While on our visit to Emilia Romagna, Carpi and Fossili have long been an important stop for commemorating the tragic events of 20th century Jewish Italian history.
The Pio Castle was opened by the town council in 1973 and has been a museum dedicated to political and racial deportees sent to extermination camps. Its 13 rooms house information, documents, letters, and the names of thousands of Italian deportees.
The site of the Fossoli deportation camp is now a public park and national museum commemorating victims of concentration and extermination camps. Five thousand people passed through this camp, including Primo Levi.
Jews arrived in this area in the 14th century and lived under the Pio - the local princes and their renaissance court. The Jewish community has had a presence here ever since. In 1527, Carpi was annexed to the Duchy of Este. Jews stayed and enjoyed two centuries of political tolerance until 1719 when Papal pressure led to the establishment of a one-street ghetto in the area where the community had already been established. Segregation was temporarily halted in 1796 with the arrival of French troops, and completely ended with the Unification of Italy. The community built a new synagogue in 1861 to replace the prior one which was in existence since 1722. It was closed in 1922, however, as it was too big for the small community to maintain. Synagogue furnishings were distributed between Modena and Israel. The synagogue was later restored but was closed more recently due to earthquake damage. The cemetery in use from 1825-1922 has 11 gravestones. The location of the original burial place from the 15th century is unknown.