June 6, 1907 – December 27, 1944
Odoardo Focherini, ca. 1943 (private collection)
Odoardo Focherini grew up in Carpi in the Emilia-Romagna region. Deeply religious, he had already begun to participate in the “Azione Cattolica” lay movement during his youth. In 1939, he became the manager of the Catholic daily newspaper L’Avvenire d’Italia. Focherini first began providing aid to persecuted Jews in 1942. He helped two Jewish refugees from Poland flee across the border into Spain. When deportations began in Italy in the wake of the German occupation, Focherini and fellow resisters organized the escape of many Jews to Switzerland. For him, this assistance was an act of Christian charity.
In March 1944, Odoardo Focherini was arrested by the Fascist police on orders of the SS. He was deported to Flossenbürg along with more than 400 inmates of the Bozen transit camp in September 1944. Focherini worked building tunnels for the underground production of aircraft engines and received a leg injury during his forced labor. The injury did not receive proper medical treatment, and Focherini died of a septic infection in mid-December. His wife and seven children only learned of his death in June 1945.
In 1969, the State of Israel awarded Odoardo Focherini the honorary title “Righteous among the Nations.” His beatification is underway at the Vatican.
The family of Odoardo Focherini, summer 1944 (private collection)
Odoardo Focherini asked his wife to send him a current family photograph to the Fossoli internment camp near Carpi.
“My dearest, At the beginning of this journey that takes me further away from you, my thoughts remain as always with you and the children. I will write immediately. My health is very good. I pray and I am close to you, close to you in every moment. With expectations of seeing you again, a thousand kisses and best wishes for peace and wellbeing. God be with you and help you. Big kisses to everyone and the most grateful and warmest to you. In faithfulness always, your Odoardo”
Final letter from Odoardo Focherini to his wife before his deportation to Flossenbürg on September 5, 1944 (private collection)
During his imprisonment in Italy, Focherini was permitted to write letters to his family. He was also allowed to write two letters from Hersbruck. In total, his family received 166 official letters and secret messages.