Elio Toaff (left) with former Italian president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro in 2007.
(photo credit: MARIO DE SIATI/WIKIPEDIA)
■ WHILE THERE is considerable literature about Jewish resistance against the Nazis in Warsaw and Vilna, relatively little has been written about resistance in Rome, which is home to one of the oldest Diaspora communities in the world.
However, a recently published book by La Stampa editor- in-chief Maurizio Molinari co-authored with Amedeo Osti tells the story of the street fighter and amateur boxer by the name of Pacifico Di Consiglio, more commonly known as “Moretto.” Like many Jews of Rome, Moretto’s life changed drastically with the introduction in 1938 of Italy’s Racial Laws.
In the summer of that year, there had been a Jewish census which made it easier for Italian Fascists to hunt down and persecute Jews. In October 1943, 1,035 Jews of Rome – including men, women and children – were deported to Auschwitz. Of these, 839 were murdered in the gas chambers.
In the absence of graves, their names are engraved on small brass plaques that have been fitted into the cobblestones in front of the buildings in which they lived. A similar memorial to German Jews can be seen in Berlin.
Moretto worked closely with Elio Toaff, who six years after the war became chief rabbi of Rome, serving in the position for more than half a century. Toaff was part of the Italian resistance movement, and was helped by numerous Catholic families who provided havens for him and for Jewish families in his care during the war. Moretto, who was utterly fearless, engaged in street fights with Fascists, and time after time narrowly escaped arrest. His courage helped to boost the morale of the Jewish community.
Molinari, who is currently in Israel to speak at Holocaust memorial events, will speak about resistance in the Ghetto of Rome on Saturday, January 28, at 8:15 p.m. in the offices of the Italian Cultural Institute, Hamered Street, Tel Aviv. The event will be conducted in Italian.
■ CORNELLIANS IN Israel will next month host Bernd Wollschlaeger, the son of a tank commander who was a decorated Nazi officer. Wollschlaeger, to whom everything the Nazis stood for is abhorrent, had a very difficult time growing up in the shadow of Nazism. He converted to Judaism, migrated to Israel, served as a medical officer in the IDF and currently lives in Miami, Florida.
Precisely because the Nazis extinguished the lives of Jews, Wollschlaeger became a physician engaged in saving lives, and trained for his profession in both Germany and Israel.
These days he serves as a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine, at Florida International University and Florida State University College of Medicine.
He will tell his remarkable story on Saturday, February 18 at 8 p.m. at the New Synagogue, 7 McDonald Street, Netanya.
■ AT THE initiative of businesswoman Ofra Strauss, a documentary film, Two Zions, directed and produced by Cheryl Halpern, will be screened on Sunday evening, January 29, at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.
The documentary, which focuses on the Zions of Jerusalem and Axum in Ethiopia, is the story of the living legacy of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. It describes the relationship between the two monarchs which has for more than a thousand years connected their peoples and cultures.
Halpern will be present to answer questions in English.
Also in attendance will be Irina Nevzlin, who chairs the museum’s board of directors, and Beit Hatfutsot CEO Dan Tadmor.