BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times July 19-25, 2006
by Philip K. Jason
Carl Steinhouse, who has lived in Naples with his wife Diana for nine years, is a man on a mission. Some years ago, this former federal prosecutor who had served in the U. S. Army Counterintelligence Corps embarked on a series of “living histories” about Holocaust heroes. When I asked him about his commitment to this project, he responded as follows:
“I had many relatives in Minsk (none of whom I knew) both from my father’s and mother’s side, who were exterminated by the Nazis. . . . Also, when I was in my early teens, my parents had a housekeeper who escaped from Germany in ’38 and I was there in 1945 when she found out her parents and brother had been gassed at Auschwitz – that made a tremendous impression on my young mind, so much so that reading about the Holocaust was, for many years, too painful for me. I felt I didn’t need any further reminders. But on a vacation to Budapest in 1994, I had the opportunity to interview two dozen survivors saved by Raoul Wallenberg. The stories were fantastic and the writer in me surfaced and I frantically took notes. (I had written two legal thrillers after I retired as a trial attorney – they went nowhere.) On my return, I used my lawyer skills to research this Wallenberg and discovered a story more exciting than fiction. That started my conversion from avoidance of the literature on the Holocaust to full immersion into discovering and publicizing through creative non-fiction the exploits of these Righteous Gentiles who risked all to save Jews. These people and the Holocaust should never be forgotten, and I took this on as my mission to assure it would not happen.”
Steinhouse’s first book, Wallenburg Is Here, builds to the collision between Wallenberg and Eichmann. SS Colonel Adolph Eichmann was charged with exterminating the last remaining community of European Jews – those in Budapest, Hungary. Eichmann planned their transport to death camps and ordered mass murders in the streets. Raoul Wallenberg, under cover of being a diplomat in the neutral Swedish Legation but in fact working with the American War Refugee Board, was determined to end the Nazi slaughter of these people. A child of privilege whose family had built a business empire, Wallenburg risked everything for this goal, though the mission had little chance of success. Steinhouse brings the facts alive through his own passion and story-telling skill.
Righteous and Courageous tells a less well known but equally thrilling story – that of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul posted in Lithuania who risked his life to save thousands of Jews from certain death. When Sugihara learned that German forces had reached the Lithuanian border, he realized that as soon as they entered, tens of thousand of Polish Jews who had fled to Lithuania would be exterminated. Frantically, the threatened Jews attempted escape, but no consulates would issue visas to them. Against his government’s orders, Sugihara worked tirelessly to issue thousands of visas, and he also arranged for these escapees to cross safely through Russian to Japan.
Improbable Heroes dramatically reveals how 85% of Italy’s Jews were saved. Under the crush of German power and Mussolini’s cruel complicity, Italian and non-Italian Jewish families were targeted by the SS for extermination. Steinhouse vividly portrays how “ordinary” Italians saved Jews from annihilation. They concealed Jewish identities behind forged documents, while Catholic clergy hid Jews, dressed as priests and nuns, in convents, churches, abbeys, and even the Vatican. Monks from Assisi escorted rabbis and other Jews disguised as Catholic religious pilgrims through the German lines to safety. The author considers this book his favorite “child” in part because of the great challenge of the research involved and in part because it is the latest in the series.
Keep up with Carl Steinhouse, and learn how to order his books, by visiting his website: carlsteinhouse.com.
Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at email@example.com.