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Chief Rabbi of Rome Confers with Poletti on Reconstruction of Jewish Community

Chief Rabbi Anton Zolli of Rome has conferred with Col. Charles Poletti, AMG administrator of the capital, on plans for reconstruction of the city’s Jewish community which was almost completely destroyed during the German occupation, it is reported today by the Rome correspondent of the New York Times, Herbert L. Matthews.

Mr. Matthews quotes Prof. Zolli as stating that nearly 5,000 of Rome’s Jewish population of 11,500 were deported by the Germans. Dr. Zolli disclosed that many Jews could have fled before the Germans were able to carry out all their repressive measures had they not been lulled into a sense of false security by the president of the Jewish community, Ugo Foa, a magistrate and prominent Fascist.

Discussing the events that transpired during the German occupation Prof. Zolli said; “They put a price of 300,000 lire on my head – a poor bargain for the Nazis, for I was not worth it. First I took refuge with one Catholic family named Pierantoni who did not know me. The father and son were partisans and the son was soon caught and shot. I had to hide somewhere else. Then another Catholic family named Falconieri took me in – people who had never heard of me, and they treated me like their father and even called me father. Such are the good hearts of the Italians.

“It was a bad period for my people. The Germans made raid after raid. Once they demanded fifty kilograms of gold, in default of which they threatened to seize 300 hostages and we supplied the gold. Another time they fined us 2,500,000 lire. Their chief act of locating was to seize all the precious manuscripts and books in the library of the Italian Rabbinical College. They visited my house seeking valuable silver and brocades from the synagogue, but I had hidden them too well.

“Foa accuses me of having deserted my community, but let me tell you what happened elsewhere in Italy. The rabbis of Modena and Florence stayed with their flocks and were deported. The rabbi of Genoa did the same, and one day the German Elite Guard came to his office. They beat him until he was covered with blood. Then they dragged him to a telephone and made him call the leaders of the community, asking them to come to the temple immediately with all their families. They came in good faith, three generations of them. When all had entered the temple the Germans surrounded it, herded the people into trucks and deported all of them, including the rabbi.

“I am an old, sick man. I could die for my community, but suppose they had taken me and beaten me and burned the sales of my feet? How do I know what I would have done?”

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