Holocaust Remembrance Day. The last letter of uncle Giorgio from prison

lettera giorgio

The letter of uncle Giorgio from prison, asking for some new underwear and those exceptional pills


Giorgio and Giacomo Ottolenghi, two brothers from Turin (Italy), go out of their house on December 11th, 1943, each carrying a luggage. Their sister Michelina and her son Sergio are already at the bottom of the staircase when Giorgio heads back. He’s forgotten those “truly exceptional pills”.

Then, the four of them together walk quickly into via Roma, to reach Porta Nuova and get on a train, probably headed to Switzerland. Their pace is fast, the day is freezing cold, and in front of the hotel “Nazionale” two fascist guards and two SS grab Giorgio and Giacomo by the arms. Sergio and Michelina, fifty metres ahed, turn around and see the two brothers being dragged in the hotel hall. They catch a glimpse of one another. It will be the last time in their lives.

Giorgio and Giacomo are taken to the “Nuove” (the Prison of Turin, translator’s note), then to Milan and then locked down in convoy number 06, destination Auschwitz. Nobody will be able to say where and how they died. Giacomo was the eldest, a strong and brawny man, former official of the second Army of His Majesty. He was given a badge of honour in August 1917 during the eleventh battle on the river Isonzo in Baisnizza’s plain.

Giorgio was frail, and had a good temper, but teeming with small obsessions: he had his yoghurt home made because he didn’t trust the one sold at the dairy store. I have always thought Giacomo arrived in Auschwitz alive, and that Giorgio died on the train in his brother’s arms”.

Sergio was my grandpa.
Michelina my great-grandmother.
Giorgio and Giacomo Ottolenghi, the uncles.

I celebrate their memory because it is the only thing that I have left of them, and the only thing that was left of them to the person that taught me to remember: grandpa. Now that he is not with us anymore, passed away in peace years after the persecution of the Jews, I keep hold on to his memories and his stories, that he passed on to his daughter (my mum) and his son (my uncle) and they, all together, have passed them on to me. This is the meaning of memory. This is how our beloved who passed away can survive. Grandpa noted down all the names of the members of his family that were deported:

Giorgio e Giacomo Ottolenghi (Auschwitz)
Arrigo Levi (Auschwitz) and Giacomo Salvador David Ottolenghi (Birkenau)
Giorgio Emilio Ottolenghi (Auschwitz)
Vittoria Levi
Regina Levi
Guglielmo Diamant
Ermanno Diamant
Ada Solomon (Auschwitz).

For them and all the others.
תהיה נפשם צרורה בצרור החיים

January 27h International Holocaust Remembrance Day


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