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This edition: The Island of Roses: Tragedy in Paradise

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Episode Details

First aired: January 29, 2015.

(2008/Italy, 56 min., documentary, in Italian with English subtitles) Dir.: Rebecca Samonà. Produced by L’Altravista. Presented in collaboration with Centro Primo Levi New York.

Through the memories of her mother Erminia Licitri, and Stella Levi a family friend who survived the deportation, the author reconstructs the life and annihilation of the Jews of Rhodes from the beginning of the Italian colonization in 1912, to the deportation to Auschwitz in July 1944. Combining era footage with a delicate personal commentary L'Isola delle Rose offers a glimpse into a centuries-old culture which a handful of survivors infused it into a younger generation that is today scattered around the world. The narrative unfolds along the author's grandparents' love story, Victoria, from an old local Jewish family and Ernesto, a Sicilian army officer stationed on the island. In spite of the initial parental opposition, the couple gets married but their lives are soon after turned apart by the racial persecution and the war. 

On July 23, 1944, nearly 2,000 members of the century old Rhodes Jewish community, at the time an Italian possession and part of the Italian Social Republic, were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. Theirs, was the longest deportation in Europe lasting 24 days. 

Few hours after their arrival, most of the community had been murdered. The Jews of Rhodes were part of the Union of the Italian Jewish Community and had been subject to the application of the Racial Laws in 1938. After the Italian surrender to the Germans in the Fall of 1943, the civil administration remained in Italian hands. For 70 years the circumstance of their round up and deportation were mainly known through the testimonies of a handful of survivors. Today, thanks to the finding of the Carabinieri archive, their history can be written with a better understanding of how, almost at the end of the war, a small community, mostly of women, children and elderly, was transported to death from the farthest corner of the Mediterranean sea.
Rebecca Samonà is a journalist and the curator of "Presa diretta" an investigative program on Italian television (RAI Tre). She authored several RAI documentaries and was an interviewer for the Shoah Foundation. She wrote and directed “L’Isola delle Rose, La tragedia di un Paradiso” which was broadcast on the History Channel in the US, Argentina, South Africa, Belgium, Canada, Poland, Greece. The film was supported by the State Fund for the Victims of Nazism and presented in collaboration with ANED - Italian Deportees Association. 

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