Italian Jewish institutions in search of historical amateur movies

The project 'I Remember' aims to uncover lost footage documenting Italian Jewish life before and after the Holocaust.

The wedding of Iole Campagnano and Silvio Della Seta in Italy in 1923. (photo credit: COURTESY OF PAGINE EBRAICHE)
The wedding of Iole Campagnano and Silvio Della Seta in Italy in 1923.
A few years ago, Italian Jewish journalist Claudio Della Seta decided to look into a forgotten box that belonged to his grandmother Iole Campagnano. The box contained eleven rolls of 35mm films, shot by his uncle, Salvatore Di Segni. He had captured on camera the wedding of Della Seta’s grandparents in 1923, a family vacation to the Alps in the same period and a trip to the beach.
The images show an elegant family, exquisitely dressed and happy. No one could fathom that only 15 years later, fascist dictator Benito Mussolini would pass anti-Jewish laws in Italy. Nor that after the Nazis invaded the country in 1943, some of those filmed would be sent to the death camps and murdered.
The original rolls of the films are presently preserved in Milan’s Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center Foundation (CDEC), an independent institute researching Jewish history and culture.
Della Seta’s extraordinary finding inspired the CDEC to launch the project “Io Ricordo,” (I Remember), which kicked off on Monday. Between July 1 and October 2, anyone who possesses amateur movies documenting Italian Jewish life, from before and in the aftermath of the Holocaust, is invited to reach out so that the material can be digitized and catalogued.
“It is very hard to find footage as valuable as those filmed by Di Segni, or by the Ovazza family, shot between 1930 and 1936,” CDEC director Gadi Luzzatto Voghera told the Italian Jewish paper Pagine Ebraiche on Monday. “For this reason, we are interested also in films from the period after the war. Their value might be underestimated by those who own them, but they can represent, in today’s image-saturated society, an important tool to explain Italian Jewish history.”
A major partner in the project is the Cinema d’Impresa National Archive in the city of Ivrea, which will carry out the digitalization of the footage.
Moreover, the Holocaust Memorial of Milan; the Jewish Community of Turin; the Museum of Italian Judaism and the Holocaust in Ferrara; and the Holocaust Museum Foundation in Rome will serve as collection points.
The final goal of the project is to develop a digital archive of the footage and make it available to the public, CDEC said.