Courage Italia: Italian Resistance to the Holocaust Community Project

This project seeks to recognize the Italian rescue of Jews during the Holocaust, in ways that educate and inspire our communities, to understand the power of each individual to translate compassion into acts of moral courage.

Italian Legacy and Heritage, Heroism and Humanity during the Holocaust

By Frank Oliveri, Ph.D.
Founder, The Courage Italia Project

From the earliest days of the Roman Empire, Italy and the Italian people have been at the very heart and soul of the development and flourishing of Western Civilization. The Italian contributions made throughout history to modern civilized societies are unquestionable.

We are all familiar with and proud of the traditions and heritage that the world has acquired from Italians: architecture, art, music, literature, science, medicine, many laws of modern nations and, of course... food.

Historically, the developments that have taken place in Italy, are nestled at the very core of Western civilization - a civilization which was, metaphorically speaking, conceived in the womb of Italy.

Many people are yet unaware, of the noble example set by Italy and the Italians during the Holocaust (one of the darkest hours in human history). This little known historical footnote, illuminates the exemplary courage, heroism, and humanity- which are now part of our proud Italian heritage.

During the 1930's and early '40's, Nazi Germany tried to exterminatethe Jewish people; a crime which has no parallel in human history. This is an example of a modern technologically advanced society programmed to eliminate an entire segment of the human race.

While the rest of the "civilized" world turned its collective back on the Jews, Italy and the Italian people did not stand idly by.

The following quote exemplifies the Italian resistance to the Genocideand illustrates the ethos of saving the life of a Jewish brother or sister:

"Because I could not stand the sight of human beings being branded like animals, because I could not stand the sight of children being killed, I saw people who needed help and there was something I could do, so I did what had to be done."

All are welcome to utilize the Courage Italia resources on loan
in the Interfaith Center Library.
Contact Dr. Allan O’Grady Cuseo at for an appointment.

"A Debt to Honor"

A video documentary that tells the compelling stories of ordinary individuals whose personal acts of courage resulted in the rescue of thousands of Jews after the Nazi occupation of Italy in 1943.

More than 50 years after the end of World War II, we learned the story of rescue and safety extended by many Italian citizens to Jewish families fleeing the Nazis.

The documentary filmed in November 1944, includes archival scenes from Benito Mussolini's rise to power,as a background for understanding the role of Italian fascismas the basis for official anti-Semitic policies at the time.

But the principal focus of the program is a series of interviews with Italian priests and nuns and with other Italians who spoke of their direct involvement in the rescue and safety they extended to Italian and Jewish refugees, saving them from the Holocaust. Close to 80% of all the Jews living in Italy at the outbreak of the War in 1940 survived through the help they received from their Christian neighbors.

These stories of moral courage are told by the people who participated in them, serving as reminders to students and adults that it is within the ability of each of us to reject intolerance and injustice, and not to be bystanders to such events.

The message of social responsibility inherent in the recorded interviews should have a prominent place in our classrooms and in our homes. The documentary is 29:35 minutes in length, making it ideal for classroom or community programming.

"A Debt to Honor" was prepared in collaboration with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Italian American Foundation.

Documentaries International Film & Video Foundation
1800 K Street, NW, Suite 1120 - Washington, DC

Witnesses Wanted

The time has come to honor some of the most unsung heroes of World War II !!!

Does someone in your family speak of "taking in" or "giving shelter" to someone during the War?

Is there a family tale of kindness or acts of heroism involving relatives who served in the Italian armed forces during the War? Do you have photos or documents from that era involving the aid or rescue of Italian Jews or other European Jews?

Did your father, mother or grandparent insure your family's survival by escaping persecution?

The horrors endured by Jews at the hands of the Nazis will never be forgotten, and shouldn't be. However, the time has come to tell the world about another aspect of life during WWII. We are only recently beginning to realize the complete story of the survival of the Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.

Part of their survival story is due to the natural human kindness and goodness of ordinary Italian citizens, soldiers and diplomats. These may have been your parents, grandparents, or it might have been you.

What was done back then to protect your Jewish friends, or total strangers, may not have been shared with many people, for whatever reason, but please speak up now. We want to hear your story and/or see your pictures.

We want to honor these strong men and women who survived, and those who helped them survive. Give us a hand and join us in celebrating life and courage.

Frank Oliveri, Ph.D.
The Order of the Sons of Italy in America
(585) 581-0529