Kristine Rabberman at The Quarterly Conversation:
Jan Morris describes the city of Trieste as “an allegory of limbo,” demonstrated by its shifting political allegiances—first as a part of the Habsburg empire, then later given to Italy, briefly ruled by the Germans during World War Two, and finally given back to Italy in 1954 against the wishes of Yugoslavia. In 1943, when the Germans took over Trieste, they established a police barracks and extermination camp in the former rice mill of San Sabba. Drndić’s documentary evidence of the horrors experienced there shines a light on an often-overlooked part of the Holocaust. And the ability of local families such as the Tedeschis to blend into the majority during periods of crisis presents questions of culpability and identity. What does it mean to be Jewish? How to cope with the human toll of a commitment to national identity? Are children guilty of the sins of their parents? Are any families free from the ghosts of ancestors’ mistakes?
Throughout Trieste, Drndić provides a wealth of historical evidence: trial transcripts, interviews, photographs, music, maps, genealogical charts. This documentary evidence is presented in overwhelming detail. In one 44-page span, Drndić provides a list “of about 9,000 Jews who were deported from Italy, or killed in Italy or in the countries Italy occupied between 1943 and 1945.”