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March, 2018

19MAr6:30 pm- 7:30 pmStudying Survival in the Context of PersecutionConsulate General of Italy, 690 Park Avenue, New York, NY 100656:30 pm - 7:30 pm Italian Jewish Studies Seminar:Italian Jewish Studies SeminarMemoria:Memoria

Event Details

Groundbreaking research project opens new avenues to understand survival.

Welcoming remarks: Consul General of Italy Francesco Genuardi

Introduction: Andrew Viterbi.

Liliana Picciotto (Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation), Susan Zuccotti (author of Père Marie-Benoît And Jewish Rescue How A French Priest Together With Jewish Friends Saved Thousands During The Holocaust), Mordechai Paldiel (Historian and former Director of the The Righteous Among the Nations – Yad Vashem)

Admission: free and open to the public

Presented by Centro Primo Levi, the Consulate General of Italy and the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan.

During the past ten years historian Liliana Picciotto has lead a groundbreaking research project at the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan: the development of a database of case-studies to analyze the ways in which Jews survived in Italy during the Fascist and Nazi persecution. The project, funded by a grant from Andrew Viterbi and Erna Finci Viterbi z”l, resulted in a database and a book Salvarsi, published by Einaudi in 2017.

Liliana Picciotto has previously lead to completion the research on the Jews deported from Italy and the Italian territories. Her work provides historians with essential information on the mechanism of arrest that lead to Auschwitz aapproximately 9,700 Jews who had remained under the control of the Italian Social Republic.

The new project challenges long-established canons in the understanding of survival and reframes it as an integral aspect of the history of persecution and the result of complex dynamics in which Jews and non-Jews were participants.

Survival has mostly been considered by scholars and lay observers in an ethical and political frame which reduces it to rescue, a performance of charity by heroes upon victims. Thinking survival as primarily rescue has facilitated a clear-cut separation of the society that “persecuted” from the society that “saved,” generating a powerful tool of secular redemption and blurring the contradictions, ambiguities and responsibilities of the societies in which the persecution took place.

Reconstructing the historical context, logistic circumstances, decisions made by those who tried to escape and those who surrounded them, rethinking survival and demise as consequences of relations and interactions, re-evaluating the role of organized Jewish relief, evaluating the survival of other groups such as POW, deserters and fascist criminals, opens a new chapter in the study of the anti-Jewish persecution.

Reconsidering survival outside of the ideological and ethical frame of rescue, adds new dimensions to the notions of collaboration and indifference, and helps revisit the use and abuse of categories such as gratitude, risk, danger, protection, and rights.

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