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Italian Jewish Anti-fascist Dies from Flu Complications

January 12, 2000
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Italy’s president and other leading political and cultural figures were among the hundreds of people who attended Tuesday’s funeral of Bruno Zevi, an eminent Jewish architect and anti-fascist political activist.

Zevi died Sunday at his home in Rome from complications of the flu less than two weeks before his 82nd birthday.

Rome Mayor Francesco Rutelli expressed “the condolences of the city.” Said Sandro Di Castro, president of the Rome Jewish community, “He was one of our great men.”

Born in Rome on Jan. 22, 1918, Zevi was Italy’s most prominent architectural historian and theorist. An innovator in modernist architecture, he believed that organic form, not classic symmetry, was the key to modern design. As such, he helped popularize the work of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Among his best-known buildings was the Italian pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Exposition. He also wrote numerous books.

Zevi, who said he was “101 percent Jewish,” was forced into exile in the wake of anti-Semitic laws instituted in 1938. After studying at Harvard, he returned to Italy in 1944 and took part in the anti-fascist underground.

He was a longtime activist in the gadfly Radical Party and served as a member of Parliament and party president.

But he quit the party late last year in protest over plans by Radical Party deputies to the European Parliament to form an administrative alliance with deputies from the French right-wing National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Active in the Rome Jewish community, Zevi was the estranged husband of Tullia Zevi, who until 1998 served as president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities for 16 years and is a leading figure in European Jewry.

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