The square, Largo 16 Ottobre 1943, is named for the day when Nazi trucks parked here and threatened to take the Jews to concentration camps unless the community came up with 110 pounds of gold in 24 hours. Everyone, including non-Jewish Romans, tossed in their precious gold, and the demand was met. The Nazis took the gold, and later, they took the Jews as well.
The great raid on the Roman Ghetto began around 5.30 on October 16, 1943. Over one hundred Germans armed with machine guns surrounded the Jewish quarter. At the same time another two hundred soldiers were distributed in 26 operational areas where the German High Command had divided the city in search of other victims. When the gigantic raid ended Roman Jews were captured.
Two days later in 18 sealed wagons they were all transferred to Auschwitz. Only 15 of them returned at the end of the conflict: 14 men and one woman. All the others are dead for the most part, in the gas chambers. None of the over two hundred children survived. ” (F. Cohen, 16 October 1943. The great raid of the Jews of Rome)
Sabatino Finzi, Deported to Auschwitz October 18, 1943. “It was 7am. They knocked on our door, and we opened it because my mother had injections every morning and she thought it was the nurse who had come to give them. It was the Germans who held a document written in Italian. It said to take all food, jewelry and money we had because we had to leave our home to work elsewhere.”
Rubino Romeo Salmoni, Roman Auschwitz Survivor, was the real-life inspiration for the Oscar-winning 1997 Life Is Beautiful, about an Italian imprisoned in a German concentration camp during World War II. “At Auschwitz I was no longer Rubino Romeo Salmoni, but Jew number A15810, to be exterminated,” he later wrote in his memoir In the End, I Beat Hitler. The book was freely adapted into the screenplay co-written by Roberto Benigni, who directed the film and also won a Best Actor Oscar for it, as a character named Guido Orefice. (People Magazine 7/12/11)
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