As soon as he turned eighteen, Piero Cividalli followed the steps of his sister Paola – who had served in a British auxiliary unit since 1944 – and enlisted “in order to help liberate Europe from the yoke of Nazism and Fascism”.
Fortunately, the war was over right before Piero became actively involved in it. Two months after the end of the war, he landed in Taranto “with a group of Jewish soldiers who came from Palestine. I could see with my own eyes how Italy had been ruined. Fascism had led to the complete destruction of the country, turning it into a poor, barren and ruined land”.
Last Italian survivor from glorious Jewish Brigade, the military formation of Jewish volunteers who fought for the Liberation, Cividalli recalled his story in Milan last week, standing before a whole city honoring and welcoming him at Palazzo Marino. In front of mayor Giuseppe Sala and the city board members, in a council room full of people who had come there just for the occasion, Cividalli spoke about the suffering his family and thousands of Italian Jews experienced because of the Racial Laws; the loss of his family friends Carlo and Nello Rosselli, both victims of Fascism; his flight towards Mandatory Palestine and his return to Italy, where he saw a country devastated by Mussolini’s regime.
“I would like Italians to know the history of their own country, what Fascism led them to, and that false desire for nationalism”. These were Cividalli’s words: “We should never forget that we are all citizens of the world, and we will have no future if we do not help each other and stop going into wars and messing it up”.
“Once again, our thanks to Piero Cividalli for his life and choices. We wish him all the best, and we hope he will keep telling more and more people about his story”, said Giuseppe Sala, underlining how “thanks to Cividalli’s commitment and that of many members of the Jewish Brigade we are living today in a free, democratic and European country”.
“I think that the handful of people who usually boo at the Jewish Brigade on April 25 – Sala has added – behave like that because they are not aware of its being a powerful and bright symbol of freedom in European history.
The mayor also took part in the laying of crowns held in Campo della Gloria, in the Cimitero Maggiore, during a ceremony that brought together Chief Rabbi Alfonso Arbib, the archbishop of Milan Mario Delpini, General Silvano Frigerio, commander of the military forces, regional undersecretary Alan Rizzi, Giuliano Banfi, Vice-President of ANED (the national association for ex-political deportees) and Roberto Cenati, Vice-President of the ANPI Committee of Milan.
According to Cenati, the ceremony in Campo della Gloria, dedicated to partisans, deportees, and to workers murdered during World War II was “fundamental to make people remember what happened in the past, especially at a time when Europe and Italy are experiencing a drift toward racism, xenophobia and fascism”.
Translated by Arianna Mercuriali, student at the Advanced School for Interpreters
and Translators of Trieste University, intern at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.