The Finzi Family
My Mother's Family
These pages bring together much information that I have just discovered about my relations thanks to searches on the internet. They are the descendants of Elsa Finzi, my great grandmother's sister. The family tree is, as far as I know, like this.
At the turn of the nineteenth century my great grandfather, Silvio Schiff, married Emilia Finzi, daughter of one of Italy's oldest Jewish families, members of Ferrara's Jewish community, a community since made famous by the novels of Giorgio Bassani. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis was later made into a film by Vittorio de Sica, capturing the lifestyle of these assimilated, wealthy, Italian-Jewish families.
I found out more about her family in 1966, when I stayed with my grandfather and his new wife and family. On the 14th August that year it was his sixty-second birthday, and his aunt Elsa came to visit him, as she had the custom of doing, and I had the opportunity of talking to her about her family and her ancestors. She was my great grandmother's younger sister. She recalled that her father, Constantino Finzi, was the son of Guglielmo Finzi of Ferrara. Her mother was Emma Teglio, eldest of the thirteen children of Laudadio Teglio of Modena. Herself born at Genoa, Elsa was a rebel, feminist, acquaintance of the Pankhursts and Rosa Luxemburg, who refused to marry the father of her daughter Anna Rosa, one Canitano. During the war she fought with the partisans against the Fascists and the Germans. But she left her Jewish faith and became a Waldensian, an obscure Protestant sect founded in the Middle Ages. She lived at 11, Via Santa Maria alla Porta in Milan until her death. I believe her relationship with her daughter was unhappy. Certainly she disliked children. At my grandfather's on his birthday she would stand up and cross the room to another chair whenever approached by his young daughter Magda, then aged two. At her funeral many former members of the resistance came. Her daughter Anna lived in London for a while, married to Riccardo Aragno, an intellectual I once heard taking part in a discussion on Radio 3. They had two daughters, Anna and Susanna, one of whom was a ballet dancer.
Emma Teglio, mother of Emilia Finzi, and grandmother of Nonno Giulio Emilia Finzi, her youngest sister Elsa, a 1905 De Dion Bouthon car, and a chauffeur Silvio Schiff, his wife Emilia Finzi, the 1905 De Dion Bouthon, and the chauffeur
Silvio and Emilia only had one child, my grandfather Giulio Cesare, who was born on the 14th August, 1904. I do not know where they married, but I presume it was a Jewish wedding, though they do not seem to have practised their Judaism in any way at all. My grandfather said that he was not even circumcised, which is surprising, and indicates perhaps how completely assimilated they had become. When he was only seven his mother died of tuberculosis on 14th November, 1911 at Chiavenna, high in the Italian Alps, whilst returning from St Moritz where she had been convalescing. She was buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Milan.
Emilia Finzi, wife of Silvio Schiff (this is the photograph that was on her grave)
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