A Holocaust Story From the White Pages

editor Thursday 13 July 2017 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email Printer friendly

By Michel Frank.. An ‘archaeologist of bureaucracy’ traces the ghostly lives of foreign Jews in Italy during World War II. In the fall of 2011 I received a letter from my friend Letizia Gualandi, a professor of archaeology at the University of Pisa. “I have a question to ask you on behalf of my mother, Giovanna,” she began. [Photo top right:Fanny Rudorfer, during her time as a doctor in Italy. (Photo courtesy Emil Ruderfer)]. 

It involves a bit of research, which I don’t know if you’ll want or be able to do. During the Second World War, when the Germans occupied Italy, my mother’s family took refuge in September of 1944 in a small mountain village in the Marche called Pievebovigliana. In the apartment the local priest had found for them there was already living a mysterious young woman whose name, she said, was Franca Ricci. Franca was around 30 years old and spoke perfect Italian, but she almost never went outdoors. She said that she was from Puglia, that she was a doctor at the hospital of Sant’Orsola di Bologna, and that she had fled Bologna because of the war. She hoped to be able to rejoin her family in Bari, but the presence of the military front had kept her from going south.

Letizia went on to describe how, when Fascist soldiers knocked on their door while searching the houses of the town looking for soldiers to send to the front, Franca reacted by trembling in a way that was dramatic and unnatural. At about the same time, local people began whispering that Dr. Ricci’s story seemed perplexing, especially with regard to the details of how she ended up in this obscure place, where nobody knew her and where she didn’t appear to know anyone; they also noted that when she went to church she didn’t seem to know what to do. Finally one day she confessed to Giovanna and her family that her name was Fanny Rudorfer and that she was a Polish Jew. Read the full story.



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