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Memories of Roman Jews: Beyond Inquisition and Persecution

16Feb4:00 pm5:00 pmMemories of Roman Jews: Beyond Inquisition and Persecution4:00 pm - 5:00 pm(GMT+00:00) MemoriaMemoria

Event Details

OCTOBER 16th, 1943
“From the window we see… small children; pregnant women, shivering and scared; wives with shawls on their heads, the children were crying. When we went home we saw them (the Germans) taking everybody away at gun-point and kicking those who fell… children cried. It was devastating to see two trucks filled with Jewish families, near the synagogue by the Teatro Marcello. We did not understand what was going on because it’s not like there was another time like that for us Jews… perhaps in Israel with Masada, in Jerusalem, but it was millennia ago… but those Germans, we didn’t even know the word “German,” my dear.”

From the testimony of Enrica Sermoneta, Una Storia Romana, JCC in Manhattan, February 2.

On October 16th, 1943 at 5:30 AM, 300 German soldiers accompanied by the Italian Fascist police rounded up the Jewish ghetto of Rome and the surrounding areas. By the early afternoon 1024 Roman Jews, including 207 children, had been arrested. Two days later they were shipped to Auschwitz from the Tiburtina station. Only 16 returned.

Through the declassification of US Army documents conducted by the Interagency Working Group, we know that the final order to deport the Jews of Italy came from Berlin to the SS commandant in Rome, Herbert Kappler*, on September 24t, 1943. The communication was immediately intercepted by the Allies, who elected not to intervene in order to protect their operation.

On September 26th Herbert Kappler demanded that the Jewish community of Rome provide 50 kilos of gold to spare the deportation of 200 men. Fighting against the odds and with the help of Jews and non-Jews, the community succeeded in collecting the gold and delivering it to the Germans.

In those same days Herbert Kappler and his men were preparing the round up operation, which would take hundreds of families by surprise on an early Shabbat morning of the holiday of Sukkot. The Jewish households of Rome, in the ghetto and outside of it, had been carefully mapped out thanks to the thorough lists of the Fascist Ministry of Race.

In 1947-48, Kappler, who, along with the Italian chief of Police Pietro Caruso was also found responsible for the Ardeatine massacre, was tried by an Italian military tribunal and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1977 he escaped to Germany with the assistance of his wife. There, because of age and health reasons, he was never extradited or tried.


OCTOBER 16th, 1943

A journey through fragments of memory of a vital and distinctly independent Jewish community in whose traditions and history the antique and the modern coexist, as in a jewelry box handed down through generations.

Through film, lectures, and discussion, this series of four programs opens a window on the rich cultural landscape of Roman Jewry while exposing tragic moments in its history: the round up of the community in 1943 and the abuses and forced baptisms of the times of the ghetto.

February 1, 6:00 pm

NYU Casa ItalianaZerilliMarimò | 24 West 12th Street
Film screening | Confortorio
Directed by Paolo Benvenuti | (Italy, 1992, 90 min. Italian w/English subtitles).
Based on a true story, Confortorio narrates the vicissitudes of two young Roman Jews who are imprisoned under the accusation of theft during the pontificate of Clement XII, in 1736. The night before their execution, the fathers of the Confraternita of San Giovanni Decollato try to force them to embrace Christianity.

February 2, 7:30 pm

JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue

Film Screening | UnaStoriaRomana
An Interview with EnricaSermonetaby Pupa Garribba, 2009 (Italian w/English s.).Introduction by Nicola Zingaretti, President of the Province of Rome
This is the most recent document and probably one of the last testimonies of the round up of the Ghetto of Rome. Journalist and writer Pupa Garribba interviews EnricaSermoneta, who, as a young girl, fortuitously escaped deportation amidst generosity and betrayal. Told in a direct and unconventional style, filtered through the lens of 67 years of debate on the “black Saturday,” the story raises old dilemmas and new questions on those days and ours. A post-screening discussion with Pupa Garribba will follow.

About the speaker
Pupa Garribba was born in Genoa in 1935.
Her experience as a Jewish girl in Fascist Italy is narrated in the book La GoventùOffesa by Chiara Bricarelli and in the documentary Le Non Persone by Roberto Olla. She has been editor in chief of Kamenu and Confronti. She is correspondent for the French Jewish magazine Cahiers Bernard Lazare. She is an interviewer for the Shoah Foundation and collaborates with the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan and the Casa dellaMemoria e dellaStoria in Rome. Pupa Garribba is the author and curator of FesteEbraiche (1999) Simboliebraici(2000), Donne ebree(2001), and Ebreisul confine (2003), a collection if stories of men and women who live borders and frontiers as places of encounter and exchange.

February 3, 6:30 pm

Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, NYC

Film Screening | The Gold of Rome
By Carlo Lizzani, 1961 (Italian w/English sbt)
The Gold of Rome is the first filmic representation of the story of the German blackmail and eventual deportation of the Jews of Rome. Lizzani’s rendition of situations and characters and his depiction of rituals and places illuminates the life and spirit of Roman Jewry, setting this semi-fictionalize document apart from other Holocaust films. With a touch of sentimentality and a genuine understanding of the nuances of the story, The Gold of Rome delves into the dilemmas, conflicts, and cultural assumptions that lead the Jews of Rome to fall in what turned out to be a fatal trap.

February 16 at 5:30 pm


Kenneth Stow (University of Haifa)
Italian Academy at Columbia University, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue

Jews have been residents of Rome since before the days of Julius Caesar, but the 16th century brought great challenges to their identity and survival in the form of Ghettoization. Created to expedite conversion and cultural dissolution, the Ghetto had an opposite effect. The Jews of Rome developed a microculture that ensured continuity and distinctiveness. The ability to settle disputes relating to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and other internal matters gave Jews the perception of themselves as actors of their own affairs and developed a unique cultural identity that permeates the community to these days.
Kenneth Stow is Emeritus Professor at the University of Haifa, Israel. He is considered an authority on the history of Roman Jewry in the Early Modern Age; In one of his best known books, Theater of Acculturation: the Roman Ghetto in the 16th century (Seattle 2001);
Stow applies the concept of “social theater” to illuminate the role-playing that Jews adopted as a means of survival within the dominant Christian environment. He is also the author of Catholic Thought and Papal Jewry Policy (1555-1593) (New York 1977); Alienated Minority: the Jews of Latin medieval Europe (Cambridge MA, 1992); Jewish Dogs: An Image and its Interpreters (Stanford CA., 2006).


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