Join us for the ceremony
Join us for the ceremony of the reading of the names of the Jews deported from Italy and the Italian territories. Consulate General of Italy, January 27th, 2019 from 9 am to 3:30 pm.
Giorno della Memoria: Twenty Years of Remembrance in Italy
Twenty-four years have passed since the establishment of January 27th in Germany as the day of commemoration of the victims of Nazi-Fascism. The date would subsequently be adopted as first shared European commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance.
The European Union’s efforts to help weave a common historical ground have taken many directions, encouraging academic projects, facilitating student and faculty exchanges and creating a variety of systems to share national heritages digitally. The best known is Europeana, a digital platform of European archives, libraries and museums. Scholarship has began to address the history of the extermination of the Jews and other minorities, bringing about a new field of study and prompting a new wave of research on the Nazi-Fascist era and a new generation of comparative studies.
The designation of January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day occurred over time, spearheaded by the the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research and some of the countries where Nazi-Fascist totalitarianism came forth: Germany in 1996, France in 1997, Italy in 2000, followed by many other countries in Europe. It assumed an international dimension in 2005 when the United Nations officially marked an annual commemoration establishing their Holocaust Education Programme.
In early debates on memory and the historical past, Totalitarianism, anti-Fascism and the persecution of the Jews became central to the process of definition of a shared historical landscape. This process took time and raised conflicts.
As the European Union expanded, the consensus over the definitions of totalitarianism, dissent, resistance and the Holocaust came again under question and new sets of conflicts were brought to the fore.
In 2011 the Platform for European Memory and Conscience was created, mostly by Eastern European countries with the participation of the United States and Canada. In its mission statement anti-Fascism and the Holocaust do not appear while many of the elements of public discourse that developed since the establishment of January 27th and before, are included: the platform is meant to “increase public awareness about European history and the crimes committed by totalitarian regimes and to encourage a broad, European-wide discussion about the causes and consequences of totalitarian rule, as well as about common European values, with the aim of promoting human dignity and human rights”.
Within the European community, conflict over the representation of history has progressively grown in the political arena leaving the scholarly debate on the margins or subjecting it to the oversight of the law.
At a time when history is increasingly called upon to support or counter present ideologies, it is ever more important to ensure that no opportunity is missed to make available proper critical tools to the public at large.
On January 27th the Italian Consulate in New York organizes the ceremony of the reading of the names of Jews deported from Italy and the Italian territories. Below is a short overview of the research journey through which the list of the victims of the deportation was compiled.
January 31, 1946
Report by Massimo Adolfo Vitale on the persecution of the Jews of Italy, Centro Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea, Digital Library, www.cdec.it
The tragedy of Italian Jews and of the foreign Jews who lived in Italy and were deported to Germany, is expressed in the following numbers: from Italy: 7,500, from Rhodes: 2,500, foreigners: 2,500, returned: 522 Italians, 44 foreigners. No one knows the numbers of the deportees from Libia.*
The hope that others may arrive fades every day, and no news has arrived from Germany, Austria, nor from Poland on the unfortunate victims.
All of those who returned agree the all people of age, or sick, the children, the women with children, have been killed in the gas chambers upon arrival in the German camps.
The number of deportees, remarkably high for such small Jewish population in Italy (42,000 before the racial laws of 1938-1939, 35,000 after those laws), is due to the impossibility of the majority to foresee what would happen. Improvidence was caused for some by lack of means (part of those who were in better financial conditions had left Italy upon the promulgation of the laws […]. For the most part, it was prompted by the belief that the spirit of politicians and of the Italian people would not arrive to painful extremes. They trusted that they would limit themselves to the implementation of those decrees that removed the Jews from public office, limit their activities and their rights, deprived them of the majority of their assets, but would let them “physically” unharmed.
For a certain number of individuals (particularly for foreign Jews), the implementation of those rulings meant to be sent to concentration camps (disseminated in all Italian regions) or to be interned in remote Italian villages.
Of these measures, all terribly unjust, were nothing compared to those that followed in the years from 1940 to 1944 and the first months of 1945.
Internees were forced to a hard and demoralizing discipline. It is important to illustrate this topic with precision to document the extent of the indignity to which the Fascist government arrived in regard to innocent citizens. […]
As of 2015, the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan identified 9,800 deportees including 1,834 people from the Dodecanese islands and about 750 individuals, mostly refugees, who still remain to be identified. Approximately 12% survived the death camps.
Starting in the last months of World War II, surviving family members of Jews who had been deported to extermination camps prompted the first attempts to locate their loved ones and gather information about their journeys and fates. Soon after, in 1945, the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities created the Comitato Ricerche Deportati Ebrei, CRDE, (Research Committee on Jewish Deportees). Adolfo Massimo Vitale, a colonel of the Italian army dismissed during the Racial Laws who had long lived abroad, led the Committee. It was Vitale who compiled the first list of the Italian deportees.
In 1955 the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation opened in Venice with the mission to reconstruct Jewish life and preserve the remnants of its past. Vitale’s list became indispensable in tracing the destiny of the Italian deportees and in writing the history of the Shoah in Italy. Without Vitale’s early work, much of would have been lost forever. Following this first phase, the research was advanced under three of CDEC’s directors, Roberto Bassi, Guido Valabrega and Eloisa Ravenna. During this time CDEC moved its headquarters from Venice to Milan, where records concerning the deportees were permanently transferred.
In 1972, CDEC’s staff decided to cross-reference Vitale’s list in order to follow proper historiographical standards. They initiated new research aimed at collecting every available document in any relevant archive inside and outside of Italy. This phase was entrusted to Giuliana Donati, who was involved with the project until 1974.
Under Donati’s guidance, CDEC acquired a large archive of handwritten documents, containing individual name cards for each victim. The available biographical data for each name was thoroughly checked and new data was added. In 1979, CDEC considered publishing the complete list of all Jews who died in Italy or were deported from Italy in the 1943-1945 period. This project was directed by Liliana Picciotto.
In the meantime, new documents come to light: the census of 51.000 individuals the fascist government recorded as Jewish in 1938, the registry of Italian jails with the names of Jews who were arrested, the records collected by prosecutors during the trials of Nazi war criminals operating in Italy. Vitale’s original list was vastly expanded through these new documents.
In 1986, CDEC received its first computer, a rarity at the time, which transformed research capabilities: the data collected up to that point was merged into an innovative database. In 1991 Liliana Picciotto published Il Libro della Memoria. Gli ebrei deportati dall’Italia (1943 – 1945), (The Book of Remembrance. Jews deported from Italy 1943 – 1945, Mursia, 1991).
Three subsequent editions came out as the research continued to expand. In 2013 the database– which in addition to Jews deported from the Italian peninsula included those from Italian controlled Aegean Islands– was finally made available online. CDEC also made available the database of foreign Jews interned in Italy, a work-in-progress curated by Anna Pizzuti and the late Francesca Cappella at the Scuola Normale di Pisa.
Image: Frans Kracjberg, Burned tree.
“Depois que descobri a violência, quis demonstrar essa violência. A escultura, os restos e o fogo, mais do que a pintura transmitem a minha revolta”. (After I discovered this violence, I wanted to show it. The sculpture, the remnants and the fire, more than painting communicate my protest).