Berger Eugenio

Eugenio Berger, alias Giacobbe, was born in Pécs as Hungarian citizen on 9 September 1867 to the Jewish couple, Giulio Berger (b. 1831) and Regina Breuer. Since 1890s he had been living in Trieste (Via delle Aiuole, 4), where he had become an Italian citizen in 1921. He was first married to a Catholic woman, Elvira Marcovich (b. 9/23/1870), a daughter of Anna Maria Marcovich (b. 1835) of Ragusa (today Dubrovnik in Croatia) and Giovanni Ghisoli of Trieste, where she was baptized a few days after her birth at the Santa Maria Maggiore Church. Eugenio had with Elvira a son, Bruno (b. 10/15/1905) who later took the family name of his wife, Carola Montanari, née Goldstein, who became Italian in 1918 in Smyrna. His second wife—never mentioned in Eugenio’s correspondence with Tacchi Venturi—was the Jewish woman Adele Rumpler who was born 2/13/1879 to Salomon and Sofia Knöpfelmacher from Budisov (Bautsch) in Moravia.

The Prefect of Trieste revoked the citizenship to Eugenio Berger’s family (himself, the wife, the son, the daughter-in-law, and the grandchild) in December of 1938, as a result of the racial laws. Eugenio Berger and his son Bruno Montanari appealed his decision in January 1939 with two separate petitions to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Rome. Eugenio, who was a former employee of the insurance company, Assicurazioni Generali, argued that he “showed his Fascist faith since the creation of the movement" (as Senator Giorgio Pitacco and other high-ranking officials could confirm), that he considered himself “an Italian citizen with all the forces of his soul,” and that his participation in the Irredentismo movement, or the fight for including Trieste, Venezia Giulia, and Istria within Italian borders, was of highest importance in his life. This fact alone should testify to Berger’s profound patriotism, he claimed, even though he could not document his military merits from the Great War because of his advanced age at that time (to be true, at the outbreak of the war he was a Hungarian citizen and he was just in his 40s). Bruno, on the other hand, argued that he could not be considered Jewish, for—even though his father Eugenio was a Jew—his mother Elvira Marcovich was “Aryan, Italian, and Roman Catholic” and he himself was baptized at birth. Although he abandoned the Church temporarily by marrying Carola Goldstein in the Jewish rite,[1] he did abjured Judaism on 17 September 1938.

Eugenio sought help from the Jesuits in Trieste, Giuseppe Petazzi (director of the course on religious culture) and Giacomo Malaguti (the superior of the Jesuit community in Via del Ronco 12), who recommended his case to Tacchi Venturi. Eugenio himself rushed subsequently to meet the Jesuit in Rome in February 1940 and hand him the necessary documents in support of his application. In spite of the delay due to the confusion of his name with another Eugenio Berger, son of Samuel of Fiume who had a criminal record,[2] the Jesuit’s intercession helped Berger regain his citizenship, as Tacchi Venturi informed him personally in a letter. As his reply testifies, Eugenio’s joy was indescribable and he was so thankful that he promised to send the Jesuit some money for the poor.

        Yet Eugenio's joy for the regained citizenship was shadowed by the difficulties of obtaining “discrimination” for his son, Bruno, who owned a sawmill lumber before the promulgation of the racial laws. Eugenio anxiously begged in his numerous letters to Tacchi Venturi and his secretary, Brother Santiago Lucas, that are preserved in the Jesuit’s archive, to intercede with the state authorities. But no final decision regarding Bruno’s case is to be found there. What is known from other sources is that Eugenio and his wife were arrested in Venice on 20 August 1940 by Italians and Germans and detained at the San Saba camp. From there they were deported in January 1944 to Auschwitz and killed upon arrival on 2 February 1944. Also Eugenio’s son, Bruno, with his eight-year-old son Alberto (b. 11/10/1936) followed their path.[3]


[1] Tacchi Venturi in his letter to Eugenio from 7/16/40 wrote that the race committee considered his son Jewish because in 1933 he contracted marriage according to the Jewish rite. Eugenio explained in his reply that his son did so only in order to make happy his wife and her parents. Bruno himself wrote in his application from 1940 that he was “esente di qualsiasi concreta manifestazione di ebraismo. […] non può infatti venir considerato tale il matrimonio contratto con rito ebraico nel 1933, quando cioè la cosa non rivestiva importanza alcuna e veniva fatta, come accade al sottoscritto, per motivi ben lontani dalla manifestazione di ebraismo, ma solo per compiacere i genitori della moglie.

[2] As proves Le Pera’s letter to Tacchi Venturi from 7 March 1940.

[3] Picciotto, Liliana. 2002. Il libro della memoria: gli ebrei deportati dall'Italia (1943-1945). Milano: Mursia, pp. 451 and 546.