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Advocates and Allies: Gino and Rina Selvi

Gino and Rina Selvi

Lives: Gino (1896 – 1978); Martha (1898–1973)

Why you should know them: Gino and Rina Selvi were an Italian couple who harbored Jews during World War II, saving them from the Holocaust.

Gino Selvi was a railway worker in Italy who lived in Florence with his wife Rina and their teenaged daughter Tamara. Escaping Florence in 1943 after the Nazi invasion and subsequent bombing of the city, the Selvis settled in Vicchio di Mugello. Gino continued to work in the city, but returned to his family on the weekends.

Next to the Selvis was the Jewish Kostoris family, originally from Poland – six foreign Jews hiding from the Nazis.

One day, Gino Selvi knocked on the Kostoris family's door. The Nazis had declared all Jews hiding in Italy to be enemies of Germany, and required them to register at the local police station – a certain death sentence.

Gino took his own family, along with his six Jewish neighbors – Air and Natalia Kostoris, their sons Isacco and Giacomo, Natalia's brother Simha Fiedler, and Simha's wife Hanna – and hid them all in the Selvis' apartment in Florence. As the Nazis had already begun rounding up Jews in Florence and deporting them to Auschwitz, this was an especially courageous act.

For the next year, the Selvi family hid the six Jews in the tiny apartment, all nine people sharing the limited space and limited food. For Passover 1944, Gino bought a new cooking pot, which he used to cook potatoes and rice for his Jewish guests. Young Isacco Kotsoris was able to sneak across the border to safety in Switzerland a short while later. The rest of the family stayed concealed in the Selvis' apartment until Florence was liberated by the Allies in August of 1944.

The Kostoris and Fiedler families remembered the Selvis' selflessness and bravery, and so did Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, who in 2005 recognized Gino and Rina Selvi as Righteous Among the Nations.

Tags: Stories , Inspiration , Partnerships and People , Advocacy , IFCJ

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