Damage Assessments in the Synagogue of Gorizia

The involvement of the US 88th Infantry Division also had various implications. On 1 June 1947, the Jewish community of Gorizia communicated to the American Joint Distribution Committee of Milan (a non-profit Jewish-American organization, established in 1914, to assist Palestinian Jews caught in the throes of the First World War) and the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities at Rome that eight of the 42 Torah scrolls listed in a September 1945 inventory had disappeared.

Letter from the president of the Italian Jewish Communities to the Jewish community of Gorizia, 6 June 1947
Rome, Centro Bibliografico dell'Unione delle Comunità Ebraiche Italiane: AUCII dal 1934, box 38, folder 8, subfolder Gorizia
© Courtesy of UCEI

Suspicions fell on allied soldiers, as in March 1946 they had previously stolen three Torah scrolls from the early 18th century Jewish oratory of S. Daniele del Friuli; this oratory had been closed before the war began and was later demolished in 1969. On the occasion of the S. Daniele del Friuli theft, the police chose not to prosecute so as to “avoid publicity”. The same thing probably occurred for the Gorizia theft as well.


Interior of the Jewish oratory of S. Daniele del Friuli
Rome, Centro Bibliografico dell'Unione delle Comunità Ebraiche Italiane: Archivio Fotografico F.A.C.E. 1930-1950
© Courtesy of UCEI

The losses suffered by the Jewish community of Gorizia under Nazi occupation went beyond silver ceremonial objects. Luisa Mortara Ottolenghi (1930-2017), who went on to become president of the Milan Centre of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (Cedec), on the request of Rodolfo Siviero (1911-1983), 'plenipotentiary minister' for recovering artworks stolen from Italy during the Second World War, wrote a report dated 10 November 1976 specifying that approximately 300 volumes were still missing. An additional four Hebrew manuscripts listed by the historian and bibliographer Isaia Sonne (1887-1960) in his 1935-1936 report "Relazione sui tesori bibliografici delle Comunità Israelitiche d’Italia" were likewise unaccounted for. Today, there is a project underway organized by Cedec to digitalize the Sonne's reports. The part of the "Relazione" concerning Gorizia is available online.

In 1954, when visiting this Jewish community, Nehemia Alloni (1906-1983) found no manuscript. Alloni was director of the Institute of Hebrew Manuscripts of Jerusalem, a department of the Ministry of Education and Culture, and was active in collecting microfilms and photostats from Hebrew manuscripts all over the world.

In 1975, in a preliminary report of his university thesis on the Hebrew manuscripts existing in Italy, monsignor Pier Francesco Fumagalli suggested that the four manuscripts might have been transferred to Trieste and thence to Jerusalem ("forse trasportati a Trieste? e di là a Gerusalemme?").

Today the archives of the Jewish community of Gorizia are contained in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) in Jerusalem.