Villa Emma was built in 1898 by architect V. Maestri on behalf of Carlo Sacerdoti who dedicated it to his wife Emma Coen. In 1913 the Villa was sold, but since 1940 the Villa was owned by Mr. Grassi of Milan.
Recha Freier a Zionist from Berlin, fled to Zagreb in mid-1940 and organized that Jewish children should come to Zagreb and from there to Israel, but in April 1941 the last group of 43 Jewish children couldn’t leave due to the German occupation. The children were brought to a castle in Lesno Brdo by Josef Indig for a year but due to deteriorating situation it was decided that they had to find a new place.
Delasem (the Jewish communal welfare agency) rented Villa Emma and on July 17th 1942, the children arrived escorted by Italian gendarmerie.
During the first few months there were no beds and no kitchen.
Delasem sent Umberto Jacchia to run the Villa like a school, with classes but also with religious services with two Torah scrolls. A local farmer, Ernesto Leonardi thought the children how to farm, later on a carpenter workshop was setup by Hersz Naftali Schldenfrei and eventually also a tailoring workshop for the girls.
During April 1943, 33 Jewish children arrived from Split, in total the Villa hosted 73 children and 15 adults.
On the 8th of September 1943 the German troops entered the city and the children were forced to leave the Villa, thanks to Don Arrigo Beccari they were transferred to the local abbey and in farmhouses
When the Nazis began to search every Catholic institution and school looking for Jewish refugees and even the village seminary became too dangerous a place to hide Don Arrigo together with Dr. Giuseppe Moreali arranged for false Italian documents to be issued for all the Jewish people of the village and helped the refugees to successfully board a train for the Swiss border.
A few days later the German police arrested Don Beccari and imprisoned him in Bologna. Despite the torture to which he was subjected to, Don Beccari never revealed to the Gestapo any of the details of the escape, nor of the people who assisted him in the rescue.