The Commission for Social Justice (CSJ), the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA), decided in January, 1995, that one of our goals would be to educate and inform the world about the secret story of the efforts of the Italian people to save Jews during World War II. As an outgrowth of furthering this goal, the Holocaust Memorial Committee was established and was to be operated and funded solely by the Commission for Social Justice.

Italian and Jewish groups joined together to talk and learn about heroic efforts of Italians to save Jews during World War II. Jews lauded the humanity and decency of the Italians that were part and parcel of the caring and fabric of the Italian people. The discussions centered on the understanding of the Italian behavior and the moral integrity of individuals who played a powerful role in thwarting the aims and goals of criminal ideologies.

Early meetings in Long Beach, NY with Steven Reinheimer and Vincent Marmorale, the President and Vice President, respectively, of the Holocaust Memorial Committee of Long Beach, the late Walter Wolff, member of the Young Israel Synagogue in Long Beach and a Holocaust survivor, Rabbi Chaim Wakslak, of the Young Israel Synagogue, Santina Haemmerle, Vice President of the Commission for Social Justice, and Ugo Nardone, President of the Michael Valente Lodge, OSIA, of Long Beach helped formulate a joint program held at the Young Israel Synagogue in Long Beach on April 21, 1996. The survivors who recounted their stories about the courage and bravery of the Italian people were: Walter Wolff from Long Beach, Herta Pollack from Riverdale, Max Kempin from Fairlawn, New Jersey, and Horst Stein, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Jewish survivors of the Holocaust bore witness to the Italian people and the role they played in their survival. They gave public testimony to thank the Italian people for helping to save not only their lives but the lives of countless thousands of Jews sent to Italy. The survivors detailed how Italians, time and time again, protected, housed, and helped thousands of Jews survive because they believed that Hitler's actions were immoral. This overwhelmingly successful event was attended by an overflow capacity audience of over 400 people from the OSIA and many members of Jewish organizations such as B'nai B'rith and local synagogues. This program was the catalyst for the establishment of the CSJ's Holocaust Memorial Committee.

The CSJ packaged a program and exhibition called "Italians and the Holocaust - The Saving of Jews in Italy." This program was extensively promoted and exhibited throughout the Tri-State area and harmoniously joined two cultures in a mutually conducive atmosphere. This highly successful program was brought to fruition through the efforts of Vincent Marmorale, the Chairperson of the CSJ Holocaust Memorial Committee, and the late Walter Wolff, an actual survivor of the Holocaust. The CSJ thanks and appreciates their efforts in conjunction with this presentation.

Much of Italy's Jewish population was saved due to the courageous acts of heroism by many Italians during the later part of Italy's fascist regime. This historical fact is not well known nor has it been widely reported. Although many fascists held anti-Semitic views, the Italian population in general did not share this belief. It is illustrative to compare the Mussolini's actions in 1938 with the words of Pope Pius XI:

In 1938, Mussolini's Manifesto of Race stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship, severely limited their employment and ownership of land, and prohibited marriage between Jews and non-Jews.
In the same year Pope Pius XI expressed the view that "mankind is a single, large, universal human race (...) [with] no room for special races." And in September speech Pius XI stated:
Anti-Semitism is incompatible with the lofty thought which that fact expresses. It is a movement with which we Christians can have nothing to do. No, no I say to you it is impossible for a Christian to take part in anti-Semitism. It is inadmissible. Through Christ and in Christ we are the spiritual progeny of Abraham. Spiritually we are all Semites.

A Debt to Honor

View the two part documentary, "A Debt to Honor," narrated by Alan Alda. This video describes the little known story of how the Italians courageous efforts during WWII that resulted in saving thousands of Jews in Italy. During World War II more Jews were saved in Italy than any other country in Europe!

Below are additonal short videos that speak of the selfless acts of courage by Italians during World War II: