It’s easy to forget, in this religiously homogeneous land where politics, education, holidays, foods, and given names all seem to revolve around the Catholic church, that there are other religious communities in Italy.
Jews in Italy have have had a tough time of it for the past two millenia, and the tiny remaining community of 45,000 which still live in the Bel Paese would have been even smaller had it not been for the work of a network of citizens—lay and ordained, private and official—who secretly collaborated to harbor and ultimately save more than 300 Jews and other war refugees in the early 1940s.
In 1978 The Assisi Underground – a novel built around the true story of this clandestine network – was published, but for years the only remaining tangible evidence of this historic moment was the vintage printing press, still bolted to the floor of the typographer workshop-turned-souvenir shop. This ungainly black press had been used by the Brizi family to secretly print false identity cards and other documents, making it possible for Jews both in Assisi and across Italy to avoid deportation and imprisonment.
January 27th, this Friday, is the Giornata della Memoria (Holocaust Remembrance Day)