The Colosseum
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The ghetto of Rome


The Jewish ghetto of Rome is among the oldest ghettos in the world; arose in 1555 when Pope Paul IV, known as Giovanni Pietro Carafa, with the bull Cum nimis absurdum , revoked all the rights granted to the Roman Jews and ordered the institution of the ghetto, called the "menagerie of the Jews ", making it rise in the Sant'Angelo district next to the Marcello theater, where at the time they made up the majority of the population.
More precisely, the area where the Jews were confined included the few narrow streets located between Piazza Giudea (now disappeared), the remains of the Portico d'Ottavia and the banks of the Tiber near the Tiber Island.

Following the papal bull of 1555 of Paul IV, entitled Cum nimis absurdum (ie "because it is exceedingly inconceivable", in reference to tolerance towards the Jews), huge gates were raised to physically close the area of ??about 3 hectares within the which the approximately 3000 members of the Jewish community should have resided.
The population, however, continued to grow rapidly and, in the second half of the seventeenth century, the inhabitants of the ghetto had become around 9000 and the fence had to be slightly enlarged. A further enlargement was granted only in 1825 by Pope Leo XII, after receiving funding from the Jewish bankers Rotschild; on this occasion a sixth door was opened, in via della Reginella.
Today there are no more gates or gates, which however are very clearly identified in the ancient plans of the city.


According to the papal bull, the residents could leave the ghetto only during the day, then, from sunset to the following sunrise, the three entrances to the neighborhood were locked by means of large doors, and anyone who had lingered and remained outside beyond the allowed time would have dealt with the implacable papal justice.
In addition to the obligation to reside within the ghetto, the Jews had to carry, when they left, a badge that would make them always recognizable (it was a piece of cloth or a blue veil called glaucus in the bubble of 1555) and was prohibited for them to own real estate. The houses where they lived were rented by non-Jewish owners, who rented them to members of the community at prices settled by a law, called Ius Gazzagà, which provided that the rent, once established, remained blocked in perpetuity.
This last prohibition led to a decrease in the care for the properties themselves and for this reason the houses in the ghetto were particularly degraded, which justified the newly installed Italian government, on the occasion of the construction of the walls, to authorize their destruction.
In 1888, with the implementation of the new master plan of the capital, most of the ancient streets and old buildings, unhealthy and without toilets, were demolished thus creating three new streets: via del Portico d'Ottavia (which took the place of the old via della Pescheria), via Catalana and via del Tempio. In this way entire small blocks and streets that constituted the old urban fabric of the district have disappeared. To get an idea of ??what the old ghetto should have looked like, just look at the row of buildings on the side of via del Portico d'Ottavia.
In 1889 a competition was launched for the construction of the new synagogue and, in 1897, the Jewish Community purchased the area between Lungotevere Cenci and via del Portico d'Ottavia from the Municipality of Rome, freed from previous demolitions. Thus in 1901 the works began which ended in 1904 and on 29 July of that year the Tempio Maggiore in Rome was inaugurated. The Jewish Museum has recently found accommodation in the basement of the building.

In the Nazi-Fascist period
Saturday 16 October 1943, the Nazis carried out a raid that , although affecting many other areas of Rome, had its epicenter in the former ghetto, where over a thousand Jews were captured.After having surrounded the neighborhood at first light of the day, sections of the SS kidnapped numerous people, especially in via del Portico d ' Octavia. From one of the two Renaissance buildings on the street, located at number 13, called by the locals "il portonaccio", many of the people were deported then deported.
 The prisoners were locked up in the Military College of Palazzo Salviati in via della Lungara. Transferred to the Tiburtina railway station, they were loaded onto a convoy consisting of eighteen cattle wagons. The convoy, which left on 18 October, arrived at the Auschwitz concentration camp on the 22nd following. Only seventeen deportees will survive, among them only one woman and no children.

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