In a May 1947 memo, JDC worker Theodore Sanejberg described Italian children’s home, Selvino, as a “children’s paradise.” Less than a month later, however, he wrote that his original assessment had been “idealistic” and described the children’s behavior as “very unpleasant.” Located in the foothills of the Alps between Milan and Switzerland, Selvino became the rehabilitation center for hundreds of Jewish children, primarily foreign orphans, in Northern Italy from 1945 to 1948. Heralded as a rousing success in the years that followed its closure, Selvino nevertheless struggled during its existence to please all the parties involved in its operation. This lecture examines the role of JDC as a major funder backing the children’s center and its work in conjunction with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) the Jewish Agency, and the Youth Aliyah to provide for and eventually resettle the children.. By considering Selvino’s history within the broader context of JDC’s program in Italy and other Italian displaced children’s centers, this lecture contends that the operating procedures of these non-governmental agencies become clearer through comparison, as does the remarkable legacy of this small home.
Danielle Willard-Kyle completed her PhD in Modern European History at Rutgers University where she held the Steven Spielberg Endowment for Jewish Studies and the Memory of the Shoah Special Doctoral Fellowship. She has an MSt in Jewish Studies from the University of Oxford an MA in History and Jewish Studies from the University of Toronto, and a BA in History and English Literature from Westmont College. Her research focuses on the experiences of European and North African Jewish refugees in Displaced Persons Camps in post-Holocaust Italy and on the ways this research can connect to current events in immigration. She is currently a Research Affiliate in the Department of History at the University of Glasgow. She was the recipient of the 2018 Ruth and David Musher/JDC Archives Regional Fellowship.
This webinar is the second program in a JDC Archives series on the theme of Young Lives in Turmoil and Transformation: JDC’s Work with Jewish Children in the Twentieth Century.