Rome remembers Nazi raid on Jewish Ghetto 78 years ago

Rome commemorates deportation of Jews in 1943 as leader of far-right Fratelli d'Italia postpones visit to Jewish Ghetto on eve of election.

Rome's Jewish community commemorates today the 78th anniversary of the deportation of more than 1,000 of the city’s Jews to the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz.

The raid occurred at dawn on 16 October 1943, when 1,024 Roman Jews, including 200 children, were rounded up in the city’s Ghetto district and taken across the Tiber to the Collegio Militare on Via della Lungara.

Two days later they were sent to Auschwitz on a sealed train from Tiburtina station.

Only 16 were to make it back to Rome alive: 15 men and one woman, Settimia Spizzichino, who died in the Garbatella neighbourhood in 2000.

The white steel bridge connecting the Ostiense and Garbatella districts was named in Spizzichino's honour when it opened in 2012.

This is the third year that the anniversary occurs without any of the 16 survivors, the last of whom, Lello Di Segni, died on 26 October 2018.

Political controversy

This year's anniversary occurs against the backdrop of new tensions between Italy's Jewish community and the far-right Fratelli d'Italia (FdI) over recent scandals linked to the political party.

The first controversy came a few weeks ago after an investigative report by Fanpage uncovered alleged money laundering and illicit financing involving senior FdL figures and their associates in Milan.

Footage of the report aired on Italian television included explicit racist and fascist jokes as well as anti-Semitic comments and references to Hitler.

FdI leader Giorgia Meloni said subsequently that there was no space for racism or anti-Semitism in her party.

A week later the centre-right candidate in the race to become Rome's next mayor, Enrico Michetti - who is backed by the FdI - became embroiled in a scandal over an article he wrote last year.

In Michetti's essay, published on the Radio Radio website, he argued that the Holocaust is commemorated more than other massacres in history, such as the Foibe, because the Jews "control the banks."

Michetti subsequently offered a "sincere apology" for his words which were "dangerous and hide a disturbing prejudice”, according to the president of Rome's Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello.

In an attempt to calm the situation, FdI leader Meloni had decided to go in person to lay a wreath at the Synagogue on Saturday, the day before a mayoral run-off in which Michetti faces centre-left candidate Roberto Gualtieri.

However this was deemed "inappropriate" by Rome's Jewish community, with Dureghello requesting Meloni to postpone her visit until after the elections.

Coinciding with the anniversary of the Nazi raid on the Jewish Ghetto is a major anti-fascist rally in Rome, held in response to the storming of the CGIL trade union headquarters last weekend, involving activists on the extreme right, during a No Green Pass protest.

Photo credit: NICOLA MESSANA PHOTOS / Shutterstock.com.