Father Paolo Liggeri, born in 1911 in Augusta, in the province of Syracuse (Sicily), soon left his native village, because he was ordained a priest in Milan in January 1935, where he remained until his death.
During the years of the Second World War, Milan was at the center of Nazi-fascist roundups against Jews and political dissidents and, from September 1943, it was also bombed. Not only the persecuted, but the entire citizenry suffered the consequences of the war.
The number of displaced persons increased and Father Paolo Liggeri was determined to concretely help all those who were in difficulty. For this reason, after the bombings, he worked to build a reception center. Thus, "La Casa" was born: a social assistance center located in via Mercalli, in the center of Milan, open to welcoming the most needy. It soon became the point of reference and a place of hospitality not only for those who had lost their homes during the bombings, but for all those who were politically and racially persecuted. Furthermore, it has been confirmed that, in connection with Vatican Radio, "La Casa" has played a fundamental role in keeping communication between the persecuted and their families alive: it has been estimated that it has recorded and forwarded over one hundred and seventy thousand messages to family members of military prisoners or missing.
During these years, Father Paolo Liggeri personally offered refuge to displaced persons and young dodgers of the Republican draft and clandestinely organized the escape and expatriation of many Jews and anti-fascists. For these actions, he was arrested by the fascists on March 24, 1944, accused of having provided aid to Jews and those who had escaped from the army, protecting them. First taken to the San Vittore prison in Milan, where many persecuted people were locked up, he was deported to the Fossoli concentration camp in Emilia Romagna. During the following years he was transferred several times until his release, on April 29, 1945, from the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
Father Paolo Liggeri's work for the community continued even after the war and lasted until his death. After his liberation he collected his experience of deportation and in the concentration camps in the book Il triangolo rosso, published by La Casa in 1946, and subsequently resumed the activity at "La Casa" which in 1948 became the first premarital and matrimonial family counseling center in Italy, accredited at the end of the 70s by the Lombardy Region.
Reported by Anna Borghese