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Aurelia Finzi (nee Levi) (1874-1943)

Aurelia Finzi (nee Levi) (1874-1943)


Above is a photo of my paternal grandmother, Aurelia Finzi (nee Levi), taken in Milan, Italy sometime in the late 1930s-early 40s and another of her together with my grandfather, my father and his sister in the 1920s, also in Milan.

Aurelia was born in 1874 to a middle class Jewish family in Piedmont, Italy. She married my grandfather in 1901 and moved to Milan. She had two children - my father, Giulio, born in 1903 and his sister, Emma, born in 1905, and was widowed in the mid 1930s. My father studied law and opened a legal practice in Milan but was forced to stop working in 1938 by the racial laws that were introduced that year. On a fictitious legal case he escaped to Switzerland and from there to London, where he lived until his death in 1979.

My grandmother, as so many Italian Jews, felt entirely assimilated and could not believe that anything would happen to them. Although my aunt listened clandestinely to the BBC World Service (forbidden in Italy at the time) and heard my father broadcast what was happening in Europe, my grandmother insisted on staying in Italy and forbade my aunt to leave, even though my father had obtained travel tickets for them and permission to enter Britain. In 1943, when it became clear that they were not safe, it was too late for them to emigrate, and they tried to escape over the Swiss border but were betrayed by those who had been bribed to escort them and were deported to Auschwitz. My grandmother, in her late 60s, was sent straight to the gas chambers, the exact fate of my aunt remains unknown.

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