The exhibition of historical photos and texts, first presented at the Quick Center in 2007, tells the story of a handful of Catholic clergy, private citizens and even a German officer who orchestrated the dramatic rescue of several hundred Jewish refugees in Assisi, Italy, following the city’s German occupation during WWII.
The exhibition tells the story of the Assisi underground from the perspective of Brunacci, a diocesan priest and canon of the Cathedral of San Ruffino in Assisi, and one of the original architects of the plan to hide the Jews.
After Germany took over central and northern Italy in 1943, Italian Jews from the region descended on Assisi, the city of Saint Francis, for help. Giuseppe Placido Nicolini, bishop of Assisi, directed that assistance be given the Jewish people in whatever way possible.
Brunacci, the bishop’s secretary at the time, helped oversee the hiding of the refugees in the convents, monasteries and friaries of Assisi, with the cooperation of a loose network of clergy and their supporters.
So well organized were their efforts, that the secret operations went undetected by the German occupation forces. Approximately 300 of Assisi’s Jews survived due to these efforts. Brunacci was arrested a month before Italy was liberated by the Allies in May of 1944.
Decades later, in 1977, he was awarded the medal of “Righteous Among the Nations” by the state of Israel.
Ludwig Brunner, executive director of the Quick Center, said he is grateful to Jonathan Ross, director of operations of The Kimmel Center, for welcoming the exhibition.
“This makes it possible for St. Bonaventure University to showcase in New York City the history of its association with the diocese and the people of Assisi,” said Brunner. “The Kimmel Center and its connected building, The Global Center for Spirituality, are visited on a daily basis by countless numbers of students and faculty of New York University, as well as outside visitors. This important subject will receive wide exposure to a new audience.”
The Kimmel Center for University Life is located at 60 Washington Square South in New York City.
Pictured, Assisi, Italy, a photo in the exhibition ‘Memoria: Assisi and the Jews”