The Eulogizer: ‘Life is Beautiful’ model Rubino Salmoni, peace activist Eran Schafferman

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Rubino Romeo Salmoni, 91, memoir inspired ‘Life is Beautiful’

Italian Holocaust survivor Rubino Romeo Salmoni, whose memoir of surviving Auschwitz inspired the film “Life is Beautiful,” died July 10 in Rome at 91.

His book, “In the End, I Beat Hitler,” used “flashes of irony and dark humor to describe conditions in Auschwitz, where he was sent.”

Salmoni told his story often in public, including during visits to schools and colleges, determined that the Holocaust should not be forgotten. He said he viewed his survival as a triumph over the Nazis.

"I’m still here, hale and hearty," he said. "I came out of Auschwitz alive, I have a wonderful family, I celebrated my golden wedding anniversary, I have 12 splendid grandchildren — I think I can say I ruined Hitler’s plan for me."

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said Salmoni was "a great man who with his courage and determination managed to save himself from the hell of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Romeo was an example for young people and for the whole of Rome."

Life is Beautiful,” starring and directed by the Italian comedian Roberto Benigni, was inspired by Salmoni’s story, but Benigni invented the fanciful tale of how a father shielded his son from knowledge of the concentration camp in which they were held. The film won the 1998 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize and 1999 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, while Benigni won Best Actor.

Salmoni, a native of Rome, was arrested by Italian fascist police in 1944, held in a Roman prison, transferred to an Italian internment camp at Fossoli near Modena in northern Italy, and was a forced laborer in Auschwitz until the camp was liberated in 1945. Some 7,500 Italian Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II.

Eran Schafferman, 35, Israeli peace activist

Eran Schafferman, who worked with a variety of Israeli peace and political organizations and moderate Palestinian activists on behalf of a two-state solution in the Middle East, died July 11 at 35.

Schafferman was assistant to the regional coordinator in the Forum of Civil Peace Service, an international nongovernmental group, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also had been a youth leader for OneVoice Israel, and was a youth leader for the Israeli Labor Party.

His death from cancer was noted by several of the organizations with whom he had worked.

“MEPEACE mourns the untimely passing of Eran Schafferman, young peace activist, optimist, friend and supporter,"  the organization said on its website. "Eran was one of the first peacemakers to join MEPEACE and contributed to our organization, to OneVoice and many others working for Middle East peace. His memory continues to inspire our work for a better world.”

“Eran was 100 percent dedicated to what OneVoice is working toward,” said John Lyndon, executive director of OneVoice Europe. “He contributed to some of our greatest successes.”

In 2004, Schafferman became a youth leader with OneVoice Israel because he supported the movement’s efforts to work with moderates in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the organization said.

OneVoice founder Daniel Lubetzky said that beyond Schafferman’s “personal warmth and innate charisma,” he had “a unique combination of intellectual skills and grass-roots instincts that made him an invaluable leader. He was proud of his Jewish religious education and always brought forth insightful commentary from rabbinical sages to advocate peace with his Palestinian neighbors.”

Schafferman, who had a master’s degree in public policy from the Hebrew University, spoke to dignitaries and global business leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres, during a video presentation at the 2007 World Economic Forum.

His Facebook page offered this quote from Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke: “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing.”

NEXT STORY