The story of the Italian mountain villagers who lived on Monte Sole trying to survive the war and the horror that overtook them on September 29, 30 and October 1, 1944, when the retreating German army massacred 1800 of the citizens of Monte Sole. Olsen, a writer with a penchant for mountains (The Climb to Hell), tells the story well. The mountain--a 2000-foot peak in central Italy, some fifteen miles south of Bologna--had been a haven for Partisans. For this reason the Germans mistrusted the villagers, but the ugly rastrellamento (purge) occurred more by chance than vengeance: Monte Sole happened to be located on the main route of the retreating army, and the SS deemed it necessary to ""neutralize"" the mountain. In operational terms, this meant mass-murder. The book is based on the accounts of survivors, the few official records, courtroom testimony, and visible scars. It begins with the postman on his rounds, and by this device visits with most of the contadini (tenant farmers) of the region, the priests, the storekeeper, the elders. They are simple people, family-oriented rather than nationalistic, and often likably eccentric. It is their very individuality that makes the ensuing chapters on the mass-murder so effective. Compelling, compassionate--rarely sentimental--a stirring book.