B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith Milan, B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jews who Rescued Fellow Jews During the Holocaust will confer a Jewish Rescuers Citation upon Enzo Cavaglion (98 years old), for saving the lives of Jewish refugees in northern Italy during the German occupation.
Enzo Cavaglion was one of the 14 founding members of the partisan group “Italia Libera” (Free Italy), established on Sept. 12, 1943 — the same day that Cuneo, Italy was occupied by the German First SS Panzer Division — by Duccio Galimberti, an outspoken anti-Fascist lawyer from Cuneo. They ensconced themselves in the sanctuary of the Madonna del Colletto, 18 kilometers to the west of Cuneo, about halfway up the steep ridge separating the valley of the Gesso from the valley of the Stura to the north. Enzo and his younger brother, Riccardo Cavaglion, stayed with the group until October 1943, when they had to leave to help their own families escape arrest in Cuneo.
In addition to the combat they waged against the Germans and Italian Fascists, Enzo and Riccardo also helped Jews who sought refuge in villages around Cuneo. More than 1,000 Jews living in the remote Italian-occupied French Alpine village of Saint-Martin-Vesubie fled in the face of the German army that invaded the area following the announcement on Sept. 8 of the armistice signed between Italy and the Allies.
Men, women, children, the elderly and disabled scaled the Maritime Alps over the international border into Italy in a harrowing ordeal, only to find the Germans already roaming the area. About 300 people were captured and sent to Auschwitz. The remaining 700 found refuge among the welcoming local peasant population. Enzo and Riccardo found hiding places for them, furnished them with the necessary documents and hid them in the mountains in order to evade the Nazis. Survivor Harry Burger credited Enzo and Riccardo with saving his life and his mother’s life by warning them that the Nazis were hunting for them. Another survivor, Alfred Feldman, wrote in his memoir, “One Step Ahead: A Jewish Fugitive in Hitler’s Europe,” that he witnessed a daring theft of identity cards by Enzo and Riccardo from the mayor’s office in Vignolo, Italy, that were then falsified and distributed to some of the refugees. Enzo performed all of these activities despite the additional danger he faced as a result.
Following the presentation at Enzo Cavaglion’s home, a ceremony will take place on Jan. 21 at 3:30 p.m. (local time) at the Cuneo Synagogue in Contrada Mondovì, Italy.
The program includes speeches by key government officials, B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Enzo’s son, noted history professor Alberto Cavaglion, who will formally accept the award.
B’nai B’rith Milan President Paolo Eliezer Foà will host the ceremony.
Since its establishment in 2011, the Jewish Rescuers Citation has been presented in an effort to correct the public misconception that Jews did not rescue fellow Jews during the Holocaust. To date nearly 200 heroes have been honored for rescue activities in Germany, France, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Holland and now Italy.
For more information on the history of the Jewish Rescuers Citation click here.
photos from jewish rescuers' citation events in italy