Arts Emanu-El to screen 2 movies about Italy during WWII

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Arts Emanu-El and the Temple Emanu-El Providence Jewish Film Festival will present two documentaries about Italy during World War II, “Holy Silence” and “Syndrome K,” in April.   

“Holy Silence” looks at the papacy of Pius XI and his successor, Pius XII, and whether they could have done anything to stop the deportation and murder of 6 million Jews.  The film also examines how Americans reacted to the Nazis, including efforts by Catholics in this country to sway the pope to act.    

We learn that Pius XI grew increasingly alarmed over the treatment of Jews in Germany.  In an effort to address the situation, he went to the Vatican secretary of state, then Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), and enlisted the help of Father John LaFarge, a Jesuit priest and associate editor of America magazine.  Pius XI requested that LaFarge draft an encyclical to declare that Jews were entitled to the same rights and protections as everyone else.  The draft of the LaFarge encyclical was never made public.   

Watching “Holy Silence” will give you a broad understanding of events, papal and otherwise, that occurred during WWII.  The film will be followed by a screening of the fascinating documentary “Syndrome K,” narrated by actor Ray Liotta, which tells the true but little-known story of three Italian doctors who rescued Jews during the Nazi occupation of Rome.  The doctors saved the lives of many Jews by convincing the Nazis that certain Jewish patients in their hospital, located near the Vatican, were infected with a horrific, deadly, highly contagious – and completely fictitious – disease that they called Syndrome K. 

“Syndrome K” features interviews with survivors and descendants of survivors, including 98-year-old Adriano Ossicini, the last surviving doctor, and Pietro Borromeo, the son of the head doctor at the hospital. The film also uses reenactments and archival footage to powerfully depict courage and sacrifice in the face of Nazi horrors.  

“Holy Silence” can be seen on the Eventive site from Saturday, April 17, at 8:15 p.m., until Wednesday, April 21, at 11:59 p.m.  “Syndrome K” will be shown on Eventive from Thursday, April 22, at 9 a.m., until Monday, April 26, at 11:59 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased at the Eventive site, watch.eventive.org/teprov, and there is a special offer of one ticket for both movies for $15.  

Arts Emanu-El and the Temple Emanu-El Providence Jewish Film Festival are also planning a Q-and-A on Zoom in conjunction with the movies. To get details on the Q-and-A, which is tentatively scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, April 25, call the Temple Emanu-El office at (401) 331-1616, or email pamhanzel@cox.net.  Please leave your contact information (name, email and cellphone number).

PAMELA HANZEL is the chairwoman of Arts Emanu-El.