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His father was Felice (born in Venezia on 1886), his mother was Ada Basevi (born in Verona). Franco had two brothers: Ermanno, born in 1918, and Lelio, born in 1920. The family moved to Roma, then to Bologna. In 1938 Mussolini's "racial laws" were introduced and Franco was expelled from public school, and had to go instead to a "Jewish school" jury-rigged in a local synagogue. His father died in 1939 and he moved in with relatives.
Soon after Mussolini was overthrown, the Nazis invaded Italy, and Italian Jews had to go into hiding or be sent to the concentration camps. The Cesana family hid in the Apennine Mountains, next to Modena. Franco's family had to move from hut to hut in the mountains in order to evade the German soldiers. Franco, who was twelve at the time, joined one of the Justice and Liberty partisan group with his brother Lelio. Their group was brigata Scarabelli. Not much later, on September 14, 1944, he was shot by Germans on a scouting mission in the mountains, next to Gombola, and his body was returned to his mother on his thirteenth birthday. He received the bronze medal in memory. He was Italy's youngest partisan.
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