Lodovico Targetti (1902 - 1971)

he welcomed fleeing Jews into his home, often accompanying them towards the border with Switzerland

Lodovico Targetti was born in 1902 into a family of the Tuscan bourgeoisie, who moved to Milan towards the end of the 19th century, building an important industrial reality in nearby Desio, a woolen mill that employed over 1000 workers and which produced for national and European market. It was directed by his father Raimondo, president of the Italian Confederation of Woll Workers, who was also a liberal senator of the Kingdom of Italy. However, Lodovico was ideally closer to the ideas of his uncle Ferdinando. Ferdinando Targetti was a well-known criminal lawyer who in 1924 defended the sons of Giacomo Matteotti in the trial against his assassins and who became one of the exponents of the socialist party, contributing in 1946-48 to the drafting of our Constitution.

Lodovico soon joined his father in industrial production and between the two wars he traveled frequently to England, where he bitterly compared the freedom enjoyed by the English people with the suffocating climate of the Regime, the democracy of British institutions with the obscurantism totalitarian fascism. In 1938 Mussolini passed the shameful race laws and two years later plunged the country into a catastrophic war. It was then that Lodovico began to gather around him a circle of friends and sympathizers with the aim of preparing himself, intellectually and culturally, for a new Italy that was increasingly beginning to be dreamed of.

Then came September 8 and, with the German invasion of the country, it was understood that for the many Jews who were already trying to survive in an infamous discriminatory system, the gates of hell would open. Lodovico, who by then personally managed the wool mill, had to make a choice. It was no longer the time for clandestine debates on the nature of the regime and dinners with friends to imagine a future of justice and freedom. Something had to be done.

In the meantime, due to the allied bombing of Milan, Lodovico had moved to Lake Como, to Villa d'Este and here he met Anita, he fell in love with her instantly and within a few months they got married. Although he supplied the fabrics to the army, he was kept in sight as a suspected "dissident", so much that some German officers also wanted to attend the ceremony. In record time he built a villa in Moltrasio, which was a few kilometers from the Swiss border and here, in the harsh months of foreign occupation, many Jewish citizens began to converge, in complete secrecy and with great danger for everyone. Lodovico, who in the meantime had joined the National Liberation Committee, welcomed them into the villa, feeding them and entrusted them to a small group of partisans - who had elected him as their political commander - to be transported across the mountains, towards the salvation. And in some cases, when circumstances permitted it, he personally accompanied them along the impervious paths of the area.

However, the unequivocal condemnation of fascism and the uncompromising hostility towards the invader did not make him forget the sense of forgiveness and humanity. In the frantic days following April 1945, when revenge and violence accompanied the Liberation, Lodovico welcomed and protected the Quaestor of Como in his villa, because, despite having served the fascist state, he had behaved with honour.

With the return of democracy, Lodovico was appointed undersecretary of the Ministry of Industry and for some time managed the American aid of the Marshall Plan, rigorously avoiding taking advantage of it for his wool mill, because in all his life he had never masked his disgust for the profiteering cunning.

That villa on the lake, port and refuge for the persecuted and the beginning of a daring path of salvation towards the Swiss border, is still there. And perhaps at the back of the villa there is also a ladder carved into the rock, perfectly hidden among the fronds, which was intended to ensure escape in the event of a raid by the Nazi-fascists; a scale that in the years to come would be an exciting game and a unique teaching opportunity for the three children that Lodovico and Anita, with the return of freedom, would have.

Reported by Riccardo Targetti

Lodovico Targetti was honoured as “Righteous reported by the civil society” in the 2023 ceremony.

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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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