Patrizia Luzzatto with her cousin Fiorello La Guardia
Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs
You never know who will walk in your door on any particular morning. Yesterday, it was Patrizia Luzzatto, the cousin of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. She arrived unannounced to the Archives researching the Luzzatto family tree. Fiorello’s mother was Irene Luzzatto-Coen of Trieste. Born in the Austro-Hungarian port city of Trieste, Irene was of Italian-Jewish heritage. Patizia and Fiorello share a common great-grandfather, who I learned from Patrizia was a rabbi and a teacher in a yeshiva. The Luzzatto family had deep roots in Trieste dating back to the 18th century, but they were most likely Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in the fifteenth century, although medieval Roman and Florentine records also mention Luzzattos.
I had the privilege of sharing notes with Patrizia, who has spent the last two years researching the Luzzattos, about Fiorello La Guardia and his family. (She will be sending her research to the Archives.) We had both read the autobiography of Fiorello's sister, Gemma La Guardia Gluck, and discussed her harrowing experiences during World War II. Gemma had married a Hungarian Jewish man and settled in Budapest before World War I. She lost both her husband and her son-in-law to Nazi genocide. The Nazis initially sent Gemma, her daughter and grandson to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Knowing Gemma was Mayor La Guardia’s sister, the Nazis then sent them to Berlin as potential ransom. When the war ended, Gemma and Fiorello regained contact and he helped her to settle in New York City in the Queensbridge Houses his administration had built. (To learn more about Gemma’s story and read the correspondence between her and Fiorello go to: http://tinyurl.com/bctcrb5 )
In our conversation, I learned that Patrizia’s family, like Gemma’s, were also survivors who went first to Argentina and later settled permanently in Caracas, Venezuela. Both are stories to think deeply about, especially as we approach Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on April 8th, which will be the 70th anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.