Foa, Dr. Piero P.

Foa, Dr. Piero P.

Turin (Italy)

Foa was born 1911 in Turin, Italy. He lived there with his parents and his sister. Foa grew up in a home where no Jewish traditions were practiced and his parents considered themselves to be patriotic Italians. His father was a professor at an Italian university. Foa does not recall any discrimination against Jews before the Fascist regime came into power. Foa wanted to become a physiologist and attended university.

In the summer of 1938, the Fascist government implemented “laws for the defense of the race”, which were similar to the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws in Germany. Thus opportunities to pursue professional careers were narrowly limited and Jewish physicians were restricted to treating Jews. Foa’s father was dismissed from the university. All of his colleagues and students acted with solidarity and protested against the dismissal. Foa states that while Jews in Italy had to face official anti-Semitism due to the anti-Jewish legislation, they were not confronted with discrimination on the part of the Italian population in general. Foa believes that, before 1938, many Jews accepted Fascism as an extension and a result of the Italian wars for independence in the 19th century, wars in which some of them had patriotically served. Furthermore, Foa says, the assimilation of Italian Jews happened in a different way than that of German Jews. In Italy, after the struggle for independence, the Jews were considered, and considered themselves to be one of many peoples qualified to become part of the new Italian Nation.

In February 1939, Foa’s father was offered a professorship in Brazil and the family moved to South America. Foa himself decided to immigrate to the United States to continue his studies. Foa notes that he was not aware of the extermination of Jews in Europe during World War II. After the war his family moved again to Italy, where their jobs and property were restored to them. Foa stayed in the United States. He says he became closer to Judaism as a consequence of the official discrimination against Jews that he had experienced in Italy.

Interview Information:
Date: March 21, 1994
Interviewer: Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig
Length: 1 hour 30 minutes
Format: Video recording