Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was called ‘Little Jerusalem’. This small Baltic country had been part of the Tsarist Russia, occupied by Germans, annexed to Poland and for 50 years ruled by the Soviets.
On the ninth of April 1940 around 5:30 a.m. the sound of airplanes flying over awakened me. I lived in Copenhagen close to the airport. I was used to hearing planes coming in from landing all the time. This sounded different. I rushed to the window, gaped at the sky. Hundreds of airplanes like a swarm of giant, gray birds were flying over the roofs on their way to the airport.
McBride, James. Miracle at St. Anna (Riverland Trade, 2003).
Following the huge critical and commercial success of his nonfiction memoir, The Color of Water, McBride offers a powerful and emotional novel of black American soldiers fighting the German army in the mountains of Italy around the village of St. Anna of Stazzema in December 1944. This is a refreshingly ambitious story of men facing the enemy in front and racial prejudice behind; it is also a carefully crafted tale of a mute Italian orphan boy who teaches the American soldiers, Italian villagers and partisans that miracles are the result of faith and trust. Toward the end of 1944, four black U.S. Army soldiers find themselves trapped behind enemy lines in the village as winter and the German army close in. Pvt. Sam Train, a huge, dim-witted, gentle soldier, cares for the traumatized orphan boy and carries a prized statue's head in a sack on his belt. Train and his three comrades are scared and uncertain what to do next, but an Italian partisan named Peppi involves the Americans in a ruthless ploy to uncover a traitor among the villagers. Someone has betrayed the villagers and local partisans to the Germans, resulting in an unspeakable reprisal. Revenge drives Peppi, but survival drives the Americans. The boy, meanwhile, knows the truth of the atrocity and the identity of the traitor, but he clings to Train for comfort and protection. Through his sharply drawn characters, McBride exposes racism, guilt, courage, revenge and forgiveness, with the soldiers confronting their own fear and rage in surprisingly personal ways at the decisive moment in their lives.
Miracle at St. Anna (2008), Director: Spike Lee, Running time: 160 minutes.
In the fall of 1944, four African-American soldiers find themselves caught behind enemy lines and surrounded by German soldiers. They take refuge in a small Italian village that has been temporarily vacated by the Germans. In their company in a small boy, obviously shell-shocked and feverish, who seems only to speak to his invisible friend Arturo. Tensions rise among the four men not only because of their life-threatening situation but also because two of them become rivals for the attention of an attractive young woman. When they manage to make contact with their unit, they are told to capture a German soldier for questioning and with the aid of the Italian partisans, have a candidate. What they don't realize is that there is a traitor in the partisan group, one that will have major repercussion on one of the men 40 years later. Written by garykmcd for IMDb.
Olsen, Jack. Silence on Monte Sole (I Books, 2002).
Monte Sole -- Mountain of the Sun -- had the bad luck to lie on the main route of withdrawal of the retreating German armies in the fall of 1944. As the Allied advance stormed up Italy to the very shadow of Monte Sole, Axis frustration over their retreat and the harassing Italian partisans reached its peak.
With full authorization of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, and with an infusion of dread SS reinforcements, the Germans determined to neutralize Monte Sole. The result was, in Kesselring's chilling words, "a war operation." In brilliant, page-turning prose, Olsen re-creates the unspeakable three-day butchery of innocent Italian civilians that ranked among the blackest atrocities in the history of man's inhumanity to man.
Jack Olsen served in the U.S. Army Air Force and the OSS. Olsen is the award-winning author of thirty-one books. A former Time bureau chief, Olsen has been described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as an 'American treasure'.
Almost Three Years: Leningrad Diary by Vera Inber was published after the “Siege,” in 1946. Throughout the siege, Inber was a familiar voice over Leningrad’s radio waves, providing poetry readings that recorded acts of courage, sparked motivation and spoke to the pride of being a Soviet. Although her writing might now be labeled propagandistic, there is no reason to believe that, at the time it was written, it was anything b