City of Walls to Port of Escape
Genoa has been nicknamed la Superba ("the Proud one") due to its glorious past and impressive landmarks.Part of the old town of Genoa is a World UNESCO Heritage Site. The city is the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and one of the country’s most major industrial ports dating back to the Middle Ages.During its long history, the city has been defended by different lines of walls, some dating back to the 9th century. A decree allowing the restoration of a synagogue tells us that Jews were living in Genoa before 511. The policy of the Genoese doges and senate toward the Jews varied over time, and in 1660 the 200 Jews living in Genoa were confined to a ghetto. They did now see full rights until 1848.
Because of its location and its large and active port, Genoa was an important center for assisting Italian Jews during the Holocaust. Until the very last minute, some managed to escape by boat from the city. Many Jewish refugees gathered in Genoa also because the city was the headquarters of the Delegazione Assistenza Emigrati Ebrei (DELASEM), which coordinated assistance and rescue programs. The Genovese office of DELASEM was headed initially by Lelio Vittorio Valobra, who later fled to Switzerland and continued to work from there. Massimo Teglio, a particularly courageous Genovese Jew, remained behind and played a central role in helping both Italian and foreign Jews in danger of arrest.
At the end of World War II, 1,108 Jews were left in Genoa. The port became a transit center for various groups of Jewish emigrants who came mainly from Eastern Europe and were heading for Israel. In early 2000s the community numbered a few hundred, operating a synagogue and a Jewish school. Our tour will cover many aspects of Genoa’s remarkable Jewish history and explore in depth the rescue efforts coordinated from here during the darkest days of the war!
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