Nissim Calef

Nissim Calef

NISSIM CALEF ( 1907 – 1968 )

Nissim (Noël) Calef was born on 29th September 1907 in Plovdiv (Filippopoli), Bulgary.

He had an Italian passport for his father’s services to the Italian Consulate. In the 30s he was living in France and started to work for a film company.

Nissim Calef was arrested in Paris in during the Vel d’Hiver raid and interned in Drancy on the 21st August 1941. He wrote extensively about his internment in Drancy is a book that was first published in Italian under the title Drancy: Campo di Rappresaglia. Rome: Edizioni Italiane, 1945.

He was released from Drancy on the 23rd December 1941 thanks to his Italian passport that allowed him to be protected by the Italian authorities.

On 15th February 1942 he repatriated to Italy together with his cousin and partner Rachele.

He had to stay in Bardonecchia, at Hotel Tabor, because he was denied the permit to work in Rome as “film technician”. When Rachele and Nissim were not able to support their accommodation at Hotel Tabor anymore, they were accepted at the free canteen of the “Casa degli italiani all’estero”, but the Prefettura in Torino suggested to intern them.

The Orders of internment of Nissim in Urbisaglia and Rachele in Pollenza were signed on 23rd May 1942 (doc. 10). Nissim arrived in the Urbisaglia camp on 12th June 1942 (doc. 5B).

On 6th August 1942, Nissim and Rachele were order to to be transferred to a municipality in the province of Torino. A few days after their arrival in Torino the Questura in Macerata wrote that they had been transferred by mistake and they had to be transferred back to Macerata (doc. 72).

They arrived in Tolentino on August 20th and they accommodated in a guest house in Via Fondaccio, c/o Mr. Montecchi. In Tolentino they were under the regime of “internamento libero” (i.e. they had residence obligation and they received their daily allowance).

The director of the Pollenza camp suggested the Questura in Torino to check Rachele’s income in order to decide whether she was entitled to receive the State daily allowance. According to him Rachele and Nissim were receiving a financial help from two friends in Milan, namely Mr. Sabetai and lawyer Alberto Rusconi, who had probably helped Rachele and Nissim to leave the Internment camp. He also noted that Rachele and Nissim were very astute and they had cameras with them.

While in Tolentino Nissim requested to be allowed to teach foreign languages to young students, but he was denied it because according to the law Jewish people can only teach Jewish students.

In October 1942 Nissim requested to be allowed to learn the art of photography at a local photographer and he wass allowed to do so. But when in March 1943 the photographer Orlando Orlandi asked to be allowed to work with him, the Questura stated that Nissim was not allowed to work.

In April 1943 Giacobbe, Rachele’s father, arrived in Tolentino and was allowed to stay in town.

At the beginning of August 1943, after the fall of the Fascist Regime, Nissim and Rachele received the revocation of their internment and they were ordered to go back to their place of residence, but remained in Tolentino because Paris was occupied by the Germans (doc. 142).

During the German occupation of Italy Nissim and Rachele had to hide in Ussita and eventually they arrived in Rome on 3rd July 1944. They started to work for the P.W.B. (Psychological Warfare Branch) and in January 1946 they were still in Rome (doc. 143).

After he went back to France, Nissim Calef published various books and detective novels, several of which were made into films, as for example Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) directed by Louis Malle in 1958).

Nissim Calef died in Paris on 9th January 1968.