Many readers have asked why I wrote this book about my mother. Her incredible depth of courage and strength growing up during World War Two and the Holocaust inspired me to share her harrowing story. Yet, despite the tragedies thrust upon her as a child, the horrors of war never dampened her belief the power of love would heal her family from layers of loss and despair. With Lilia, I wanted to create a legacy for my family and give a voice to the voiceless. By writing their lives forward, we remember them and feel their spirit.
This book is not only a story of a young girl coming of age during Mussolini’s reign and the Nazi occupation when the world feared its future. This book provides a window into a period in history many are unfamiliar with—the genocide suffered by innocent northern Italian people. Like many stories of families enduring senseless suffering at the hands of war, this one is unique and needs to be told.
My mother’s eldest brother, Arturo, was killed in a German concentration camp, as were many of her friends and relatives in her northern Italian village. I feel people will be interested in learning about this part of our history, and I hope this story keeps the realness and tragedy of war alive in their minds. In sharing the life stories of those that came before us, we honor them, learn from them, and awaken to the fact the Holocaust wasn’t that long ago and can very well happen again, especially in our present political climate, as terrifying as that may sound.
I spent months researching blogs, articles, and other books on fascism in Italy to better understand what transpired before and after the armistice between Italy and Germany, when the partisan/Nazi conflict was at its peak. In addition, I watched every World War Two film I could and attended talks given by Holocaust survivors—a heartbreaking and eye-opening experience.
In May 2018, I accepted an invitation to the 73rd anniversary of the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp liberation in Germany. There were 600 people from 20 countries in attendance.
My uncle, Arturo, was taken prisoner in Buchenwald and later died in Flossenbürg at age 24, just weeks before the Americans liberated the camp. His prisoner number was 38887. He never had a chance at life and knowing how much he suffered tore my heart open. Watching videos, seeing the gruesome photos, and walking on the very earth where he and countless others suffered unimaginable torture and death left me forever changed with a profound deepening of my words as I wrote them in my book. I felt called to journey to this camp in this remote village in the Bavarian Forest. Attending the commemoration was part of my research, but more to pay respect to my uncle for my mother and our family members who passed without closure or peace in their hearts. Miraculous events proved I was destined to be in Flossenbürg that weekend, and you will learn why when you read my book, Lilia.
My most profound sadness is never meeting Arturo and that he didn’t survive the camp to tell me what transpired behind the scenes when the Germans took him away. I want to hear his story and know what he heard and saw. I want to know what his dreams were before the Nazis took his last breath from him. I want Arturo to know how much he was and is loved and that this book is in homage to his life and memory. I want him to know we will never forget.
May my family’s story remind people of the real threat of history repeating itself. We can author a more peaceful future through our shared stories by taking responsibility for each chapter and creating a world free of hate—a safe world for our children. I hope Lilia will be a source of inspiration, moving the younger generation to share it with their parents and grandparents. In the process, may it spark meaningful conversation about our many life experiences and bring people together across generational and other differences to create understanding and empathy.
(c) Linda Ganzini
About Lilia by Linda Ganzini:
Author Linda Ganzini offers a powerful page-turning novel of her mother’s inspiring true story in the tradition of Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, and Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl.
Lilia is an emotionally wrenching coming-of-age and compelling family drama. Trapped under Mussolini’s reign and Hitler’s occupation, this riveting tale is propelled by a brave girl’s courage and a family’s bond as they struggle to survive the battle between the forces of evil and the power of love.
Where there is love, hope remains.
Against the backdrop of fascist Italy during World War II and the Holocaust, Lilia sets the stage for the harrowing story of a family whose depth of heart overcomes a war tearing them apart—years marred by unfathomable tragedies, immense loss, upheaval, and countless betrayals.
Lilia resigns herself to a world crushed by misery, abject poverty, and a broken, bitter mother who suffered insurmountable grief. The burden of war, loneliness, and adult responsibilities rob her of a carefree childhood. Witnessing her parent’s challenge to stay alive during the Nazi occupation becomes Lilia’s greatest sorrow, one she makes the most heroic efforts to conceal. Ultimately, tragic loss and unanswered prayers dim the flame of her belief in the future. Will a seed of love reignite Lilia’s faith leading her towards an unforgettable and inspiring triumph over tragedy? Or will the dark shadow of war plague her destiny forever?
This poignant account will transport you to a lost moment in history that irreversibly changes a quaint Northern Italian village, transforming its people for generations to come. Through the eyes and fearless spirit of a young girl, Lilia’s family story comes to life on the page, and it will remain in your heart long after you finish the final chapter.
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