Cover image for A castle in wartime : one family, their missing sons, and the fight to defeat the Nazis
Title:
A castle in wartime : one family, their missing sons, and the fight to defeat the Nazis
Uniform Title:
Lost boys: a family ripped apart by war
ISBN:
9780525559290
Physical Description:
ix, 461 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates ; 24 cm.
Summary:
An enthralling story of one family's extraordinary courage and resistance amidst the horrors of war from the New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Rooms. As war swept across Europe in 1940, the idyllic life of Fey von Hassell seemed a world away from the conflict. The daughter of Ulrich von Hassell, Hitler's Ambassador to Italy, her marriage to Italian aristocrat Detalmo Pirzio-Biroli brought with it a castle and an estate in the north of Italy. Beautiful and privileged, Fey and her two young sons lead a tranquil life undisturbed by the trauma and privations of war. But with Fascism approaching its zenith, Fey's peaceful existence is threatened when Ulrich and Detalmo take the brave and difficult decision to resist the Nazis. When German soldiers pour over the Italian border, Fey is suddenly marooned in the Nazi-occupied north and unable to communicate with her husband, who has joined the underground anti-Fascist movement in Rome. Before long, SS soldiers have taken up occupancy in the castle. As Fey struggles to maintain an air of warm welcome to her unwanted guests, the clandestine activities of both her father and husband become increasingly brazen and openly rebellious. Darkness descends when Ulrich's foiled plot to kill the Fuhrer brings the Gestapo to Fey's doorstep. It would be months before Detalmo learns that his wife had been arrested and his two young boys seized by the SS. --
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Summary

Summary

"I was gripped by A Castle in Wartime --it contained more tension, more plot in fact--than any thriller."--Kate Atkinson, author of Big Sky and Case Histories

An enthralling story of one family's extraordinary courage and resistance amidst the horrors of war from the New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Rooms .

As war swept across Europe in 1940, the idyllic life of Fey von Hassell seemed a world away from the conflict. The daughter of Ulrich von Hassell, Hitler's Ambassador to Italy, her marriage to Italian aristocrat Detalmo Pirzio-Biroli brought with it a castle and an estate in the north of Italy. Beautiful and privileged, Fey and her two young sons lead a tranquil life undisturbed by the trauma and privations of war. But with Fascism approaching its zenith, Fey's peaceful existence is threatened when Ulrich and Detalmo take the brave and difficult decision to resist the Nazis.

When German soldiers pour over the Italian border, Fey is suddenly marooned in the Nazi-occupied north and unable to communicate with her husband, who has joined the underground anti-Fascist movement in Rome. Before long, SS soldiers have taken up occupancy in the castle. As Fey struggles to maintain an air of warm welcome to her unwanted guests, the clandestine activities of both her father and husband become increasingly brazen and openly rebellious. Darkness descends when Ulrich's foiled plot to kill the Fuhrer brings the Gestapo to Fey's doorstep. It would be months before Detalmo learns that his wife had been arrested and his two young boys seized by the SS.

Suffused with Catherine Bailey's signature atmospheric prose, A Castle in Wartime tells the unforgettable story of the extraordinary bravery and fortitude of one family who collectively and individually sacrificed everything to resist the Nazis from within. Bailey's unprecedented access to stunning first-hand family accounts, along with records from concentration camps and surviving SS files, make this a dazzling and compulsively readable book, opening a view on the cost and consequences of resistance.


Author Notes

Catherine Bailey is an award-winning television producer and director, making a range of critically acclaimed documentary films inspired by her interest in twentieth century history. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Secret Rooms and Black Diamonds . She lives in West London.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Drawing from interviews and primary sources, documentarian Bailey (The Secret Rooms) tells the true WWII tale of aristocrat Fey Pirzio-Biroli in this exciting history. Pirzio-Biroli and her husband, Detalmo, an Italian anti-Fascist, had lived a quiet life at Brazza, their lavish estate north of Venice. In 1944, Pirzio-Biroli was arrested by the Nazis and separated from her children after her father, the former German ambassador to Italy, was executed for taking part in plans to assassinate Hitler. After placing Pirzio-Biroli's sons in an orphanage, her Nazi captors sent her and fellow "prisoners of kin," so called for their blood ties to the assassination conspirators, on a grueling months-long journey around German-occupied central Europe. Along the way, they were held in prisons and concentration camps. Their living conditions weren't as horrific as those of Jews and other Nazi scapegoats, and their lives were spared--only because Heinrich Himmler, the head of the German SS, hoped to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations with the Allies. While Pirzio-Biroli and her husband were reunited soon after the war's end, it was a longer and more arduous project to track down their children. This historical page-turner gives a gripping view of the conflict's consequences for one upper-crust family. (Oct.)


Kirkus Review

An uplifting, exciting story of the extraordinary actions of one family during World War II.Bailey (Black Diamond: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years That Changed England, 2014, etc.) tells the story of Fey von Hassell (1918-2010), who, at age 12, moved to a villa in Italy, where her father, Ulrich, was Germany's ambassador. Though appointed by the Weimar government, Ulrich never trusted Hitler and worked with German resistance leaders. The Nazis distrusted him, as well, posting spies throughout the household. After marriage to Detalmo Pirzio-Biroli, an aristocrat from one of Italy's oldest families, Fey lived at Brazz, the family estate in northern Italy. She remained there, maintaining the estate while her husband escaped the Italian army and ended up in Rome, working for the Americans. In July 1944, the attempt on Hitler's life caused the Fhrer to release his vengeance on anyone even slightly connected to the plot. This included Ulrich, who was tried and executed. Then the SS rounded up their family members, wives, parents, and other relatives. Fey and her two young sons were taken to Innsbruck, where the SS seized the boys and sent them to one of the Nazis' orphanages. The propulsive narrative traces Fey's frightening transfers from grand hotels to infamous camps such as Buchenwald and Dachau. The other prisoners became her family, and she was told nothing of her children, worrying that she would never see them again. These high-profile hostages, including royalty and former government leaders, were kept alive and well fed as Heinrich Himmler's insurance policy against his war crimes. Until the end of the war, they were under imminent threat of execution. Throughout their time as prisoners, they wroteheavily censoredletters, and many kept journals. Bailey's access to those journals and SS records attests to the historical accuracy of this tale, and she relates the entire suspenseful story like a novel.Right to the nail-biting end, this book captures your attention in alternating dread, fear, and hope. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Life on a spectacular estate nestled between the Alps and Venice seems idyllic. And so it was for Fey von Hassell, until the coming of WWII. Her father, Ulrich, was Germany's ambassador to Italy, but, like many German aristocrats, he heartily disapproved of Hitler. Von Hassell married a titled Italian, Detalmo Pirzio-Biroli, antipathetic to the fascist regime of Mussolini. All this put von Hassell and her two young sons in mortal danger as the Allies invaded Europe. Her father was hanged for his connection to the unsuccessful bomb attack on the führer, and her husband joined the Italian Resistance in Rome. She herself was arrested, and her sons were sent to a Tyrolean orphanage. Bailey's deep research and her amazing craft at reproducing in vivid detail the stories of von Hassell and the people she encounters as she is first imprisoned and then shipped through the Nazi concentration-camp system make for chilling prose. Maps and photographs help organize this terrifying story of the costs of political resistance.--Mark Knoblauch Copyright 2010 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Using private family archives, oral histories, and primary sources in a multitude of languages, historian Bailey (The Secret Rooms) adroitly brings together the chaos, pathos, and unpredictability of life within the increasingly panicked and fanatical Nazi terror machine. This book encompasses the shared experience of many upper-class Sippenhäftlinge, whose family members were deemed the worst traitors and enemies of the state by Hitler, and whose fates lay in the hands of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, who had his own secret agenda. As with Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts, Bailey allows the primary sources to blend almost seamlessly into the story while her writing elevates the voice of German author Fey von Hassell's recitation of her harrowing ordeal. Bailey's exhaustively researched work addresses von Hassell's journey from every angle while also addressing the actions, motives, and perceptions of those she encounters across both fronts of the war and in Italy. VERDICT An incredibly sweeping and readable tale, this excellent history is for readers interested in World War II and personal narratives.--Elan Marae Birkeland, Arizona Western Coll., Yuma