Caterina Giordano

she faked a pregnancy to save a Jewish family during the Holocaust

Between 9th and 13th September 1943, around 900 Jews escaping from France got to the area of Borgo San Dalmazzo, in the province of Cuneo. One of the consequences of the Badoglio Proclamation of 8th September had indeed been the German offensive against Italian troops in southern France; this territory had thus passed from Italian occupation to German occupation, and the situation of the Jews in those areas had become even more complex. Therefore, many of them decided to move towards Piedmont.

Among these families were Vigdor Korn and his pregnant wife Jenta Lenjower, who had moved together with Ester Lenjower and Regina Kirschbaum, Jenta’s sister and mother, Ester’s husband Markus Apterbach and their child Isidor. The Korns were in urgent need of shelter from the cold of winter and from Nazi-fascists due to Jenta’s pregnancy, as the day she was due to give birth was approaching. Two local families, the Giordano-Landras and the Desderis gave them the hospitality they needed.

Initially, the Poles found refuge in the hamlet of Beguda, in Mrs Caterina Giordano’s house. It was adjacent to the family-run grocery shop and was therefore a very busy place. Caterina was immediately concerned about the issues that the crying of the unborn child may lead to, so she decided to start faking a pregnancy to pass off the child as her own and be inconspicuous. On 24th February 1944, Jenta gave birth to little Frimeta Amalia Maria Gabriella Korn in Beguda.

The family had by then become too large, numbering as many as seven members. The Giordano-Landra family then made an agreement with the Desderi family: every day, at first light, the Korns and the Apterbachs would move to the Desderi family’s farmstead, a few kilometres from Beguda, and would stay there until sunset; once it was dark again, they would go back to the Giordano-Landra family’s house.

A few days after the child’s birth, however, fascists from Ettore Muti Mobile Autonomous Legion in search of Jews captured Vigdor Korn, who was shot shortly afterwards. The murder of her husband was kept secret from Jenta, who was told that Vigdor had decided to join local partisans and had taken the road to the mountains, as the other family members were afraid that she would go mad with despair and do something that would endanger the cover and safety of the families and of those who were helping her to hide. The Korns and the Apterbachs were then helped to move to another of Desderis’ estates further into the mountains, where they would be protected from the dangers of urban centres. In early autumn of 1944, they were taken from here to Demonte, also in the province of Cuneo, where they managed to survive the war thanks to the solidarity offered by the population and the financial support given by the local parish priest Father Viale.

Some panels of the MEMO4345 project, set up in Borgo San Dalmazzo, are dedicated to the memory of this story.

We would like to thank Gigi Garelli, director of the Historical Institute of the Resistance in Cuneo, Adriana Muncinelli, curator of MEMO4345, and Viviana Giordano, Caterina's niece, for their support in researching this story. The photo on the cover is courtesy of Viviana Giordano.

Alessandro Colombini, historian

Caterina Giordano was honoured as “Righteous reported by the civil society” in the 2024 ceremony.

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