This day in history – September 8, 1943

September 8, 1943.

On this day in history, 72 years ago, Italy signed an armistice with the Allied Forces. The date is known as “The Catastrophe.” Sadly, it did not mean the end to hostilities for the Italian people. Quite the contrary. It brought the war home to Italy and marked the beginning of a brutal occupation by the Nazis and their fascist allies as Italy descended into civil war.

Jewish Deportation

Piemonte was not immune to the terror. Across the country, brave civilians, clergy, government officials and even police and soldiers defied orders to turn over Jews for deportation to the death camps where the Final Solution awaited them.

A descendent of Holocaust victims, Dan Hoffman, at the Memorial to the Deportees in Borgo San Dalmazzo.
In a somber moment, a descendent of Holocaust victims, Dan Hoffman, at the Memorial to the Deportees in Borgo San Dalmazzo.
Plaque at the Memorial to the Deportees in Borgo San Dalmazzo with the story of the deportation. (Note: there is an error on the plaque. Jews were sent to "Drancy" on their way to Auschwitz, not "Dancy.")
Plaque at the Memorial to the Deportees in Borgo San Dalmazzo with the story of the deportation. (Note: there is an error on the plaque. Jews were sent to “Drancy” on their way to Auschwitz, not “Dancy.”)

It has been quite an eye-opener for me to learn more about this dark period of history in Piemonte. This past summer, I even went to Borgo San Dalmazzo to the Memorial of the Deportees and up into the alpine valleys where refugee Jews from St. Martin-Vésubie thought they were coming into a safe zone. There were not.

San Giacomo, one of the alpine hamlets where Jewish refugees from the Holocaust following the retreating Italian Army arrived.
San Giacomo, one of the alpine hamlets where Jewish refugees from the Holocaust following the retreating Italian Army arrived.
A bucolic hikers path from San Giacomo to the Colle di Fenestra today, but what should have been a path to freedom for 1,000 Jews from St. Martin-Vésubie 72 years ago.
A bucolic hikers path from San Giacomo to the Colle di Fenestra today, but what should have been a path to freedom for 1,000 Jews from St. Martin-Vésubie 72 years ago.

My research allowed me to put into context the acts of heroism of ordinary citizens like Giovanna Rizzolio‘s grandmother Beatrice Rizzolio (whose name is listed as one of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem), Claudia and Silvia Cigliuti‘s grandparents Cornelia and Leone Cigliuti, Giacomo Oddero‘s mother Maria and many others. Wine families across the region were often caught between one or several partisan factions and the German army with their fascist allies.

Beatrice Rizzolio, Righteous Among the Nations and nonna of Giovanna Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose.
Beatrice Rizzolio, Righteous Among the Nations and nonna of Giovanna Rizzolio of Cascina delle Rose.
“Labor of Love”

There are many amazing stories I’ve uncovered, although many, no doubt, are lost to the ages. I look forward to sharing these stories and introducing my readers to a side of Piemonte, particularly the Langhe and Roero, they do not know in my upcoming book, “Labor of Love: The Wine Family Women of Piemonte.”

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2 thoughts on “This day in history – September 8, 1943”

    1. Yes, Jeff, it certainly was a dark period in the history of a region we have come to know and love for its cultural, culinary, vinous and visual beauty. I spent a good deal of the last two days (and it’s what I’m doing right now), researching to try to add as much context and additional info to the stories I’ve been told over the last 16 years, most notably in the last 30 months.

      I would delighted to see “A Labor of Love” be a big success, but the most important part of this journey for me has been privilege of hearing the wine families’ stories and being able to honor them and those who made their lives possible. And I’ve only scratched the surface.

      Thank you again.

      Ci vediamo
      Suzanne

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