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At the beginning of the World War II, Israel Eugenio was the chief Rabbi of Rome. The Nazis occupied Rome in September 1943. The Nazi officer Kappler demanded 50 kg of gold in place of the Jews. The Jews feverishly managed to collect 35 kg. The chief Rabbi Zolli realized his helplessness. For the first time he stepped into the Vatican and begged Pope Pius XII: "The New Testament must not abandon the Old Testament!" By afternoon, the Pope got the remaining 15 kg of gold collected from the parishes of Rome. But Kappler took the Jews as well as the gold. The deportation of the Jews from Rome was fixed for 16 October 1943. Out of the 8000 Jews of Rome, the Pope managed to get 4447 Jews hidden in over 150 monasteries and parish houses, hidden against the threat of the highest punishment from the Nazis. Till the threat was over, they were provided with all they needed for survival.



The Americans freed Rome in June 1944. The Russians freed Auschwitz in January 1945. On 17 February 1945, in gratitude to the Church for what it did for his people at his request, the erudite Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, after 40 years of rabbinical studies, came to the Church of the St. Mary of the Angels and was baptised into the catholic Church. He chose the Pope’s name, Eugenio, as his baptismal name. He clearly said: “I join the Catholic Church in my undiminished love for the people of Israel and in participation of all the suffering that came over them”. That was one of the biggest scandals of Judaism, probably the biggest after the excommunication of Baruch Spinoza from the synagogue of Amsterdam.

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