My book, It Happened in Italy: Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust (view book here), research, and lectures, inspired the documentary, My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes, narrated by Isabella Rossellini (view trailer here). I am Consulting Producer of this work.
The book and documentary tell the little-known history of how approximately 80% of the Jews in Italy survived the Holocaust with help from individuals who risked their lives to save others. These individuals demonstrate that:
“If you are not indifferent – things can be different.”
The documentary had its World Premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival last October and opened the Rome Film Festival where it was viewed by many survivors and members of the Vatican. Its theatrical release will take place in New York (Cinema Village) and Los Angeles (Laemmle Musical Hall), March 27 – April 2, 2015.
Many people have asked me how I found stories that were included in the documentary. After the book was published, I was contacted with stories of survival in Italy during one of the darkest times in history. Other stories needed some serious detective work, including the help of an Israeli Ambassador!
Here are a few of the people whose stories are told in My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes.
Charlotte Fullenbaum Hauptman, is filmed returning to an Italian concentration camp, where she was with her parents as a child. We see her reunion with Mercedes Virgili, one of her rescuers. Mercedes has been honored at Yad Vashem, received a Medal of Valor from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and recently had an audience with Pope Francis.
Pietro Borromeo, tells us about his father Dr. Giovanni Borromeo who sheltered Jews in a hospital in the center of Rome. Ospedale Fatebenefratelli is directly across the river from the main synagogue. He invented a highly contagious disease “Morbo di K” to keep the Nazi’s away from the ward where the Jews were hidden until he could get fake documents so they could be moved to safety. Dr. Borromeo has also been honored at Yad Vashem.
Giorgio Goldenberg, was hidden near Florence, first in a convent in Settigano and then with his family in the city with the help of Gino Bartali. Bartali was a famous Italian cyclist who won the Tour de France in 1938 and 1948. He participated in distributing fake documents to Jews in Italy, especially Assisi. He too was honored at Yad Vashem.
Riccardo Pacifici, the President of the Jewish Community in Rome, tells his family story, which includes both the good and the evil. His grandfather was the Rabbi of Genoa and sought safety for his two sons in the convent in Settignano when Jews began being deported from Italy in September, 1943. It is the same convent where Giorgio Goldenberg was hidden!
Rabbi Pacifici and his wife were killed in Auschwitz, but the children survived because of the actions taken by the nuns, who were also honored at Yad Vashem. Riccardo and I attended the Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation Auschwitz on January 27, 2015.
These and other amazing stories show how individuals made a choice to make difference and as a result, people lived. It is important that they are told. Please share your stories with me, and share my website, www.elizabethbettina.com, with others who may have stories to tell.
New York City: Cinema Village.
22 E 12th Street (near Union Square)
New York, NY 10003
Los Angeles: Laemmle Music Hall
9036 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211