts to save thousands of Jews offers the perfect amount of detail and context. Zuccotti’s approach begins before Marie-Benoît’s birth in 1895, with a review of the geography and history of the region in France where he was born. She then moves on to profile the courageous priest in the trenches of the First World War, where he served as a stretcher-bearer, and afterward during his high-level religious studies in Rome after the war. When Italy declared war on his homeland in 1940, Marie-Benoît returned to a divided France, where he witnessed the persecution and deportation of Jews. Zuccotti naturally asks why her protagonist, under pressure to go along with the anti-Judaism of the Catholic Church, bucked the trend, but in the absence of an explanation from him, does not dwell on speculation. Relying on archival sources and her own interviews with Marie-Benoît and those he helped to save, Zuccotti’s portrait of the “Father of the Jews” is as historically important as it is entertaining. Photos. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt, Inc. (Apr.)
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