In 1944, 5-year-old Anthony D’Urso – today a state assemblyman living in Port Washington – was serving as a lookout, calling out to his mother whenever German soldiers approached as they hid a large Jewish family near rugged mountains in Italy.
D’Urso’s father, Giuseppe, had taken the family into hiding and moved them from place to place to shield them from the soldiers. Eventually, the Vatican would send a truck to the base of the mountain, rescuing the family’s patriarch and his wife.
Now, 75 years later, the Vatican has recognized D’Urso and his family’s heroism.
Pope Francis met with D’Urso and Michael Weinstock, the Great Neck lawyer who helped corroborate this story, in Vatican City last Wednesday, honoring the D’Urso family for saving a Jewish family from the Nazi regime and their heroism during World War II.
“I am thrilled that my father is finally getting recognition,” D’Urso said. “He did the right thing, when the rest of the world went crazy.”
D’Urso had tried to locate the family since 1988, in hopes of his own family being recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel and Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial. It proved difficult, however, as D’Urso had lost touch with the family in 1960s and was told they had died.
It was in 2017 that D’Urso asked Weinstock, a friend and Great Neck lawyer, to help track down the Jewish family and authenticate the story.
After meeting with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, Weinstock came across a Holocaust diary in the National Archives of Italy written by a member of the Ascarelli family that confirmed what D’Urso’s family had done.
Weinstock then used Facebook to find the grandchildren of the survivors – who D’Urso then met at a synagogue in Naples in January 2018.
But, Weinstock said, he never could have guessed that helping D’Urso would lead to being recognized by the Pope himself.
And now, bound copies of the diary that proved D’Urso’s stories are in his hands.
“I was just doing a mitzvah for a friend,” Weinstock said, describing the meeting as “very exciting.” “I never imagined anything like this.”