CULTURE Jewish Sports in 1938: an Exhibition in Venice

veniceBy Pagine Ebraiche Staff

Many are the stories of Jewish sports heroes whose careers and often lives were brought to an end when there were the Anti-Jewish laws in Italy in 1938. Few of them somehow managed to keep practising and competing. An ongoing exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Venice focuses on both aspects and on a little known but fascinating figure: the local swimmer Giorgio Gesuà Sive Salvadori.

Born in 1921, Giorgio started to swim at age 13 and he immediately proved to be incredibly gifted. In 1937 he was selected to take part in the National Championships for his age group in Rome. After 1938 his team opportunistically kept on allowing him to compete, interested in taking advantage of his talent. He later took part in competitions under a false name. In the meantime, the State had confiscated his father’s tobacco shop on St. Mark Square (the shop was never returned to the family).

In 1943 he managed to avoid deportation by fleeing to Switzerland, where he found a job as a swimming instructor in Lugano. He moved back to Venice in 1947.

The history of the ban of Jews of all ages from the sports world in Venice is still to be researched. “We do not know how many were expelled from clubs, how many were prevented from competing, how many were deprived of the sports social dimension in a time when great importance was given to it. We can just narrate the story of Giorgio Gesuà Sive Salvadori thanks to his son David who wanted to preserve his father’s memory. We hope that this story could be an example for those who might be interested in reconstructing the history of that period”, as it is explained in the exhibit.

The exhibit will close on March 10, 2019.