January 27 at 6:00 pm
Ambasciata d’Italia, 3000 Whitehaven St, NW, Washington, DC 20008
Opening remarks: H.E. Ambassador Claudio Bisognero.
Post screening discussion: Marco Clementi, University of Calabria.
With an introduction of Vadim Altskan, Holocaust Museum Archives
The Island of Roses, A Tragedy in a Paradise. by Rebecca Samonà, 2008 (Italian with English subtitles)
Through the memories of her mother Erminia Licitri, and Stella Levi a family friend who survived the deportation, the author reconstructs the life and annihilation of the Jews of Rhodes from the beginning of the Italian colonization in 1912, to the deportation to Auschwitz in July 1944. Combining era footage with a delicate personal commentary L’Isola delle Roseoffers a glimpse into a centuries-old culture which a handful of survivors infused it into a younger generation that is today scattered around the world. The narrative unfolds along the author’s grandparents’ love story, Victoria, from an old local Jewish family and Ernesto, a Sicilian army officer stationed on the island. In spite of the initial parental opposition, the couple gets married but their lives are soon after turned apart by the racial persecution and the war.
Marco Clementi (University of Calabria) received a PhD in Contemporary History from the University of St. Petersburg and holds a degree in Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures from the University “La Sapienza” in Rome. His publications include Storia del dissenso sovietico (2007), L’Alleato Stalin (2011), Camicie Nere sull’Acropoli (2013). He is a member of the St. Petersburg Memorial’s scientific council.
February 2 at 6:00 pm
Ambasciata d’Italia, 3000 Whitehaven St, NW, Washington, DC 20008
Sixty Years of Holocaust Research in Italy: The Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan
Opening remarks, Giorgio Sacerdoti (President, CDEC) Liliana Picciotto (Director of Research, CDEC)
In Italy, like in the western world in general, Jewish presence is not simply a matter of “ordinary historical routine”. To speak of Jews involves speaking of monotheism and polytheisms, of migrations and homecomings, of majorities and minorities, of strangers and citizens, of pluralist democracy and the negation of the “other,” of respect and tolerance, of equality and homologation, of reasoning and the use of scapegoats, and more. CDEC is therefore well aware that to document and investigate the life of Jews means first and foremost to pursue knowledge, raising serious and weighty issues while challenging modes of interpretation.” Michele Sarfatti, Director of CDEC
The program features a special screening of a nine minute archival film of the Della Seta family. The only known filmed document of Italian Jewish life before the Holocaust, the Della Seta family films were shot in 1923-24 and feature weddings, leisure time, and other daily activities. Italian journalist Claudio Della Seta found the films in his family home but never imagined they would be able to be seen again. Recently, he discovered that the National Restoration Institute had the capability to restore and digitalize them. After 91 years, the films were brought back to life in all their splendor, wit, and tenderness. The original reels are preserved at the CDEC archive.
The Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan
In a collection of essays published by Yad Vashem in 2009, David Bankier and Dan Michman devote one chapter to the simultaneous creation of Holocaust research centers in Poland, France, Italy, Germany and Israel. These centers have remained the repositories not only of the earliest documentation of the history of anti-Jewish persecution in the nazi-fascist era, but also of the history of the emergence of Holocaust research as a field of historical study.
These centers which were created in the immediate aftermath of the war, have for many decades been arduously working toward acquiring acknowledgment by the European societies that perpetrated the extermination of the Jews. The centers also represent the development of key interpretative models of an understanding of international action and justice which were later integrated in the mission of the Holocaust Museum (1993) and the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies (1998).
Celebrating the 60 years of the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan, means to revisit the exceptional work of young Italian Jews who after the war were committed to understand the tragedy their community had suffered. They began to retrace and disclose the twenty years of a fascist dictatorship which some of their fathers had embraced and others had fought and that the broader Italian society was trying to forget. This anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on the galvanizing and critical role of the Jewish minority in Italian society and the continuity of anti-Semitism and neo-fascist ideology.
CDEC was founded by the Italian Jewish Youth Federation in Venice in 1955 under the directorship of Roberto Bassi. Its initial purpose in post-war Italy was to study Jewish participation in the Italian resistance and assert the commitment of Italian Jewry in the anti-fascist movement.
During this period, CDEC became the leading research institution on the history of the persecution of the Jews in Italy, collecting and recording testimonies and memories of the Italian Jewish community who experienced the Shoah. CDEC’s studies began to rupture the silence in mainstream Italy about the Fascist past, the dictatorship and the persecutions.
In recent years, the CDEC has expanded its archive to include Italian Jewish life since the emancipation of 1861-1870 and the Italian Zionist experience. Today it is the leading archive and research institute dedicated to the history of 20th century Italian Jewry and houses thousands of documents, photographs and artifacts of Jewish life in Italy.
In spite of a growing bibliography in English and a substantial historiography of Fascism, the Italian chapter of the Holocaust is still relatively unacknowledged. Although many American and Israeli scholars have successfully integrated the most recent research and primary sources in their work, some major research institutions in Holocaust studies often continue to refer to old “apologetic” narratives about the Jews living under Italian Fascism.
Today, CDEC seeks to reach international audiences making available sixty years of Holocaust research in Italy dispelling misreadings of the persecution of Italian Jews, taking part in contemporary debates on the disintegration of civil liberties the construction of collective memory.