Primo Levi at the National Book Festival
Multimedia artist Cynthia Madansky produced this short film in tribute to Primo Levi as an introduction to the program at the National Book Festival. Archival images from: Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation, Centro Internazionale di Studi Primo Levi, Archivio Patrizia Antonicelli, Archivio Ebraico Terracini, Leo Levi Family, Archivio Serafino, Fabrizio Salmoni, La Stampa, Fondazione Fossoli, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and RAI Teche. Music: Luigi Dallapiccola’s Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera recorded by Matthew Laurence Edwards, San Francisco 1991. Qaddish, Aldo Perez recorded by Leo Levi in 1954 and published in the collection: Musiche della tradizione ebraica in Piemonte curated by Franco Segre and produced by the Archivio Ebraico Terracini.
Il sesto giorno
After much debate over how to design the human, a committee ends up implementing a design dictated by “management”. “Storie naturali, of which this text is part, provide another picture of violated mankind existing in a society pervaded by an accepted evil, in this case technology, which systematically destroys man. […] The concluding quotation of “Versamina” “fair is foul, and foul is fair” connects Storie naturali to Se questo è un uomo: the world of reversal, of abnormality, and of transgressions ethics and values”. Quoted from: Lucie Benchouiha, Primo Levi: Re-writing the Holocaust, Troubadour Publishing, 2005
La bella addormentata nel frigo
A young woman subjects herself to voluntary freezing to be awaken only to witness landmark events. “Through surreal inventions, Levi pointed to a disquieting continuity between past aberrations and present normality, showing beyond any doubt how the present is subtly interwoven with the logic of the past. In his short story, Sleeping Beauty in the Fridge, Levi describes with great acumen the tight relationship between science new technologies, and subjective alienation, as well as the ways in which normality, and the tranquility of a prosperous life, are in fact the product of a bio-political normativity, universally accepted with careless complicity.” Quotes from: Paola Mieli, A Silver Martian, CPL Editions, 2015
In Il Versificatore, an American salesman, Simpson, presents the versifier as an automated solution to a poet’s rising work levels, setting in motion the replacement of humans by a machine. Several livelihoods are threatened by the versifier beginning with that of the poet’s secretary. […] The validity of her concerns about a technological takeover, are however undermined when the machine produces a “poetic” phrase”. Yet, she becomes offended when the Versificatore composes a poem entitled “A girl to bring to bed” and is ironically reassured by the poet who, before being supplanted by its mechanical competitor, says: “it’s only a machine”.
Reading. John Turturro and Joan Acocella. Levi talks about his fascination with knowledge, the discovery of the world, and the secrets of matter. In the flow of deceptively linear thought, the witness of the Nazi death camps, the “narrator,” the poet, the scientist, and the laboratory technician overlap and merge. Levi is able to find place and time for the full spectrum of life as he has painfully discovered it: the perversions perpetrated in the laboratories of Auschwitz stand next to the challenges and joys of work; the adventurous and timeless spaces next to the infinitely small. Primo Levi carried the mark of the chemist on his skin. It was a small scar, of which he told the story as if it had come from the wisdom of the fathers.
In Procacciatori d’affari, where some bureaucrats try to convince souls to enter in living bodies, as human being has inexplicable defects: “I think you have a sense that somewhere, someone made a mistake, that human plans have a glitch, a vice of form. What caused such glitch none knows. Determinism cannot explain it. More complex ways to explain reality beyond the cause-effect model are needed as, for example, the chaos theory. […] As Levi ponders in his last book: “No historian or epistemologist has yet demonstrated that history is a deterministic process”. Quite from: Enrico Mattioda, “Primo Levi fra scienza e letteratura”, in Luigi Dei, Voci dal mondo per Primo Levi, Firenze, 2007
Opening at Vanni’s: 130 Years After
Centro Primo Levi launched CPL Editions at SF Vanni, historical Village bookstore and publisher, symbol of independent publishing that has flourished in Italy for centuries, often bringing together the Jewish and non-Jewish world. Founded in 1864 on Broadway by Sante Fortunato Vanni, a Sicilian immigrant, the store offered books and other paper items to the Italian American community. In 1931, it was bought by Andrea Ragusa, a representative of Treves-Treccani-Tumminelli who had been sent to the Americas to sell the Enciclopedia italiana and decided to settle in New York. In 2015, Alessandro Cassin at Centro Primo Levi reopened the store for a short period, turning it into a book and event space.
Israeli Radio on Italian Jewish Music
Avraham Soltes talks about Jewish liturgical and secular music in Italy tracing the history of the Italian Jewish communities from antiquity to the present. The segment continues with a portrait of Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco, his work and the legacy of his grandfather, also a composer to whom he dedicated the beautiful suite Danze del re Davide. Rabbi Soltes (1917-1983) participated in many cultural and educational activities that interpreted Jewish art, music and literature. He was chairman of the National Jewish Music Council from 1963 to 1969 and a member of the board of the National Jewish Book Council from 1967 to 1972. Commentator on Jewish Music. He was a commentator on Jewish music for American listeners, was the host of a radio program, ”The Music of Israel,” on WQXR for the last nine years.
The Italian Synagogue in Jerusalem
The Italian synagogue in Jerusalem was originally the synagogue of Conegliano Veneto, a small town located between Padua and Venice. Jews lived in Conegliano Veneto from the 16th century. To this period belong the golden Rococo wings and the elaborate golden carvings on top of the Ark. After WWII, Italian Jews in Israel transferred the Conegliano Synagogue and its contents to Jerusalem. The magnificent Ark is decorated with fine golden carved wooden ornamentation, representing large acanthus leaves, vine leaves and grapes. In 1951, the synagogue interior was reconstructed and opened its doors to serve the Italian Community, later becoming an integral part of the Nahun Museum of Italian Jewish Art. In 1989 the original layout of the synagogue was restored. Services are held regularly on the Sabbath and Jewish Holidays according to the ancient “Minhag Bnei Roma”.
Yafuzu Oyevecha (And it came to pass, when the Ark set forward, that Moses said, rise up, Lord, and let your enemies be scattered) is sung on Shabbat morning during the opening of the Ark as well as during the hakafot (processional circles that are traditional on various occasions, for instance, the festival of Simchat Torah. The verses come from Numbers 10:35 and the description of the making of the ark in Exodus: “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it. And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.” [Ex. 25:8-11]
Rabbi Elio Toaff
Elio Toaff (30 April, 1915 – 19 April, 2015) was the Chief Rabbi of Rome from 1951 to 2002. He served as a rabbi in Venice from 1947, and in 1951 became the Chief Rabbi of Rome. He was born in Livorno, the son of the city’s rabbi Alfredo Sabato Toaff. He was the director of the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano di Roma between 1963 to 1992. In his autobiography, Perfidious Jews, Elder Brothers, Rabbi Toaff spoke of the revolutionary improvement in Catholic-Jewish relations. The first part of the title came from a Good Friday prayer that Catholics recited for centuries until the 1960s, when the Church officially repudiated the concept of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus. The second part from a statement made by Pope Giovanni Paolo II during his visit at the Rome synagogue.
Rabbi Dario Disegni
“Rabbi Dario Disegni, a 20th-Century Story”, produced by the Archivio Terracini of Turin. Born in Florence, Rabbi Dario Disegni (1878-1967), was ordained under Rabbi S.H. Margulies and Rabbi H.Z. Chajes. He served as rabbi in Genoa (1902–06); Turin (1906–09); and Verona (1909–24). During World War I he was a military chaplain and in 1922 for a few months, the rabbi of the Sephardi congregation in Bucharest. From 1924 he was rabbi in Turin. From 1930 he was rabbi in Tripoli for six months. Disegni edited prayer books with Italian translations and notes. A century after Rabbi S.D. Luzzatto’s edition of the Italian text of the Bible, Rabbi Disegni initiated a new Italian translation in four volumes.
Fascism and the Shoah
Fascist Italy and the Jews
Dr. Iael Nidam-Orvieto, the Editor-in-Chief of Yad Vashem Publications discusses the topic of: “Fascist Italy and the Jews: myth versus reality”. Fascism and the anti-Jewish persecution in Italy have for a long time be represented as a “benevolent’ version of what happened in Germany. Research in the past 30 years has challenge this view and delved in depth in the history of fascist Italy.
This is the first part of this talk, for the second part click here. The video is part of the series Insights and Perspectives from Holocaust Researchers and Historians” supported by the Claims Conference.
Il Ragazzo di Via Sacchi, Emanuele Artom
Emanuele Artom was a young anti-Fascist raised in Turin who joined the Resistance in the “Giustizia e Libertà“ brigades. He was deeply concerned with democratic culture and the Jewish tradition. In 1944 he was captured by the Italian SS and savagely murdered. His body was never found. For years historians have tried to understand why. This documentary attempts to reconstruct Artom’s intellectual and political journey within the ranks of clandestine resistance, through the voice of those who met him and through his diary. The narrating voice is Artom’s own journal, in which the ideas of the Italian anti-fascist opposition become a testament for a future society.
The Rosselli Case
Paris, 19th June 1937. A funeral cortege of 150,000 people accompanies the caskets of Carlo and Nello Rosselli, Italian anti-fascists in exile, to Père-Lachaise cemetery. The men were found dead in a woods in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, Normandy, murdered by members of a French fascist organisation known as “La Cagoule”, whose history is still a state secret in France. But the Cagoule had not acted on its own initiative. Through this mysterious French subsidiary Benito Mussolini had effectively crossed the frontier of a sovereign and democratic European state to eliminate two of his most charismatic opponents in exile.
Ferramonti: The Largest Concentration Camp in Italy
“Children imprisoned behind barbed wire! Here is one of the typical symptoms of this heroic age of ours. […] Some of these kids were born in detention, spent their entire childhood in the primitive huts of internment camps, living on convict rations, laughing and playing in the shadow of fascist militia. They grew up in deprived and unhealthy conditions, anxiously looked after by older internees – their companions in misfortune – and kept under continued surveillance, with a kind of resentment, by an authority who received their orders from a government far away beyond the barbed wire that deemed such measures necessary for “national security”. Jan Hermann, Israel Kalk Archive, CDEC, Milan.
The DP Camp of Cinecittà
On June 6th 1944, the “City of Cinema” was taken over by the Allied Control Commission, as a holding station meant to house thousands of refugees. The partially bombed modernist movie complex was quickly transformed into a refugee camp. Its occupants were people of 30 different nationalities, among them Poles, Russians, Iranians, Chinese, Gypsies and Jews – including survivors of Nazi extermination camps. Life in the camp was hard. Buildings, backdrops and sets – from Roman temples to French boudoirs – were adapted to accommodate the refugees’ most basic needs. Director Marco Bertozzi and film scholar Noa Steimatsky tracked down several of Cinecittà former refugees. They also found Jack Salvador’s Humanity, the only surviving visual document of post-war life in the ruinous remains of the Fascist propaganda empire produced by Luce under the aegis of UNRRA.
A film by Ruggero Gabbai, Liliana Picciotto and Marcello Pezzetti. “Memoria”, regia di Ruggero Gabbai. “Memoria” presented for the first time the testimonies of Italian survivors of Auschwitz. Based on 90 interviews conducted by the Center for Italian Jewish Documentation in Milan, the film traces stories of men and women from different cities. Witnesses discuss their experience after the racial laws of 1938, which stripped Italian Jews of civil rights and livelihood. After September 8th, 1943, the great part of Italian Jews, about 30,000 people, found themselves in the Italian Social Republic ruled by Mussolini and his German Allies. By the beginning of October of the same year the deportations began. By the spring of 1945, 9,700 Jews had been deported under Italian watch, 1,800 of them from the Dodecanese Island, the others form the peninsula.
Seminar in Italian Jewish Studies
The Lateran Pacts
Francesco Margiotta Broglio (University of Florence), Giorgio Fabre (independent scholar), Elena Mazzini (University of Florence), Ilaria Pavan (Scuola Normale Superiore–Pisa) and Michele Sarfatti (CDEC), David Kertzer (Brown University), Martin Menke (Rivier University), Silvana Patriarca (Fordham University), Annalisa Capristo (Center for American Studies in Rome), Paul Arpaia (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Franklin Adler (Macalester College).
Primo Levi on Poetry
André Naffis-Sahely in conversation with Jonathan Galassi
Jonathan Galassi, novelist, publisher and distinguished translator of Giacomo Leopardi and Eugenio Montale, in conversation with André Naffis-Sahely discussing his lifelong dedication to Italian poetry and his new translations of Primo Levi’s poems, which were featured in Liveright’s Complete Works of Primo Levi. Galassi will read his English translations to be followed by Naffis-Sahely reading the Italian originals. A short Q&A will follow.
To Be or Not: Considering Primo Levi’s Death
Uri Cohen (Tel Aviv University)
We will never know what exactly took place thirty years ago when Primo Levi fell to his death in the stairwell of his ancestral home. The moment is sealed, retaining its silent mystery. Meaningless in terms of reality the nature of his death is of no real importance, while having enormous implications for interpretation. If this survivor willed his barely saved life away, matters not in Primo Levi’s world, but in the world into which Levi survived.
Museums and the Memory of Nazi-Fascism, the Holocaust and World War II
Guri Schwarz, University of Pisa, Aline Sierp (University of Maastricht), Jan Grabowski (University of Ottawa), Laure Neumayer, (University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne), Gabor Sonkoly, (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), Anna Di Lellio, (The New School), Daniel Levy (Stony Brook University), Mark Weitzman (Simon Wiesenthal Center, IHRA).
Magnifico in New York
Raffaele Bedarida on Corrado Cagli
In 1948, the New York City Ballet presented The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, a Renaissance poem by Lorenzo de’ Medici whose refrain “del doman non v’è certezza” (the future holds no certainty) may have had a particular resonance in the immediate aftermath of World War II.