The “Pope of the Jews”

Angelo Donati, a Jewish businessman and diplomat from the tiny Republic of San Marino who saved several thousand Jews in the Italian occupation zone in France and became known as the “Pope of the Jews,” died at 75 on this date in 1960. Donati, who hailed from Modena, was general consul of San Marino from 19235 to […]

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Angelica Balabanoff

International socialist activist Angelica Balabanoff died in Rome on this date in 1965. She was born in 1878 to a wealthy, privileged Jewish family in Chernigov, near Kiev, in Ukraine, but found the privilege unbearable and rejected it to become a social activist in Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and Russia. Balabanoff was fluent in several languages and held […]

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Fascism: What It Isn’t and How Not To Fight It

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray. Melville House, 2017, 259 pages.    MARK BRAY’S Antifa can perhaps be considered the definitive statement of the movement that leapt to the front page after the events in Charlottesville. Widely though not deeply researched, Bray’s book clearly lays out the historical […]

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Micro-Organisms and the Nobel Prize

Salvador Lurie, a Nobel Prize-winning Italian microbiologist who was shunned by Mussolini and forced to flee to the U.S. by Hitler, was born in Turin on this date in 1912. Lurie and his co-winners of the 1969 Nobel, Max Delbrück and Alfred Hershey, studied the genetic structures of viruses and bacteria. The 1943 Luria-Delbrück experiment showed that genetic mutations occur […]

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Operation Mincemeat

Ewen Montagu, a captain in British naval intelligence who played a critical role in Operation Mincemeat, a World War II military deception that misdirected Nazi forces away from the Allied invasion of Sicily in the summer of 1943, died at 84 on this date in 1985. It was Montagu who had the idea of having a British soldier’s […]

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The Uncivil Servant: Ten Million Books

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell. Viking, 2017, 352 pages. THE NAZI WAR on knowledge and ideas is well-known and documented, and its image has been eternally fixed: the burning of books on May 10, 1933, a scene that opens Anders Rydell’s informative and well-written The Book Thieves. Less […]

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The Mystical Ethicist

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, whose writings on Jewish ethics became a centerpiece of the Musar movement in the 19th century, died of a plague at age 39 in Acco, Palestine on this date in 1746. Luzzatto was a prominent Italian Torah scholar and kabbalist whose mystical teachings, coming less than a century after the worldwide […]

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The Uncivil Servant: Family Fiction

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Family Lexicon, by Natalia Ginzburg, translated from the Italian by Jenny McPhee, NYRB Classics, 2017, 221 pages, and And Then, by Donald Breckenridge, David Godine, 2017, 101 pages. SEVERAL YEARS ago, my wife and I were in Venice, and in an effort to avoid the omnipresent crowds, we […]

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