October 16, 1943/Eight Jews

Giacomo Debenedetti
Translated by Estelle Gilson

October 16, 1943 is one of the finest accounts ever written about the massive German roundup of Jews in Rome on the date of its title. Debenedetti’s mastery of the facts, literary ability, and concern for the human dimension make this tragic event come alive in all its horror. His work is both a valuable contribution to the historical record and a moving tribute to the more than one thousand Jewish victims of a Nazi atrocity in the Eternal City.”

—Susan Zuccotti, author of Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy, winner of the 2000 National Jewish Book Award for Jewish-Christian Relations.

For more than fifty years, Giacomo Debenedetti’s October 16, 1943 has been considered one of the best and most accurate accounts of the shockingly brief and efficient roundup of more than one thousand Roman Jews from the oldest Jewish community in Europe for the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Completed a year after the event, Debenedetti’s intimate details and vivid glimpses into the lives of the victims are especially poignant because Debenedetti himself was there to witness the event, which forced him and his entire family into hiding.

Eight Jews, the companion piece to October 16, 1943, was written in response to testimony about the Ardeatine Cave Massacres of March 24, 1944. In this essay, Debenedetti offers insights into that grisly horror and into assumptions about racial equality. Both of these stunning works are appearing together, along with Alberto Moravia’s preface to Debenedetti’s October 16, 1943, for the first time in an American translation. October 16, 1943/Eight Jews gives American readers a first glimpse into the extraordinary mind of the man who was Italy’s foremost critic of twentieth-century literature.

In addition to probing the deeper, haunting questions of the Holocaust, Debenedetti briefly describes the seizure of the Roman Jewish community’s library of early manuscripts and incunables, the most valuable Jewish library in all of Italy. Following the roundup, this library was never seen again. Award-winning translator Estelle Gilson offers an additional essay on the history of the library and modern-day attempts to locate it.

October 16, 1943/Eight Jews is a moving work that will continue to challenge readers long after they have closed its pages.

GIACOMO DEBENEDETTI (1901-1967) was a professor at the University of Messina and the University of Rome, an editor at an Italian publishing house, Italy’s foremost critic of twentieth-century literature, and a friend of leading leftist intellectuals, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Pablo Neruda.


“Debenedetti’s October 16, 1943 is considered the earliest work of Italian Holocaust narrative and was fundamental for later historical and fictional accounts of the Rome ghetto round-up. A departure from Debenedetti’s better-known critical works, it was written with a keen literary ear and careful attention to the facts. Some of its pages are as moving as any in Italian Holocaust literature. This American edition provides a useful introduction and notes by the translator, as well as a new translation of Moravia’s personal comments and Debenedetti’s contemporary work, Eight Jews. ”—Risa Sodi, Italian Language and Literature, Yale University; author of A Dante of Our Time: Primo Levi and Auschwitz

“Gilson’s nuanced translation of this indispensable Holocaust document introduces U.S. readers to a formidable Jewish intellectual. [She] skillfully renders Debenedetti’s heartbreaking evocation of Rome’s mood that autumn. Gilson’s essay on the fate of the Jewish libraries and Alberto Moravia’s preface round out this short, immensely fertile book on the Holocaust in Italy.” — Publishers Weekly

“The most important chronicle of the German roundup of the Jews of Rome written to date . . . Estelle Gilson’s wonderfully written translation of Mr. Debenedetti’s work is very readable and quite interesting.” — Riverdale Press

“This slim book is a humanistic triumph by one of Italy’s best-known literary critics.”— Hadassah Magazine

“Debenedetti’s powerful October 16, 1943 is a brief and invaluable documentary, written with extraordinary calm and grace . . . translator Estelle Gilson adds a fascinating epiologue on the unknown fate of the Roman Jewish libraries archives.”— Baltimore Sun

“For anyone who knows the particular fate of Italian Jewry at the hands of the Nazis, these brief works have a devastating effect.”— The Jewish Exponent

“Debenedetti’s eyewitness account of these events, and those days preceding and following it, were written a year after the event, and are the most vivid and detailed description of the round-up.” — Lifestyles Magazine