INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
A family story
This story begins in Czechoslovakia and ends in Australia, also passing through Italy.
From August 1940 to April 1941, the parents of my husband, Aljosa Volcic, hosted two illegal Jews without reporting them to the authorities: Jan Herman and his wife Anna, Jews from Brno, who reached Ljubliana fleeing from Czechoslovakia.
But on April 6, 1941, the Nazis bombed Belgrade and Yugoslavia was invaded by Germany, Italy and their allies. On 7 April, Jan and Anna fled from Ljubliana, but ended up confined to the concentration camp of Ferramonti, in Calabria (Italy). In September 1943, the camp was liberated by British troops who appointed Jan Herman pro tempore commander of the camp. His stay in the Ferramonti concentration camp is documented by registers and letters.
Jan returned to Brno where he was accused by the communist regime of having been a collaborator.
So, he returned to Italy and went to Genoa: from there he sent a letter to my husband’s parents, informing them that he was about to embark for Australia with his wife. My husband learned of their deaths from Wiesenthal, the “Nazi hunter”.
2024- The Concentration Camp in Ferramonti, Calabria
Today I resume the story that began three years ago, on January 27, 2021, with a family story that arrives from Czechoslovakia at the Ferramonti concentration camp, in Calabria. It is this field that I wish to talk about, and its extraordinary nature.
Jan Herman and his wife Anna, illegal Jews from Brno, find refuge in the home of my husband’s parents, Aljosa Volcic. My brother-in-law, the well-known journalist Demetrio Volcic, had already been born, and he had vivid memories of the couple.
When Yugoslavia is invaded, Jan and Anna escape to Italy and reach the Ferramonti concentration camp, their salvation.
The camp director allowed the prisoners to interact with the local population, who took care to bring them food in exchange for medical advice and scholastic support. The director, in fact, allowed cultural, artistic, musical and even recreational activities. We even played chess. In short, you could live.
When the Germans beat the retreat and try to destroy the traces of their monstrosities, the director of the Ferramonti camp implements a heroic plan to save his prisoners: he transfers the able-bodied prisoners to the surrounding houses, so that they remain well hidden and, to avoid the certain death in the sick places the plague flag clearly visible.
The Germans, seeing her, are afraid of contagion and do not enter the camp. This is how the prisoners were saved.
A heroic act, of those who are not afraid of losing their own life to save many others.
This story of humanity and courage should be told more often, especially to school children.
So, let’s take responsibility for difficult choices, even if this involves risks.
We commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and condemn all forms of racism, racial persecution and genocide.