Due tot he of the bravery and determination of Giuseppe Jona, the head of Venice’s Jewish Community during the Second World War, not many Jews were deported to concentration camps during the Nazi occupation of the city in 1943. But did you know what was Guiseppe Jona’s contribution to the Jews during the Second World War?
The Nazis demanded that renowned physician Giuseppe Jona of Venice hand over a list of all Jews who lived there, which he had. On the day of the handover, he burned the list and then committed suicide. Only 243 Jews were deported as a result of his actions, and approximately 1,200 were saved.
Giuseppe Jona, The Greatest Hero Venice Ever Had
Giuseppe Jona was born on October 28, 1866, in a Jewish Venetian family and graduated with honors in Medicine from the prestigious Padova University in 1892. His career as a brilliant doctor took off immediately, and he soon became Head of his department at the Venice Civil Hospital.
His commitment to Medicine and others was not unnoticed:
Giuseppe’s vital assistance in military hospitals during World War I prompted the Italian State to honor him in 1917, describing him as an enthusiastic patriot of unwavering faith. He was soon appointed President of the prestigious Ateneo Veneto, which pursues and promotes culture and knowledge, in 1921.
However, something unexpected happened after 40 years of work and public service:
With the implementation of the Fascist regime’s racist laws in 1938, Giuseppe Jona and all Jews became outcasts, to be despised, avoided, and discriminated against. Worse, in 1940, Giuseppe Jona’s name was removed from the list of doctors, and he was barred from practicing because he was Jewish.
Giuseppe, on the other hand, did not let a regime prevent him from being of assistance and inspiration to others:
Despite his non-practicing status, Giuseppe accepted the position of President of Venice’s Jewish community in 1940, guiding its people through arduous, disturbing, and dangerous times. And it was in this role, during such difficult times, that this great man became a hero. The greatest hero in Venice’s history. (Source: Venezia Autentica)
The Hero’s Sacrifice
When the armistice between Italy and the Allies went into effect on September 8, 1943, Nazi troops in Italy became occupant forces. The deportation of Jews to concentration and extermination camps quickly intensified.
The occupying forces immediately ordered Giuseppe to hand over a list of over 1300 Jews who remained in Venice.
Naturally, Giuseppe had no intention of complying and betraying the people he had come to guide. He was also aware that he could be brutally tortured until he confessed all the names and addresses of the people he had sworn to guide and protect.
He was also aware that he could be brutally tortured until he confessed all the names and addresses of the people he had sworn to guide and protect. (Source: Venezia Autentica)
Image from PestByda