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Guido Ucelli di Nemi and Carla Tosi

the couple of enlightened enterpreneurs who risked everything to hide some Jews

Guido Ucelli di Nemi and Carla Tosi

Guido Ucelli di Nemi and Carla Tosi (courtesy of family Ucelli di Nemi)

Tale and testimony reported by their daughter Pia Ucelli di Nemi Majno, Milan, 7 May 2014

In the tragic time of the German occupation of Italy, Guido and Carla Ucelli di Nemi used to keep in touch with numerous Jewish friends and the partisans of the Green Flame group in the area of Bergamo. One of the militants of that group was father Giovanni Barbareschi, friend and comrade of Gianfranco and Bona – children of the couple and members of the Resistance.

Guido, in his capacity as chief of the mechanical factory “Riva”, managed to elude the occupiers' orders to produce pieces for the German weaponry and devoted himself to an action of sabotage, in which he involved all his workers, who kept their jobs and were not rounded up for deportation to Germany. At the same time Carla, at hospital “Ca' Granda”, assisted those wounded in war.

From 1943 to 1945, Guido and Carla provided shelter in their seaside home to Renzo and Antonietta Anan – under a false identity, as the married couple was Jewish.

Guido and Carla were arrested on 14 July 1944. Their arrest was preceded and caused by a tragic episode. In Ponte Tresa, on the Swiss border, there had been the arrest and capture in small groups of 65 Jewish fugitives and political dissidents. Those people had been “sold” by the smugglers whom they had trusted for their expatriation. When they were taken to the prison of Como, the arrested were extorted confessions that made it possible to single out the organizations, convents and private citizens who had helped them illegally expatriate to Switzerland. Those people included Guido and Carla.

The Ucellis were arrested and taken to S. Vittore for helping a couple of Jews, Gino Minerbi and his wife Bianca Ravenna. Gino died on the very day he was arrested for the beatings undergone, and Bianca left from platform 21 of Milan central station headed to Auschwitz, where she was murdered on the very day of her arrival.

During questioning in S. Vittore, Marshall Koch told Carla that her most serious misdeed was that of knowing about Jewish people and not reporting them – and not the aid she had lent them for the expatriation. She thus deserved being deported to Germany. Carla remained for one month in the jail of S. Vittore. On 15 August 1944 she was deported to the lager of Gries near Bozen.

Carla is often quoted in book Nei lager vinse la bontà (in the lagers goodness has won) by the Capuchin friar Gian Antonio Agosti. The father had seen her in the chapel of nuns in S. Vittore and then met her in Bozen, where he, too was a political prisoners, and where she personally sew the red triangle on the jackets of the political inmates – whom she incited to hope and resist. Father Gian Antonio, onto whose jacket Carla sew the red triangle, remembers here like this. “…it retained almost a heroic and romantic meaning, remembering the time of the crusades, when ladies hang the cross on the chest of knights, inciting them to be valiant soldiers and wishing them victory".

Thanks to a felicitous intuition, Carla offered to go to work in Merano as a worker in a warehouse of German merchandise. From there she was miraculously freed on 24 September 1944 thanks to the relentless work of her husband and relatives, who did everything they could and went all ways in order to save her from deportation to Germany. In 1962 Milan City Hall bestowed on her the Golden Ambrogino.

Guido was for all his life one soul with Carla and shared every choice with her. In the first week of solitary confinement in the V ray of S. Vittore, Guido was badly whipped by sergeant Franz, superintendent of the political prisoners. He suddenly appeared with a huge Alsatian dog and gave himself over to violence without any reason. Those who saw Guido after this beating said that they did not believe he could survive.

Guido was then moved to the work divisions of the jail. Fist he was used as a "sweeper”, as a nursing aide and this way he managed to see Carla again for a few minutes and running a lot of risks.

Guido was released on 3 August 1944, thanks to the National Liberation Committee (CLN), that exchanged him with an important German personality who was in the hands of the partisans.

Eventually, when they were set free, both Guido and Carla resumed their activities. They never gave up protesting against the violence and arbitrary behavior of those responsible for war, always struggling for a sincere, factual, dignified patriotism, without fanaticism, but with a greatly nobleness of spirit.

Gariwo thanks Mrs. Pia Ucelli di Nemi Majno for the precious material she provided the editorial staff with.

Gardens that honour Guido Ucelli di Nemi and Carla Tosi

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