April 24, 2015

Saved from Nazi persecution pay tribute to their rescuer

The nuns who run the San Jose Institute in Rome risked their lives to save Jewish children, as well as some of their mothers. For this reason their school is today proclaimed as a “House of Life”, by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

Hugs and tears. On April 16, several people saved from Nazi barbarism embraced one of their saviors. It was on the occasion of the proclamation as “House of Life” of the school of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Rome by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

During the Nazi occupation of Rome, between September 1943 and April 1944, the nuns gave shelter to more than 30 Jewish boys and girls as well as many of their mothers in their school and home. Women were disguised as Catholic nuns, if required.

The director of the school, mother Ferdinanda (Maria Corsetti) and one of the novices, sor Emerenziana (her name was Anna Bolledi) with the help of other religious, risked their lives daily, as German soldiers had occupied the adjoining house of a Jewish person. There was no separation wall between the two properties.

In the nunnery, where Jewish women and children hid, the Germans sometimes used the kitchen or even the hall for some of their feasts. A captain named Sigmund, sometimes came unannouncedly to play the church organ, causing panic among the refugees who ran, hiding in the classrooms, transformed into bedrooms.

The ceremony, organized by the International  Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, culminated with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque, on the outside wall of the school, declaring it “House of Life”.

Sor Emerenziana, now 93, the only religious who survived and has been recognized as “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, attended the ceremony.

The most touching moment was minutes before the ceremony, when Marta Ravenna, who was hosted in the convent at age 6, embraced the religious. Emerenziana, which retains all its clarity and good memory, was very moved, because she did not know that Martha would participate in the meeting.

Martha was the daughter of Elena, director of the Jewish school in Rome in 1943, who asked the religious to give shelter to her sons and nephews, when she realized that her life was in danger.

Marta was accompanied by her husband, Mario Lattes, who was also saved by the priest Mario Tirapani in Florence, during the German persecution of winter between 1943 and 1944, for which Yad Vashem has just recognized him as “Righteous Among the Nations “.

Sor Emerenziana was also embraced by two people whose’s lives were saved at the school, both 84 years old: Pina Donzelli, Catholic, a recognized university professor, who came from Sicily to participate in the celebration, and Roberto Calderoli, a Jew, who found refuge in the convent with his brothers and mother.

Marta Ravenna explained how the religious respected their identity, religion and culture: whether in the prayers, whether in the Jewish holidays, when the sheltered moms organized Jewish celebrations and shared the cake with the rest of the students, refugees and nuns.

On behalf of the authorities in Rome, the president of the Municipality, Cristina Maltese, accompanied by the president of the Council of the Municipality, Alessia Salmoni, attended the ceremony.

Eyal Lerner, Israeli singer and musician, performed a song recalling the compositions of the young Jewish poet Hannah Senesh.

The celebration concluded with the participation of Amedeo Minghi, one of the greatest contemporary songwriters of Italy, who presented an unprecedented online version of his video “Jerusalem”, a song performed alongside with a Palestinian Muslim and a Jewish Israeli singer.

Watch the video!