June 23, 2011
Interview 1 With Alessandro Biffi
Alessandro Biffi’s father, Alberto Severo Biffi, was born in Monza, Italy and immigrated to Montreal in 1912. He was arrested while on his lunch break at work in June of 1940 and interned as an enemy alien in Petawawa for two years during World War II. In this second interview, Alessandro Biffi recalls a family friend named Professor Giuseppe Nelli who was interned at Bordeaux Jail despite having little involvement in the fascio or with the Italian community. Biffi records the struggles of Nelli as he has no descendants to keep his memory or story alive. Professor Nelli was an Italian professor at McGill and Biffi believes that his stay in jail, although brief, was probably a serious stressor on his life. He recalls that Nelli did not seem healthy or happy after his internment and died soon after.
In this opening clip Alessandro Biffi speaks about Professor Giuseppe Nelli, a close family friend who was arrested and detained at Bordeaux Jail during World War II.
In this clip Alessandro Biffi mentions that although Professor Nelli was Italian, he did not associate with the Italian community in Montreal.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about his father and explains that at the time of his arrest he was a Canadian citizen but still maintained ties to Italy.
June 08, 2011
Interview 2 With Alessandro Biffi
Alessandro Biffi’s father, Alberto Severo Biffi, was born in Monza, Italy and immigrated to Montreal in 1912. When World War I broke out Alessandro’s father enlisted in the Canadian army. Then in 1915, after hearing that Italy had entered the war on the side of the Allies he asked to be transferred to the Italian army, where he served again on the side of the Allied forces. Despite his dedication to his new country, he was arrested while on his lunch break at work in June of 1940 and interned as an enemy alien in Petawawa for two years during World War II. Alberto Severo Biffi was a successful importer of Italian goods at the time of his arrest and was also an important member of the Italian community. He was the secretary for the fascio organization run out of the Casa d’Italia and had ties to the Italian consul. He was also involved in the community life of greater Montreal, including involvement with the Liberal Party. He married a French woman whose family was from Normandy, and they and their son spoke French at home. After his return from the internment camp in Petawawa, Biffi successfully built up his business again, and his family enjoyed a similar standard of living as before his internment, although they did move to a smaller apartment in Montreal, where they stayed until the end of their lives. Alberto Severo Biffi died of a heart attack in 1955. His son Alessandro, who was 10 years old at the time of his father’s arrest, recalls the time of World War II in his family’s history. He also reflects on the effect that his father’s internment had on his own life and the relatively lucky and privileged situation of their family in the greater Italian community, as well as the fact that his family had more ties to Canadian Montreal than many other Italians. Alessandro also recalls the irony of the fact that he himself spent his life teaching physics at the Collège Militaire de Saint-Jean, a place where Italian Canadian men were held before being sent to internment camps.
In this opening clip Alessandro Biffi speaks about his parents and his childhood growing up in Montreal.
Alessandro Biffi discusses social outings he enjoyed with his family growing up. He also briefly speaks about the Casa d’Italia.
Alessandro Biffi briefly speaks about his father’s arrest on June 10, 1940.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about his father’s import business which he ran in Montreal in the years prior to the war.
Alessandro Biffi explains how he and his mother coped at home during the time of his father’s internment. He also speaks about his father’s return home and how he slowly rebuilt his business.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about how his home life compared to others in Montreal who had family members interned.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about his schooling. He eventually began teaching physics at Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean where ironically many Italian Canadians from the Montreal area were held after June 10, 1940.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about moving to a smaller apartment with him mother during his father’s absence.
Allessandro Biffi speaks about his father’ return home.
Alessandro Biffi shares what information he knows about his father’s internment experience, but explains that it wasn’t a regular topic in his household.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about his father’s involvement with the fascio and what the organization meant for Italian Canadians. He goes on to speak about Mussolini, as well as his father’s support for the Liberal Party in Canada.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about his father’s migration to Canada, involvement in World War I and his Canadian citizenship.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about his father’s connection to the Italian Consul and other Italian organizations in Montreal.
In this clip Alessandro Biffi reflects on the internment of Italian Canadians, as well as the treatment of Japanese Canadians and German Canadians.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about the importance of remembering the internment period and the individual family stories.
Alessandro Biffi speaks of his father’s resilience and how this played a role in his immigration to Canada and ability to move on from the internment period.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about his father.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about the wooden objects his father brought back from the internment camp.
Alessandro Biffi speaks about the importance of remembering the internment period.
Alessandro Biffi displays one of the wooden carvings, a fork, that his father created while in Petawawa. He also speaks of the other objects he made during his internment.