Holocaust survivor Walter Wolff earned a standing ovation for the inspirational account he shared at an Oct. 17 symposium on Italians who risked their lives to help persecuted Jews. He praised the Italians who helped him flee Nazi Germany and hid him in their homes, and he exhorted the full auditorium at the Center for Jewish History to combat discrimination the moment it starts. ”The Banality of Good: Rescuers in Italy at the Time of Persecution” also featured a series of brief lectures by four distinguished panelists, as well as opening remarks by Honorable Antonio Bandini, the Consul General of Italy, who said he ”learned more about Italian Jewry in New York than in Italy;” and Senator Seymour Lachman, distinguished professor at Wagner College.
Wolff’s lively address, complete with a Mussolini impersonation and a pantomime of the last song he played before selling his violin for food, allowed the audience to glimpse the world he recorded in his memoir, ”Bad Times, Good People.” It followed presentations by Simon Levis Sullam, a lecturer in the Department of Italian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley; Liliana Picciotto Fargion, a Milanese historian an archivist; Eva Fogelman, author of ”Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust”; and Vincent Marmorale, from the Holocaust Memorial Committee of the Order of the Sons of Italy. The panelists credited as rescuers both rich and poor, civil service agents and ordinary citizens, religious and not. Among the audience were several Holocaust survivors who spoke of their experience during the question-and-answer session that followed the presentations.
The symposium was organized by the Center for Jewish History, the Consulate General of Italy, Wagner College, and the Centro Primo Levi, in collaboration with the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, the Italian Cultural Institute, and the Order of the Sons of Italy.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is a non-profit organization, with the aim of rendering homage to, promoting the message of, and remembering the actions of all those Heroes of the Holocaust who, like Raoul Wallenberg, risked their lives to save persecuted people.