In an emotionally charged ceremony at Rome’s city hall last week, Israel named five Italians — including a former Fascist and two Roman Catholic nuns – - Righteous Among Nations.
“It is good to remember that even in dark times there were moments of light,” Israeli Ambassador Avi Pazner said as he awarded the medals and certificate May 17.
“In Israel, we do not have a nobility — princes, counts and the like. It is the Righteous Among Nation who are the real nobility,” he said.
Four of the Italians honored were given awards for rescuing Emanuele Pacific, now a 64-year-old Jew living in Rome, whose father was the chief rabbi of Genoa.
The late Enrico Sergiani, the concierge of the Pacificis’ apartment house in Genoa, and his wife hid Rabbi Riccardo Pacifici and Emanuele nd shared rationed food with them. The concierge and his wife also saved the rabbi’s library, which after the war was given to the Rabbinical College in Rome.
The rabbi and his wife were seized by the Nazis and died at Auschwitz. But Emanuele and his younger brother were hidden for 11 months by nuns in a convent at Settignano in Tuscany.
“This is a great day, a dream come true for me,” Emanuele Pacifici said, choking back tears. “It has been by desire for many years to give this great honor to these people who are so dear to me.”
The other Italian honored, Ferdinando Natoni, was a member of the Fascist Party and a supporter of dictator Benito Mussolini.
But he opposed the racist anti-Semitic laws, and when the Nazis began rounding up Roman Jews for deportation, he stepped in to rescue two young twin sister, pretending that they were his own daughters.