Janaya Lasker-Ferretti is currently teaching Italian 232: "A Story in History: Fascism, Colonialism, Oral History, and Identity." The course is based on an oral history interview from the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies located at Yale. (Thanks to Julie Evershed from the LRC for assisting in obtaining access to the archive!)
The interview is from Maria Gilda, an Italian-Jewish woman who was born in Tunisia in 1923; she did the interview at Yale in 1987. Maria Gilda's life story is rich and marked with tragedy (her brother, for example, died at Auschwitz). Janaya's class worked to transcribe the entire interview so that it would be accessible to others for years to come. The students worked in groups and had "Transcription Fridays" where they worked together on all the different stages of transcription. In addition to the transcription work, the students learned about the complex historical situation and Italian-Jewish culture in Tunisia. The class was also able to speak with an Italian historian from Cagliari, Filippo Petrucci, who specializes in the history of Italian Jews in North Africa.
More importantly, in early March Janaya was able to get in contact with one of Maria Gilda's sons, after months of Googling! The family (who now live in France and do not all speak Italian) had never seen the interview and were surprised, moved, and thrilled that the students were engaged in a course focusing on their mother's life (she passed away in 2011).
On Thursday, April 15th, Maria Gilda's children (now ranging in age from 69 to 80) all visited Janaya's class and presented a slideshow of old family photos before taking questions from the students. The students were extremely moved, saying it was an experience that they will never forget and that it made them feel like their transcription work was extremely important, because they could provide the family with the Italian transcript of their mother's interview.
In the Fall 2021 semester, a new set of students will continue the work on this transcription by translating it from Italian to English so that more people will be able to learn about the life of Maria Gilda as an Italian Jew living in Tunisia during World War II.