Between the autumn of 1943 and the spring of 1945 a group of Jewish escaping racial persecutions found shelter in Cotignola. They arrived in this town for different reasons and with diverse personal histories, but they were all desperate and on the run; thanks to an amazing network of protection and solidarity they all managed to survive.

Cotignola’s tale is quite unique in the panorama of Jewish racial persecutions in Italy: the whole town seemed to have contributed to save the 41 Jewish people that found shelter there, thanks to the collaboration of private citizens and the complacency of local officials. Cotignola also sheltered political refugees and families that had lost their homes.

The protagonists of these honourable actions were private citizens, members of the clergy, members of the national liberation front (CLN) and the local police chief Vittorio Zanzi. Thanks to his position, Zanzi was a key figure, who also helped creating fake identification documents. Zanzi was helped by innumerable people, amongst which we remember his wife Serafina, the painter and teacher Luigi Varoli and his wife Anna and father Giovanni Argnani.

In 2002 the State of Israel awarded Vittorio and Serafina Zanzi and Luigi and Anna Varoli with the title of Righteous among the Nations and their names are in the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

The non-automatic distributor of courage is a wall painting, painted in 2015 by the street artists of ‘Collettivo FX’ from Reggio Emilia, that depicts the faces of the four Cotignola-born Righteous heroes Luigi and Anna Varoli, Vittorio and Serafina Zanzi.

(Updated to 13/07/2023)

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