ROME (Oct. 17)
The collaboration of Jews and Italians in the partisan fighting against the Nazis here during World War II, and the efforts by many Italians, including priests and nuns, to rescue Jews from Nazi deportations, were recalled here yesterday in solemn ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Nazi campaign to exterminate Italian Jewry.
The majority of the shops in the Jewish quarter of the city were closed for the afternoon, when the ceremonies took place at the Portico Ottavio. That is the site at which the Nazis rounded up the first batch of 2,000 Jews in Rome marked for extermination, on the morning of October 16, 1943. In the presence of many thousand of Romans, including not only Jews but also members of Italy’s highest courts and delegations representing the Parliament, Defense Ministry and the Army, the principal address was delivered by Judge Sergio Piperno, president of the Union of Jewish Communities of Italy.
Noting that at least 2,000 Jews fought the Germans in the Italian partisan units, Judge Piperno pointed out that seven Jewish partisans received gold medals for their heroism. Among the seven was the youngest partisan hero, 13-year-old Franco Cesano, who got his award posthumously, when he was raised to the rank of captain.
But Italians fought the Nazis alongside the Jews, Judge Piperno recalled. “The German atrocities,” he said, “provided the occasion for the genuine Italian soul to prove its solidarity, to excel in helping the persecuted.” He quoted Father Bernedetto, an Italian priest who helped reopen Rome’s Great Synagogue after the liberation in 1944, saying that “monks and nuns opened their monasteries to Jews.” In the Franciscan monastery on the Isle of Tiber, facing the ghetto, 400 Jews were saved from the Nazis, Judge Piperno stressed.
The Jewish leader pointed out that the Nazis were particularly bent on annihilating Jewish children. Of 8,000 Jews deported, he said, only 600 survived–but of the 1,400 Jewish children among the deportees, not one returned.
Defense Minister Andreotti, another of the principal speakers at the ceremonies, told the assemblage that “the highest Italian authorities here join you in a pledge of solidarity. We pledge that similar atrocities will never recur here.” The ceremonies were concluded with the recitation of the kaddish by Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff. After the rites at the Portico Ottavia, services were conducted in the Great Synagogue, where Rabbi Toaff repeated the kaddish, joined by the crowded congregation.