Odoardo Focherini, whose family came from Trentino, was born in Carpi the 6th of June 1907.
He grew up in Carpi’s ecclesiastic reality, where he experienced the care for the last and the concrete and real love for one’s neighbour.
In 1930 he married Maria Marchesi and between 1931 and 1943 they had seven beloved children.
In 1934 he was employed by the Società Assicurazione Cattolica di Verona (a catholic insurance company) as an agent for the Modena branch: later on he became an inspector and carried out his duty in the areas of Modena, Bologna, Verona till Pordenone.
In 1936 Odoardo Focherini became president of the Azione Cattolica and between 1930 and 1942 he was engaged in organising important diocesan happenings, the eucharistic congresses, which deeply marked the religious and social life of that time.
In 1939 he became managing director of L’ Avvenire d’ Italia, a catholic newspaper whose head office was in Bologna.
In 1942 his activity in favour of the Jews started out: the first ones he saved came from Poland on a train for injured people and arrived in Genoa, where they were directed by Genoa’s cardinal to Raimondo Manzini, who was L’ Avvenire d’Italia’s chairman.. Raimondo Manzini deeply trusted Odoardo Focherni and asked him to help them.
His massive activity in favour of the persecuted Jews, however, began after the 8th of September 1943: after asking for and obtaining his wife’s support, Odoardo got in touch with reliable people who helped him in providing blank identity cards, filling them in with false data and taking the persecuted Jews to the Italy-Switzerland border.
Together with his trusted friend Don Dante Sala, parish priest of San Martino Spino (MO) Odoardo provided the first documents for his friend Giacomo of jewish origin and his family. In a very short time the news about this possibility of escape spread around and over 100 people turned to Focherini and Don Dante Sala for help.
The men and women who met and got to know him during that time remember Odoardo as always serene and smiling, even when people were waiting for him at home or at work or at L’ Avvenire d’ Italia’s head office.
Odoardo was arrested at Carpi’s hospital the 11th of March 1944, when he was organising Enrico Donati’s escape, the last Jew he was able to save.
The 13th of March he was taken to San Giovanni in Monte’s prison in Bologna, where he stayed till the 5th of July. From Bologna he was moved to Fossoli’s concentration camp: on the 4th of August Odoardo was sent to a labour camp near Bolzano (Gries) and from there deported to Germany the 7th of September, first to Flossenburg’s camp and finally to Hersbrueck.
A not healed wound on the left leg caused his death the 27th of December 1944.
The body of the letters Odoardo managed to send, both in clandestine way and not, to his wife, his parents and his friends testify to these dreadful months: thousand tricks to stay in touch with the loved ones, love letters to a deeply loved wife, his obsessive thought on the children he knows to have left in a difficult and uncertain situation.
Among the several acknowledgments he was awarded we would like to mention the Gold Metal of the Israelitic Communities (Milan 1955), the title of Righteous among the Nations (Jerusalem 1969) and the Gold Metal to Civil Merit (Rome 2007).
The beatification. The process of beatification began in 1996 and came to a conclusion on the 15th of June 2013 in Piazza Martiri in Carpi with the official beatification ceremony presided by cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.