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Home / World / The Italian Holocaust survivor faces threats following a request to investigate hatred: NPR

The Italian Holocaust survivor faces threats following a request to investigate hatred: NPR



Liliana Segre waves at the end of a meeting with students in Milan (Italy) in 2018. For decades, the 89-year-old Segre did not want to talk about her time in Auschwitz. In the 1

990s, she started talking to students all over Italy about the Holocaust.

Luca Bruno / AP


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Luca Bruno / AP

Liliana Segre waves at the end of a meeting with students in Milan (Italy) in 2018. For decades, the 89-year-old Segre did not want to talk about her time in Auschwitz. In the 1990s, she started talking to students all over Italy about the Holocaust.

Luca Bruno / AP

More than seven decades after the fall of fascism in his country of birth, Italy is in an intense debate about anti-Semitism, racism and hate speech. The 13-year-old Jewish grandmother and Holocaust survivor under police escort for threats from members of Italy's ultra-right.

In 1944, 13-year-old Liliana Segre from Milan was tattooed on her arm with the number 75,190 deported to Auschwitz. After the war, most people did not want to hear about the Holocaust, she says.

When she became a grandmother at the age of 60, Segre noted that she had not done her duty to inform younger generations about the horrors of genocide and began meeting with students to describe life in a National Socialist extermination camp.

Her work caught the attention of the public, and last year Segre was appointed Senator for Life – an honor that recognized her role in Italy's historic memory of the Holocaust.

] Earlier this month, a television interviewer asked what that meant to them.

"Inside, I was always the little kid who was suddenly shut out of school and became invisible to the world around them," Segre said. "Eighty years on, she becomes a lifelong senator – I can not find words to describe my emotions."

But greater visibility made Segre a target of anti-Semitic online attacks – about 200 attacks per day, monitored by the Center for contemporary Jewish documentation. The insults included "Piece of Jew ***", "Hitler, you did not do your job well" and "Let's reopen the stoves".

Segre responded to the nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiment across the country by calling for a parliamentary committee to investigate hate speech, racism and anti-Semitism. The vote was accepted, but all right-wing parties abstained.

Matteo Salvini, chairman of the Immigration Party, said the motion would prevent him from proclaiming "Italian first". Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said it would restrict freedom of speech.

Segre told the television interviewer she was stunned.

"I thought a proposal against hate in general, which we all witness, would be an ethical, moral problem," she said. Instead, she felt "like a Martian in the Senate."

Five days after this interview, the Milan police announced that Segre had been hired to increase online threats with two security agents.

Ruth Dureghello, President of The Jewish Community of Rome, says this is a sign of the seven-decade-long failure of Italian society.

"This is a real crisis for us all, for all systems and for all democracies," she says. "That means she has to be protected from hatred as in the past."

The image of an octogenarian Holocaust survivor in need of police protection has awakened memories of intolerance under fascism. Ronald Lauder, chairman of the World Jewish Congress, warns that Italy should not repeat its past.

"Italy can not afford to be torn apart again, as in the 1930s and 40s, and people today do not remember what happened," he tells the NPR.

The old Jewish ghetto in Rome, where Jews had to live for hundreds of years until 1870, is a place where the memory of what happened can be seen very clearly.

Holocaust monuments known as "stumbling blocks" are on the doorstep of Via del Portico D & # 9; Ottavia 9 in Rome.

Sylivia Poggioli / NPR


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Sylivia Poggioli / NPR

Thousands of Italian Jews were arrested during the National Socialist occupation. In front of many entrances are small, square brass plates embedded between the cobblestones, which indicate who lived in the houses and when they were killed.

Via del Portico d & # 39; Ottavia 9 contains 12 plates known as "stumbling blocks" bearing the name of each resident, the date of birth and the date of the murder in a National Socialist concentration camp. There are two for the Tagliacozzo family and 10 for the Sabatellos. Next door is a kosher restaurant, La Taverna del Ghetto.

Owner Angelo di Porto says Segre is ashamed to be Italian. It is also a warning.

"Unfortunately, history teaches us that when Jews are attacked, it leads to persecutions, dictatorships and calamities for the entire society," says di Porto. "Non-Jews are therefore the first to worry about what happens here."

The events include the refusal of Roberto Canali, the right-wing mayor of Predappio – dictator Benito Mussolini's birthplace – to attend an annual event that allows students to travel by train to Auschwitz. He said it was his conviction that the historical memory of what was happening in Europe should be broadened.

"When these trains stop to find out what happened in the Foibe [massacre] or at the Berlin Wall, and to understand the tragedy of 50. Only after years of communism can they say that they conform to the history of want to remember all sides, and we would like to work together, "said the mayor earlier this month by the Italian news agency ANSA.

Salvini supporter At a league rally in September, journalist Gad Lerner called out, "Get lost, you Jew!"

Other incidents include racist chants and monkey sounds from far-right football fans facing the black football star Mario Born in Italy, Balotelli was adopted and raised by an Italian couple. Luca Castellini, a far-right politician and leader of the "Ultra" Fan Section, who leads the chants, told reporters this month that Balotelli was Italian, "but he's never quite Italian."

One person very Paolo Berizzi, author of books on the rise of neo-Nazism and neo-fascism, is concerned about the events in Italy. Unlike some other countries with totalitarian regimes, Italy has never worked its past. He accuses democratic post-war governments that the ideology is dead and buried.

"Fascism can be born or reborn in new forms at any time and in any part of the world," says Berizzi. "Today's neo-fascists do not wear black shirts, neo-fascism expresses itself in a new, fluid way, sometimes difficult to identify, but very visible in the end."

This is what the late Italian writer Umberto Eco called "Eternal Fascism". Eco said it was up to everyone to point out new forms of fascism, to put them in the limelight and defuse them.

That's exactly what Sen. Segre is trying to do.


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