Germans Wrecked Largest Synagogue in Italy Before Evacuating Florence
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Germans Wrecked Largest Synagogue in Italy Before Evacuating Florence

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German demolition squads, aided by Mussolini’s followers planted charges of dynamite and gelegnite in the main synagogue of Florence before retreating from the city.

The explosives completely gutted the interior of the edifice, which is Italy’s largest synagogue. They blasted out the pulpit and the colonnades along the sides, cutting down the balconies and leaving the building a near week.

A young Canadian Jewish army sergeant of an engineering unit was the first to report the wrecking of the synagogue to the authorities. While in the building, he removed several unexploded charges, but others are believed to be still on the premises, and the correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency inspecting the building was warned to tread easy.

The Germans also gutted the adjacent offices of the Jewish community. The files and community records are hopelessly jumbled up and defaced, covering the floor of the office knee-high. Florence’s second synagogue remained undamaged. The restoration of the great synagogue will cost thousands of dollars. The interior will have to be completely rebuilt.


One of the most tragic blows to Jews in Florence was the killing of the 29-year old Jewish community leader, Juliano Treves. He was killed by a German sniper when he returned from Rome to Florence on a mercy mission to ascertain the relief needs of the Jews in the city. The last German and Fascist units had already retreated from the city at the time. Treves escaped to Rome last January when the Germans sought to arrest him at his home in Florence.

Information obtained by the correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency from Jewish leaders in Florence places the number of completely destitute Jews in the city at about 350, and this total is expected to be considerably increased as soon as more Florentine Jews come out of their hiding in Catholic institutions and with Italian friends in the vicinity.

The plight of these needy Jews, who require food, clothing and shelter, is expected to be immediately taken up by the leaders of the Jewish community with Allied authorities. Meanwhile the Joint Distribution Committee is rushing financial aid through the Italian relief committee.

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