Donati, Angelo

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DONATI, ANGELO (1885–1960), Resistance activist of the Holocaust period. Donati was born into a well-known Jewish family in Modena, Italy. After World War i he settled in Paris, where he created the Banco Italo-Francese di Credito while remaining an Italian citizen. In 1931 he brought *Jabotinsky together with the Italian government to open a naval school for *Betar in Civitavecchia. After the Germans occupied northern France in 1940, he found refuge in Nice, which was occupied by the Italians in November 1942. In Nice, he volunteered to help local Jewish organizations and eventually, in cooperation with the Roman Catholic priest Padre Maria Benedetto (Father *Marie Benoît), became active in rescuing Jews. Italian Police Inspector Guido Lo Spinoso, Italian commissioner for Jewish affairs, appointed Donati as his councilor.

In turn, Donati introduced Padre Benedetto to Lo Spinoso in 1943 to persuade him to endorse a plan to rescue 30,000 Jews in Nice and the region in the event of a German occupation of the Italian-occupied zone. Padre Benedetto obtained an audience in Rome with Pope *Pius xii on July 16, 1943, in which he explained the plan to bring those Jews to northern Italy. After the fall of Mussolini on July 25, 1943, Donati negotiated with senior officials of the Italian Foreign Ministry and with the representatives of Great Britain and the United States at the Vatican in an attempt to transfer 30,000 Jews from France and another 20,000 from Italy to North Africa. The Italian government was ready to allocate four passenger ships, but the approval of Great Britain and the United States did not come. Though Italy's surrender in September 1943 frustrated these efforts, thousands of Jews managed to cross into Italy with the help of Italian authorities, and many were thus saved. Donati himself escaped in 1943 to Switzerland, where he continued rescue and assistance operations for Jews. He returned to Paris after the liberation in 1945, and was appointed as representative of the Italian Red Cross as well as ambassador of the small state of San Marino. He died in Paris. On April 25, 2004, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, president of the Italian Republic, awarded Donati a posthumous Gold Medal of Civic Merit, referring to his "noble and enlightening example of eminent civic qualities."


M. Benedetto, in: Israel, 3 (1961), 46; L. Poliakov and J. Sabille, Jews under the Italian Occupation (1955); M. Kahn-Woloch, De l'oasis italienne au lieu du crime des Allemands (2004); D. Carpi, Between Mussolini and Hitler: The Jews and the Italian Authorities in France and Tunisia (1994); O. Tarcali, Retour à Erfurt, 1935–1945: Récit d'une jeunesse éclatée (2001).

[Daniel Carpi /

Sergio Itzhak Minerbi (2nd ed.)]