1920 | 1947
On the tombstone walled in a wall of the Synagogue of Bologna in Finzi street, you can read the names of eighty-four members of the local Jewish community who did not return to their homes after the deportation in the extermination camp. Four of them belonged to the same family: the Matathia. In reality, the Matathias were five: Beniamino was deported but managed to survive after the liberation of Auschwitz. Unfortunately, back in Italy, he died two years later because of the consequences of the violence and deprivation he had suffered. The head of the family, Nissim, was a Greek Jewish who moved to Italy in 1920. He was a furrier and thanks to his remarkable business skills he had reached and consolidated a good economic position which enabled him to buy a small house in Riccione, very close to the summer home of Mussolini.
In 1938, when racial laws came into force, everything changed: the first persecutions began right from the cottage of Riccione because of the presence of some Jewish neighbours near the house of the leader. Pressure, threats and retaliation forced the poor Nissim to sell his house for a derisory price. Clearly the misfortunes did not end there: the work was no longer available, the difficulties were always greater, the war was looming and, moreover, after the armistice of 1943, the situation precipitated.
Nissim had not wanted to leave Italy, as his brother had done instead. Since he had Greek origin, in 1939 he was arrested and expelled. He returned to Corfu, but in 1940 he returned as a clandestine not to abandon his relatives. Staying in Italy meant the end of his family. The Matathias collected the few coins left and moved, he moved to Bologna and his wife and children to Savigno, in the hills. The boys resumed attending school (obviously the Jewish one). Every now and then, mostly in secret, father and sons managed to meet, but just one of these meetings turned out to be fatal: Nissim and Roberto (the youngest) were arrested in the city in November 1943. The mother Matilda, together with Beniamino and Camelia, were captured the following month in Savignano sul Panaro, home of their last desperate refuge. All of them were first imprisoned and then deported to Auschwitz with the results that we know. Their story was the subject of a book written and published in 2014 by their relative, Roberto Matathia (who bears the same name as Nassim’s youngest son), who was aware of the events connected to his relatives and who then, by fortuitous events, came into possession of some unpublished documents. The volume is entitled "The Uncomfortable Neighbors". “History of a provincial Jew, his wife and his three children in the years of fascism": another precious missing piece not to forget that those names written on the tombstone corresponded to people whose life was completely overwhelmed by human madness.
Beniamino Matathia rests in the New Israelite Camp of the Certosa of Bologna.
Traduzione a cura del Liceo Leonardo Da Vinci, nell'ambito del progetto Scuola Lavoro 2020/21.