Elvira Colombo Cattaneo

she contributed to the rescue of a Jewish child from Nazi persecution

Giuditta (then Yehudith Kleinman) was born in Venice on July 16, 1938 to a Polish-German couple, Anna and Micha Grosswirth, who then separated in the following years.
After the arrest and internment order of foreign Jews, issued by the Italian Ministry of the Interior in 1940, Giuditta, her mother Anna and grandmother, Lea Elertt, were forced to move first to Milan and then to Desio (a small city outside Milan) in an attempt to escape the persecution.
The situation worsened further after 8 September 1943 and Giuditta's mother and grandmother were arrested and deported. They died in Auschwitz.
Instead, the child managed to save herself thanks to the combined action of three people who, at great personal risk, snatched her from a marked destiny. They are Elvira and Ernesto Cattaneo and the Mother Superior Sister Teresa, born Colomba Tamanza.
During the arrest of Giuditta's mother and grandmother in their house in Desio, Giuditta was playing in the courtyard with Fiammetta, daughter of the neighbors Elvira and Ernesto Cattaneo.
These, with great promptness, pretended that she was also their daughter, managing not to arouse suspicions.

The rescue of little Giuditta, who later became Yehudith Kleinman, a tireless witness of Memory in the years to come, did not stop there. The little girl was welcomed and hidden in the convent of the "Handmaids of Charity", whose Mother Superior, Sister Teresa, did everything to protect her, even undergoing harsh interrogation by gendarmes who suspected the presence of Jewish girls in the convent.
Giuditta was also one of the approximately 800 children welcomed in Sciesopoli (Selvino, BG), the colony founded by the fascists to raise the young Balillas and which after the war became a place of care where little orphans of the Holocaust, collected from all over Europe by the Brigade Jewish, were able to start living again, before embarking on their journey to Palestine.

Yehudith and Fiammetta, the daughter of the Catteneos, will see each other already elderly many years later.

The story is told in Yehudith Kleinman's autobiography La bambina dietro gli occhi. Storia di una ragazzina che resiste alla Shoah (Panozzo Editore).

Reported by Roberta Miotto and Rossana Veneziano

Elvira Colombo Cattaneo was honoured as “Righteous reported by the civil society” in the 2023 ceremony.

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Righteous Encyclopedia - Shoah and Nazism

There are many stories about people who saved the Jews from the Nazi atrocities in WWII, many of which are still little known or even unknown.

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