BECCARI, ARRIGO° (1909– ), priest and teacher at the Catholic seminary in Nonantola, near Bologna, Italy; Righteous Among the Nations. In July 1942, a group of 50 Jewish children arrived at the seminary, having fled from the war zone in Dalmatia, Yugoslavia, between Italian troops and local partisans. With the help of Delasem, the officially recognized Jewish emigration and welfare agency, the children were housed in the Villa Emma home. There, Josef Itai, the group's leader, became friendly with Father Arrigo Beccari. Nonantola seemed a safe place to sit out the war, but when Italy surrendered to the Allies on September 8, 1943, and the Germans overran the parts of the country not yet in Allied hands, a reign of terror began for the Jews. In order to keep the children at the Villa Emma from falling into German hands, Beccari, without necessarily consulting his superiors, took as many children as possible into the seminary for hiding and arranged for others to be housed with friendly villagers. Food for all of them was provided by the seminary's kitchen. As the Nazis and their local collaborators stepped up the search for Jews, it became urgent for the children and their adult leaders, a total of 120 persons, to be moved somewhere else. It was decided to take the whole group north and across the Swiss border. With the help of Dr. Giuseppe Moreali, Nonantola's physician, all 120 persons were provided with forged documents identifying them as Italians. Then they boarded a train for the Swiss frontier, a ride fraught with terrible but unavoidable risks, for most of them could hardly speak Italian and the forged papers may not have saved them during a police check. Luckily, no mishaps occurred during the long train ride, and on Yom Kippur eve of 1943 the group passed safely into Switzerland. The Gestapo, discovering the loss of the children, seized Beccari and imprisoned him in Bologna. Despite the tortures inflicted on him over the next few months, he refused to disclose the names of the persons who had helped him or to reveal the whereabouts of others Jews in hiding. His religious superiors interceded on his behalf and he was released. Years later he wrote: "It would be difficult for me to erase the memory of the terror and suffering of those days or of my joy at doing the small good which was my duty and which had to be done." In 1964, Don Beccari was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
Yad Vashem Archives M31–35; M. Paldiel, The Path of the Righteous (1993), 356–57.
[Mordecai Paldiel (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.