Roma Ascarelli (born Roma Wessel) is the daughter of Samuel and Rosa (nee Romano) Wessel. She was born on October 4, 1925 in Ruma, Yugoslavia where her father imported and exported grains and cereal. Her mother was a cultural journalist and worked as a translator after the war. Roma grew up in Trieste, Italy. She went to a Jewish kindergarten and then attended public school while continuing to go to religious school once a week. In December 1938, after Italian racial laws prevented her from going to school, her parents sent her to Zagreb, Yugoslavia to attend school and stay with relatives. They followed in April 1940 after signing papers stating that they would not return to Italy. Though they had visas for the United States they did not want to go there. The family lived in relative peace, but on April 10, 1941 Germany attacked Yugoslavia and occupied Zagreb. Jews were then commanded to wear the Jewish star and hand over their valuables. Samuel and Rosa signed their house over to an Italian journalist who was living with them. When Roma's mother first heard rumors of impending deportations, she appealed to the Vatican ambassador to Yugoslavia. He promised to help her, perhaps because she spoke Italian. On route to the meeting point, the Ustasa arrested Rosa and Roma and brought them to Savska Cesta, a former art gallery which was used as a prison. They were held there for about six weeks and received food from the Jewish community. Roma'a aunt, uncle and a cousin were there as well. Though the Croatians released all Hungarian, Italian and Bulgarian citizens, the prison commandant did not believe Roma and Rosa's claims that they were Italian because of their accent. Rosa insisted that her husband was from Ljubljana, which at the time was under Italian rule. They finally were granted permission to move to Ljubljana. After Rosa told the Carabinieri that she needed to get money and other valuables so as to not be a burden to the Italians, and she returned to Zagreb to fetch her husband. However, the Italians would not allow Samuel to remain there since he was not on any official list. They sent him back to Zagreb in September 1942; Roma and Rosa never saw him again. Samuel was deported from Zagreb to Auschwitz where he perished. For one year Roma and her mother remained relatively free in Ljubljana as internato libero (free prisoners). However, on September 9, 1943 they were ordered to leave Ljubljana for Mantua. When Rosa reported to the police in Mantua on September 12, 1943, they told her that the Jews would be rounded up and deported that very night and warned her to leave immediately. Rosa and Roma fled to the nearby spa, Salso Maggiore. Since many locals had lost everything to bombings Roma went to get ration cards along with the locals, calling herself Roma Vesseli, the daughter of Rosa Romano and Sergio Veselli from Trieste. Roma attended mass and copied what others did. In December 1944 after a priest confronted them with rumors that they were Jewish, they went to Bologna where they found a room in a half-demolished house. On April 22, 1944 they were liberated; first by partisans and then by French and British troops. They then met members of the Jewish Brigade. Roma joined the British army where she met her future husband, Manlio Immanuel Ascarelli. Born in Bologna, he immigrated to Palestine in 1939 and joined the Jewish Brigade. They married on May 19, 1946 in Bologna and later moved to Israel.