A Christian couple from Italy, Gino and Rina Selvi harboured Jews during the Holocaust. Gino was an Italian railway worker who lived in Florence with his wife Rina and their teenaged daughter Tamara. Together, they would provide a Passover to remember for their Jewish friends.
Escaping Florence in 1943 after the Nazi invasion and subsequent bombing of the city, the Selvis settled in the town of Vicchio di Mugello. Gino continued to work in the city of Florence, but returned to his family on the weekends. Next to the Selvis lived the Kostoris family — originally from Poland — six 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.
Christians and Jews — Hidden Together
Gino took his own family, along with his six Jewish neighbours Air and Natalia Kostoris, their sons Isacco and Giacomo, Natalia’s brother Simha Fiedler, and Simha’s wife Hanna and hid them all in an apartment in Florence. As the Nazis had already begun rounding up Jews in Florence and deporting them to the dreaded Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, 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 cramped space and scarce food rations.
A Holocaust Passover
For Passover of 1944, Gino scrounged up enough money to buy a new cooking pot — a rare luxury during WWII — which he used to cook potatoes and rice for his Jewish guests. Even during such hard times, this Christian man remembered his Jewish friends’ biblical mandate to eat nothing leavened during Passover. Together, this hidden family of Christians and Jews celebrated our mighty God’s deliverance, even as they prayed for the same.
And just as the Jews escaped Pharaoh and the Egyptians, young Isacco Kotsoris successfully sneaked across the border to safety in Switzerland a short while later. The rest of Isacco’s family stayed concealed in the Selvis’ apartment until Florence was liberated by the Allies in August of that year.
Gino and Rina Selvi — Righteous Gentiles
The Kostoris and Fiedler families remembered the Selvi family’s selflessness and bravery, writing down their story in 1955. Fifty years later, so did Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, who in 2005 recognized Gino and Rina Selvi as Righteous Among the Nations.