Giacomo Trevi

Giacomo Trevi

Edited by Sara Baretta

Giacomo Trevi was born in Ferrara on September 29, 1916. His parents are Ildebrando and Gaggia Forlì. (photo 1) He has a younger brother, Giorgio, and two older sisters, Arduina and Magda. (photo 2)

His family is well-off, practicing but not strictly observing Catholicism. They have been living in Ferrara since 1910 and are known for owning a shop for stamps and typewriters in the central via Giovecca no. 22, very close to the Castle.

His father, an anti-fascist from the beginning, is harshly persecuted from the early days of the Regime due to his liberal ideas, and the shop is often subjected to devastating punitive raids.

Young Giacomo, despite initially having moderate anti-fascist feelings, follows the path of assimilation. He is registered with fascist youth organizations from 1934 to 1938. On May 28, 1937, he voluntarily enlists in the Regiment Lancieri Firenze for two years; on June 16 of the same year, he is dismissed by the military hospital in Bologna for health reasons.

Everything changes on September 5, 1938, when the racial laws are promulgated. From that day on, his stance towards Fascism becomes critical and militant, and he starts associating mostly with communist circles.

In October 1939, he is arrested on suspicion of distributing subversive leaflets during a performance by the Trio Lescano at the Verdi Theater. He is imprisoned in solitary confinement but eventually discharged when it is proven that he wasn’t present during the incident. However, he remains under constant surveillance by the police informants.

A letter dated June 9, 1940, signed by Prefect de Suni, summarizes the events; on October 22, 1939, ‘during an anti-communist operation carried out by the local police, he was detained for being a friend of communists Fabbri Winther and Carletti Gino (…). On November 2, ‘he was released since no specific responsibility was found against him, and it wasn’t possible to ascertain if he was aware of the subversive activities of his friends. Despite the detention (…) he didn’t refrain from associating with suspicious individuals, and it was likely that in case of war, he would have openly expressed his anti-fascist sentiments through propaganda. Therefore, this office proposes that he be removed from this capital city and transferred to an inland municipality’.1

His fate is sealed on the eve of Italy’s entry into war; he is arrested in Piazza Ariostea, a meeting and walking place, and imprisoned.

On June 18, 1940, the Ministry orders his internment in the concentration camp of Campagna (Salerno) according to the ‘right disposition 447/0365‘, a file number that will follow him in every future transfer from camp to camp for almost three years, as a non-free man. (photo 3)

On June 25, 1940, at 9:30 pm, he is transferred to Campagna where he arrives on June 26, along with Raoul Da Fano, Amato Hirsch (Renato), and Gastone Rocca, all Jewish men from Ferrara.

If indigent, the internees receive a subsidy of 6.50 liras, as certified by Brigadier Gusmano, ‘the Jew Trevi Giacomo is not in financial conditions to sustain himself during the period of isolation.’ 2

On July 27, an adjustmen is made, and Giacomo Trevi is to be interned in Gioia del Colle (Bari); he will depart on August 14 and arrive on the next day, August 15. (photo 4)

On January 16, 1941, he is finally transferred to Isola di Gran Sasso (Teramo).

The bureaucratic attempts made by Giacomo and his family to regain freedom fail; on April 26, 1941, his mother applies for the revocation of the internment order, but it is promptly denied by the Ministry of the Interior, despite a note from the police chief Luigi Gusmano of Ferrara, stating that ‘there is no evidence that Trevi Giacomo is a dangerous person (…) and, therefore, the revocation of the internment order against him would be met with indifference by the local Aryan citizenship.’ 3

In addition to this, on April 26, he applies to be enlisted in the army, but the request is rejected on May 16 by the Ministry of the Interior.

Giacomo can never be away from the camps where he is interned, and every request for an exit permit is consistently denied. However, he receives visits from his mother and sister, along with his niece. His mother’s application dated May 7, 1941, requesting ‘permission to visit her son, accompanied by her daughter Arduina Trevi and her two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter Franca,’ is granted on May 23, ‘for a period of four days.’ 4

On August 23, 1941, his transfer from Isola di Gran Sasso to Tremiti is decided, as it is intended to inflict exemplary punishment, as stated in a note from the director of the concentration camp on August 15: ‘The intern in question has been harassing the women who frequent the sanctuary of San Gabriele for some time. Reprimanded several times, he proves to be uncorrectable. His character is very light and insolent. I believe his prompt removal from this camp is necessary to give other internees a tangible proof of the severity with which they are monitored and, if necessary, punished.’ 5

On September 8, 1941, he is finally transferred to Tremiti (Foggia). (photo 5)

The camp on the Tremiti Islands, poorly served from the mainland, is a place of harsh regime and absolute isolation. Giacomo recounts in an interview6 that he truly experienced hunger for the first time in his life and waited twenty-seven days for supplies of food to arrive by sea. He tells of seeing people eating rats and dogs, while he survived on wild herbs and potato peels.

The only permitted pastime was correspondence with his parents, but the director of the colony first inquired with the police in Ferrara to gather information ‘especially regarding political aspects’ about his parents, with whom he intended to correspond. The permission is granted, as the father: ‘in the past professed subversive ideas but didn’t engage in political activity (…) therefore, a favorable opinion is expressed for the exchange of correspondence between them.’7

Meanwhile, in 1942, his parents, brother Giorgio, and sisters Magda and Arduina, both married to Catholic men, leave Ferrara and move to Florence. Giorgio finds employment at a local pasta factory.

On July 23, 1942, he is transferred to Urbisaglia (photo 6, photo 7) after numerous transfer requests had gone unanswered. Now, he is closer to his family who have sought refuge in Florence. He will see them again in February 1943 after they obtain a two-day pass from the 13th to the 15th of the month.

Finally, on April 3, 1943, he is absolved by an act of clemency (photo 8, photo 9), ‘consequently, today he was sent back to his family, provided with means of trasport and travel documents, with the obligation to present himself at the Questura of Florence within two days.’8

He moves to Florence with his parents, where he is domiciled at Via Locatelli no. 49. But even there, he is not at peace and continues to be monitored. On May 18, 1943, the police chief of Florence writes to the Questura of Ferrara: ‘please communicate the prejudices against the individual in question, recently exonerated from internment by an act of clemency of the Duce.’ The response from the Questura of Ferrara is reassuring, stating that there is nothing relevant against him.9

July 25 arrives, Mussolini is deposed, and everything seems to be going well, but September 8 is just around the corner; when the German occupying forces arrive in Florence, the family flees to San Baronto in the province of Pistoia. Giacomo and his brother relocate to Val di Chiana, where they work as insurers under false identities, and life appears normal again.

On January 27, 1944, things take a turn for the worse; following a denunciation, his almost seventy-year-old father, Ildebrando, is arrested by the republicans and sent to the concentration camp of Fossoli (Modena), a place that became the only antechamber of death, the main departure point for convoys to Nazi extermination camps.

On February 22, from Fossoli, Ildebrando is transferred to Auschwitz with convoy no. 8, arriving on February 26, 1944, and killed on the same day. His name now appears on a memorial plaque erected on the wall of the Jewish synagogue at Via Mazzini no. 95 in Ferrara, included in the list of 97 people who never returned from the extermination camps. His name is added last, in non-alphabetical order, probably because news of his tragic fate came after the plaque had already been inaugurated on April 24, 1949. (Photo 10)

On the other hand, his mother Gaggia survives, and as she was sick, she should have been taken by the Republican guard the day after her husband’s arrest. However, she is saved during the night by her son-in-law.

Giacomo decides to move south, intending to reach Rome and wait for the warfront to pass. He is stopped by the SS but manages to survive thanks to fake identity documents.

On the road to Rome, he meets some friends from Ferrara who were part of the Resistance (Gappisti), and once in the city, he serves in one of the Patriotic Action Groups operating in the capital, along with his brother Giorgio. They engage in passive resistance actions, particularly in distributing anti-fascist and anti-Nazi leaflets.

On March 23, 1944, the two brothers were near Via Rasella at the time of the bombing; a newspaper clipping preserved by Giacomo shows them, highlighted with an arrow, unarmed with raised arms, and a Nazi military officer from the Polizeiregiment “Bozen” holding a machine gun, in the moments following the explosion. The time is noted as 15:52, the exact moment of the blast. They miraculously escape the roundup; a man near them took out a diamond or valuable jewel from his lapel to bribe the executioners, and the two brothers took advantage of the distraction to escape. They ran so fast that Giacomo had recalled in his rare accounts of the war period that he ‘was kicking himself in the rear.’ (photo 11)

Finally, the war ends, and Giacomo, once again a free man, returns to San Baronto, where he searches for the Carabinieri marshal who had denounced his father. He carries a weapon but doesn’t use it, perhaps because he ultimately lacked the courage to shoot, or maybe he just wanted to look into the eyes of his father’s moral killer, and then look forward again, towards the future.

On October 26, 1945, he is in Ferrara, as stated in a note from the Questura, where he works as a merchant. On the same date, his mother is still displaced in Florence.

In the immediate post-war period, he moves to Bologna, while his brother Giorgio and sister Magda relocate to Rome. Only Arduina remains in Ferrara, specifically in Tresigallo, where her husband serves as the local physician.

Giacomo takes on various professions, including owning a small company for chemical products and a grocery store in the city center. In 1958, he has a son, Ildebrando, with his partner Loredana Orsi. (Photo 12, Photo 13)

In 1994, he is awarded honorary citizenship in Urbisaglia (photo 14).

Giacomo Trevi passes away on May 24, 1995, and is buried in the Jewish cemetery of Bologna.


  1. A.S.Fe, Archivio di Stato di Ferrara, categoria A8 Ebrei, busta 7 fascicolo 154.
  2. Ibidem.
  3. Ibidem.
  4. Ibidem.
  5. Ibidem.
  6. CDEC, Centro Documentazione Ebraica, digital library, alla voce Giacomo Trevi, registrazione audio.
  7. Ibidem.
  8. Archivio Storico di Urbisaglia.
  9. A.S.Fe, Archivio di Stato di Ferrara, categoria A8 Ebrei, busta 7, fascicolo 154.