You're listening to a podcast from the today programme on B.B.C. radio four port Oskar Schindler James bond, the extraordinary story of the life of pee no leather, it's going to be made into a Hollywood movie at the age of seventeen risked his life to smuggle Jews out of Mussolini's Italy before spying on the Nazis was employed as a driver for a German general his son Michael joins us from California, as does the man who wrote a book of his life, beneath a Scarlet sky, which is the basis of that film, he is mark Sullivan.
Good morning to you both good morrow Michael, first of all, Michael, and it took a very long time before you were indeed knew your own father story did not volunteer it in the early years, that is correct.
So I was ten when he never mentioned anything about the war, when we moved to Italy in nineteen sixty two you started giving me little bits and pieces, but a lot of that I did not know, and tell mark put it all together and two thousand six, let's get the basis of the story than, first of all, as a young man from a teenager.
Indeed, he sent to school in the Alps is knee from Milan, and it's there that he helps Jews to escape.
That is correct.
He was brother Two years longer were sent to a boys' Catholic score high in the Alps to get away from the British bombing of more, and there they did what to help Jews to escape.
They were trained by the priests who ran the squirrel.
His name was don Luigi ring and don Luigi ray round, it rare any secret underground underground railroad and the boys were trained to become guides guiding Jews over some of the most treacherous terrain in the world into neutral Switzerland more, sort of, um, we're come to have a bit of the story in a second, the spying.
But how did you was an author persuade piano Lela to tell a story that he'd really been reluctant to tell his own family, why I called him up.
Once I had heard the story, and I said, you know, I really love to talk to you.
And he said, why would you want that.
And I said, because you're a hero.
And he said, war, no, I'm more of a coward, in that only intrigued me more, I told my wife, I was going to talk to him.
And we spent three weeks together, he befriended him, he's um, he's a magnificent per person, and I got a chance listen to him and talk to her own, day in and day out for three weeks, I began to see the cracks and got him to review, almost of story, it was one of the most emotional things I've ever gone through well dramatic enough being involved in the escape of Jews from Italy, but also, as I said in the introduction, then as a spa, how did that come about.
Mark eat my call you won't do this one.
Oh, my God.
I could show you the store in there, and I'll talk to mark about it, I can.
I can tell you, he was getting ready to be drafted at each eighteen in nineteenth June nineteen forty four, and he was pulled from the boarding school by his uncle Albert and they gave him a choice, they said, you were either drawing the fascists and wind up on the Russian France or you join the German army in the organisation part, I've got Albert had a wife.
Her name is Greta, she was of German origin, and she kind of schmoozed with the German command that came into, Mauler, he was tucked into joining the German army and you sat was sent to more than that, for, and while he was at boot camp and three series of really extraordinary circumstances, including his wrongdoing during a bombing raid, he was sent back to malign to convalesce and their serendipitous Slee mark, and I use that word, a lot he winds up as the driver for this general general Heinz layer, and that's where the spying story begins a mark for you, as an author approaching this.
The difficulty is you had a very Elderly man's recollections but not that many ways of checking out the detail of the story, and filling in the gaps, yes, had to correct.
There is so many people had died.
By the time I got to the story was, which was sixty years after the fact, in her Nazis had burned summary documents in the last two weeks of the war, that I was, I was very injured, but I was able to find, for example, other boys who had been at the at boys' school, I was able to find documents about layers, but two and a half years ago, I was actually able to interview general layer's daughter, who was, at the time, dying, and she allowed me to talk to labour's Minister and to his long time aide and is is a novel based on in the film, too, that's correct.
I recognised about six years ago, that I was never going to get the kind of corroboration that I wanted to do a non fiction book.
So I decided that I, you know, novelist, and I decided to write it, try to take it as close as I could get to what I believe happened and, Michael, you're full of are still alive, is embarrassed by all the fuss.
He sees a little embarrassed.
He's over, you know, mark, and I have been pushing this a lot more than that.
He has, I'm not sure how he's going to take the accolades and all That all the the glory that goes along with that, I think he's a little almost ashamed of that at times, because he did see real her heroes died during the war, and they never got to tell the story.
And so um..
I'm not so sure he's thrilled about being in public is no ninety one you starting to show some cognitive problems, but physically very, very, very good in good shape, but more briefly takes off, and one man or one woman story, in a sense, can tell us a lot more than Grand statistics and sweeping history, I think that's true, his stories are very much a universal story, it's, it's a story of altruism, somebody risking his own life.
Again and again to save others and then risking his life, when he was a spy Sullivan and Michael, I'm afraid, we have to leave it there, but thanks so much for joining us, Hi, I'm Louise Cooper, before you go.
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