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Giorno della Memoria: Italy marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

Italy remembers the horrors of the Holocaust 79 years after the liberation of Auschwitz.

Italy marks Holocaust Remembrance Day on Saturday with a series of commemorative events on the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Italy's president Sergio Mattarella marked the Giorno della Memoria with a speech on Friday at the Quirinale Palace in Rome, with Holocaust survivor Sami Modiano a guest of honour.

"It must never be forgotten that our country, Italy, adopted the despicable racist laws during Fascism - in a climate of overall indifference: the initial chapter of the terrible book of extermination; and that members of the Republic of Salò actively collaborated in the capture, deportation and even massacres of Jews", Mattarella said.

Controversy

This year's Giorno della Memoria takes place against the backdrop of a controversy over pro-Palestinian rallies planned in Rome, Milan and other cities on Saturday.

Following an outcry from the Jewish community in Italy and the intervention of the interior ministry, local police chiefs have prohibited the rallies from taking place on that day.

 

News agency ANSA reported however that organisers of the pro-Palestinian rallies have vowed to go ahead with the demonstrations on Saturday, regardless of the ban.

 

Milan

 

In Milan a mural depicting cartoon characters The Simpsons as deported Jews was defaced on Thursday night with the words "Viva Hitler" and "Fuck Israel".

 

It is the fourth time that the mural has been vandalised since its creation a year ago at the former Binario 21 platform in Milan's central train station.

 

The platform was where many of Italy's Jews were sent to the Nazi death camps, including Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, 93, who was deported to Auschwitz aged 13 along with her father.

 

On arrival at the concentration camp Segre was separated from her beloved father who she never saw again.

 

One of the few Italian Jewish children to survive a Nazi death camp, Segre was made a senator for life in 2018, an honour in tribute to her years of speaking about the horrors of the Holocaust.

 

Rome 

Rome is staging 60 commemorative events including "Words of hatred: The Roman Jews sold to the Nazis", a hard-hitting exhibition at the Casina dei Vallati in the Jewish Ghetto quarter.

The free exhibit, running until 15 February, documents the shameful role of informers who denounced their fellow citizens as Jews to the Nazis during world war two.

Curators of the exhibition noted the amount paid by the Nazis for every tip-off that led to the capture of Roman Jews: 5,000 lire for a man, 3,000 lire for a woman and 1,000 lire for a child.

Stolpersteine memorials

Rome recently installed 21 new Holocaust memorial cobblestones, adding them to the hundreds of stolpersteine already present on streets around the capital.

Designed by Berlin artist Gunter Demnig, the memorials are known as stolpersteine in German - translated literally as “stumbling stones” - and are installed outside the last chosen place of residence of victims of the Holocaust.

The brass-capped blocks are dedicated to Jews and partisans, including women and children, who were mostly deported to Auschwitz or massacred at the Fosse Ardeatine in Rome.


Established by the United Nations to commemorate the day in 1945 that the survivors of Auschwitz were liberated, International Holocaust Remembrance Day honours the memory of the millions of Jews – but also homosexuals, Romany people and others – who suffered persecution, deportation, imprisonment and genocide.

Cover image: Stolpersteine on Via della Madonna dei Monti. Photo credit: Only Fabrizio / Shutterstock.com.

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