FEATURES Restored Footage Shows pre-Holocaust Italian Jewish Life

della-setaBy Rachel Silvera

The Della Seta family had a secret box kept in their house in Rome. Every time someone tried to open it, one of the family members would cry out loudly: “Be careful, it is fragile, it is flammable!” Claudio Della Seta knew what was inside the box: a piece of his past, a piece of his roots; family footage of his grandparents Jewish wedding which took place in Rome in 1923. However the film was too old to be screened so he had never been able to see the movie. Until today.

Thanks to Maria Cristina Misiti, director of the ICRCPAL, the Central Institute of Restoration and Conservation of Archive and Library Heritage (Institute of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage – MiBAC) and Mario Musumeci from the National Film Archive, the Della Seta family movie was restored and digitalized.

“I’m excited for two reasons, this is the first intimate movie of an Italian Jewish family filmed before the Holocaust and maybe the first movie that portrays the life of an Italian family ever shot in this country; a real treasure. For many years Yad Vashem, the World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration, had searched something like this and now they will have it.”

Claudio Della Seta donated a copy of the movie to Yad Vashem, to the Jewish Museum of Rome and to the Foundation of Shoah Museum in Rome. The Milan-based CDEC (Centre of Jewish Contemporary Documentation) will take care of the original film. “I can talk about it for hours”, said Claudio Della Seta during the presentation of the film which took place in Rome – but maybe the best way to figure out what we are talking about is to watch this movie… Action!”.

The movie was shot by Salvatore, a cousin of the newly-weds and an amateur film maker. In the footage, Di Segni and Della Seta families are seen skiing, reading the Italian daily, Il Messaggero, and eating delicious pastries before the main scene: Claudio Della Seta’s grandparents, Silvio Della Seta and Iole Campagnano, getting married. In the background are their parents Samuele Della Seta, Giulia Di Segni and Giuseppe Campagnano. Samuele and Giulia were arrested and deported to death camps during the Nazi-Fascist raid on the old Jewish Ghetto on October 16, 1943 and they never returned. Luckily Giuseppe took refuge in a convent and Iole and Silvio were helped by an Italian family, the Marinellis. A bittersweet story that thanks to the secret box and its precious fragile content will never be forgotten.