As war swept across Europe in 1940, the idyllic life of Fey von Hassell seemed a world away from the conflict. But the daughter of Hitler's ambassador to Italy finds her peaceful existence threatened when her father and her husband make the brave and difficult decision to resist the Nazis.
Using private family archives, oral histories, and primary sources in a multitude of languages, historian Bailey...adroitly brings together the chaos, pathos, and unpredictability of life within the increasingly panicked and fanatical Nazi terror machine ... 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 ... An incredibly sweeping and readable tale, this excellent history is for readers interested in World War II and personal narratives.
Like The Damned, Luchino Visconti’s film about the demise of the old aristocratic order during the early years of Nazi rule, the first few chapters of A Castle in Wartime teem with such Grand Guignol grotesquerie on all sides ... Bailey tends to play down Hassell’s initial ambivalence toward the Nazis, whose opposition to the Versailles Treaty and irredentist ambitions chimed with his own conservative nationalism. The nuances of the diplomat’s evolution from reluctant fellow traveler to Resistance hero thus become somewhat obscured in her book. Bailey is more assured when recounting the torments undergone by Fey [von Hassell], whose story serves as a poignant illustration of how even the most charmed existence could unravel amid the vicissitudes of total war ... Bailey chronicles all these twists and turns with verve and compassion in a book that illuminates individual human helplessness and fortitude in the face of overwhelming historical upheaval.
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.