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Close-up portrait of Leah Nissim, an Italian Jewish child in hiding with her family in Cunardo.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 46222

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    Close-up portrait of Leah Nissim, an Italian Jewish child in hiding with her family in Cunardo.
    Close-up portrait of Leah Nissim, an Italian Jewish child in hiding with her family in Cunardo.


    Close-up portrait of Leah Nissim, an Italian Jewish child in hiding with her family in Cunardo.
    1944 - 1945
    Cunardo, [Lombardy] Italy
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ada Nissim

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Ada Nissim

    Keywords & Subjects

    Photo Designation

    Administrative Notes

    Ada Levy Nissim is the daughter of Josef (b. 1881, Padua) and Gemma Rietti (b. 1889, Padua). Ada was born September 6, 1913, and she had a brother Enrico (b. 1918) and a sister Anna (b. 1928). The family was traditional, but Ada attended public schools. She studied literature and philosophy in Padua and received her BA in 1936. After graduating, she was a substitute teacher of Italian, Latin and literature in public school and hoped to get a full time position. However, after Italy adopted racial laws in 1938, she was forbidden to teach. Ada felt humiliated, especially once the newspapers published a list of teachers who were no longer allowed to work. None of her Italian coworkers protested. Soon afterwards a Jewish school opened in Padua, and Ada began teaching there. She married Shaul Nissim, a rabbinic student from Livorno who studied and taught in Padua. He later received his rabbinic ordination in 1948. In 1939 Ada gave birth to a daughter Leah. The family remained at home until 1943 when they fled to the nearby village of Piazzolla to escape bombings in the city. They remained there for a few months. All Jews were told to register on an official list. While on the way to register, Ada met someone on the train who told her not to go as these names were used for deportations. Ada was pregnant at the time and was due to give birth in September. She feared going to a hospital where she could be identified as a Jew. She contacted a former student who lived in Piove Di Sacco, outside of Padua, and she decided to go to the hospital in that town where she would not be recognized. This student took care of her daughter Leah while she in the hospital. Ada met another Jewish woman in the hospital who had come for the same purpose. After the birth of their son Daniel, the family returned to Piazzolla. Shaul continued to go to the Jewish community in Padua daily in order to see if anyone needed him, but he was told to stay away.

    Shortly afterwards, a friend of Ada's brother Enrico appeared and warned them to leave the area. She told the family that she was a partisan and wanted to take them to Switzerland. Ada did not want to listen, but she accepted the false papers. Ada became Rosa Torneamonti and her Shaul became Paolo Marinelli. They boarded an all night train from Padua to Varese, where they took a room in a hotel. That evening they were supposed to meet a student who would take them to the border, but Leah, who was three-years-old began screaming and refused to go. The family missed the time to cross the border and had to return to the hotel. By this time they were known as the Jews in the hotel. They remained for two more days and heard that the family that went before them was caught. They found a room with peasants. Ada, Shaul and their children along with her mother and aunt remained there for the next eighteen months until the end of the war. The student, Anna Sala, who tried to help them cross the border, brought them food and toys during this period. She was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations in 2000.

    Enrico, Ada's brother, had left Padua in 1933 to study at the Naval Academy in Venice. He finished four years of training in 1937 and went around the world for training. After he was fired from his position in 1938, he joined a youth movement and participated in Hachshara training. In 1943 he was drafted into the British army and rose to the rank of Captain. After the war he reunited with his family in Padua. Their old apartment was gone, but they were living in the home of the former rabbi of Padua who had been deported. Shaul Nissim now was serving as the rabbi of the community. Enrico began to work as a captain for Aliya Bet. He had the advantage of being both an experienced naval officer and an Italian Jew. He was stationed in Bari where he helped to raise money and to outfit ships which were taking passengers to Palestine. His first trip was on the Dalin, a shipping boat that he helped procure. The ship reached Caesaria on August 38, 1945. While in the British army he had found a map which listed all of the landmines so that he could avoid them. Enrico helped bring other illegal immigrant ships to Palestine in subsequent years. In 1950 he immigrated to Israel and founded and directed a school for sailors in Acre. Later he helped establish and direct the port of Eilath as well.
    Record last modified:
    2010-06-24 00:00:00
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