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Photograph by Irving Penn: “Ballet Society,” New York, 1948. Left to right, Corrado Cagli, Vittorio Rieti, Tanaquil Le Clercq and George Balanchine. Copyright @ Conde Nast
New York, NY, December 3, 2015 – Book Sheds New Light on the History of the Italian Jewish Exiles in America (1938-1946)
“A fascinating and intriguing book that traces networks of kinship and relationships that reverberate into many developments of the late twentieth century” Susanna Pesenti L’eco di Bergamo.
“The meaning and worth of this collection of voices remind us how many individuals and families were driven to flee– human beings deprived of everything, from their dignity to their possessions. It is absolutely essential to know these stories” from the foreword by Furio Colombo.
Pontecorboli’s book is a long overdue account of a lesser-known aspect of the Italian anti-Jewish persecution: the exile of Italian Jews to America. Forced to the US by the Fascist persecutions during the 1930’s and 1940’s, roughly one thousand Italian Jews with their families continued their work in a wide range of fields, from mathematics and biology to medicine, music, banking, textile manufacturing, art and antiques.
Pontecorboli retraces the threads of their stories, personal recollections and historical background, their strategies to exit Italy and those to find a visa to the US. She reconstructs their first steps in the New World, their networks of mutual support, their successes and drawbacks,their encounters with fascism and antifascism in America, their different and at times conflicting choices of adaptation and survival.
Written in a fast paced journalistic style, the book is both a good read as well as an important contribution to cultural history, marking a starting point for a whole new field of inquiry.
Among the protagonists of the book are Tullia Calabi e Bruno Zevi, Max Ascoli, Giorgio Cavaglieri, Amalia Rosselli, Silvano Arieti, Emilio Segré, Franco Modigliani, Paolo Milano, Salvador Luria, Massimo Calabresi, Ugo Fano and Giorgio Levi della Vida. Probably the smallest national group among European exiles, the Italians distinguished themselves for their willingness and ability to create from the start bridges between Italy and their new country.
Some took part in the liberation of Europe from the Nazi-Fascist dictatorships, working with the US armed forces, others focused on Italian life in America. After the war, some chose to remain, while many returned to Italy. Four of those who remained in America won the Nobel Prize. The experience of exile originated important postwar cultural and economic trends. All too often however, the violence and injustice that had caused the exile was forgotten. The book traces the personal stories of men, women and their families who became an unlikely bridge not only between two countries, but between two eras.
The English edition, with its extensive bibliography, ample notes, and biographical sketches of the individuals mentioned in the text constitutes a substantial reference point for future scholarly research.
Born in Camogli (Genova), Gianna Pontecorboli obtained a degree in Economics from the University of Genoa in 1968. She then embarked on a career in journalism in Milan, working for “Quattrosoldi” (Editoriale Domus) and “Annabella” (Rizzoli). After moving to the US, she became US and UN correspondent for Quotidiani Associati. She also directed a program broadcasted from New York at Radio 105. During a thirty-year-long career she has travelled extensively across the United States, as well as Central and South America. Her expertise rangesfrom politics to culture and economics. Currently she is UN and US correspondent for the Swiss paper Corriere del Ticino and for the Italian online paper “Lettera 22’’, of which she is a founding partner.