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Giovanni Borromeo

(1898 - 1961)

Giovanni Borromeo

(1898 - 1961)

Professor Giovanni Borromeo, born in Rome in 1898, into a family traditionally engaged in the medical field, had begun his hospital service in 1934. Under his direction, the Fatebenefratelli hospital came to be considered one of the best medical institutions in Rome. It also became a safe haven for persecuted Jews. 

Dr. Vittorio Emanuele Sacerdoti of Ancona had been put in touch with Dr. Borromeo by his former teacher Marco Almagià who was Sacerdoti's uncle. He was able to work in the hospital thanks to falsified document. In late September 1943, after the Germans’ occupation of the capital, they ordered the Jews of Rome to deliver to them fifty kg of gold. In those days, Dr. Sacerdoti brought Jews to the hospital and had them admitted with the approval of Professor Borromeo, and of Father Maurizio, prior of the Fatebenefratelli. He also transferred Jews from the Jewish hospital in the ghetto – just across from the Fatebenefratelli. Others joined them on the day of the mass arrest of the Jews of Rome on 16 October 1943. With the consent of Professor Borromeo and of the prior, they were all received with the diagnosis of "K. disease", which in itself could mean Koch disease or Kreps disease, which terrified the Germans, but which was also a conventional way of saying Kesserling disease, Kesserling being the commander of the German armed forces. They could see through the hospital windows how the Jews of the ghetto were hunted and watched the terrible scenes with horror. 

In early November 1943, Gina Almagià and her mother also found refuge in the hospital, where they remained until a few weeks, when they were taken in at the Sette Dolori Convent in Gianicolo. 

Claudio and Luciana Tedesco told Yad Vashem that their parents and grandmother had also been sheltered at the hospital. The children were first hidden by a family, but in April 1944, they too were taken to the hospital. 

Giorgina Ajò, who had converted to Christianity after marrying Antonio Briganti of Palermo, and her son Pierluigi, born and baptized in 1939, found refuge in the hospital from December 1943 until May 5, 1944.

In the beginning of May 1944 the Germans raided the hospital. The Tedescos described how the patients were told to cough so as to frighten and deter the Germans who were afraid of contacting contagious diseases, such as Tuberculosis. The Germans found six Polish Jews who were hiding on a balcony and took them away. They were incarcerated in the Regina Coeli prison, but since Rome was liberated one month later, they survived the war. Claudio and Luciana Tedesco remember that they came to the hospital to thank their rescuers. Gina Alamagia, together with her relatives Luciana and Claudio Tedesco, has made the courage and altruism of Professor Giovanni Borromeo widely known.The Tedescos expressed their gratitude by planting trees in honor of their rescuers in one of the forests in Israel and by turning to Yad Vashem to have Dr. Borromeo recognized as Righteous. 

On October 13, 2004, Yad Vashem recognized Giovanni Borromeo as Righteous Among the Nations.

Sources: Yad Vashem

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