Thursday, January 27, 2022


 A young person asked me today what I thought about this commemoration. I replied that I thought it was essential, as an event in Italy this week has sadly shown us: On Sunday in Venturina Terme, a hamlet of Campiglia Marittima in the Province of Livorno, Tuscany, a twelve-year-old boy was bullied, called names, kicked and spat upon by two teenage girls simply because he is Jewish. They also, appallingly, told him that he should "die in an oven."  The worst of it, perhaps, is that onlookers did nothing. Nothing. And that, as history, we would have hoped, had taught us, is where it begins - when onlookers do and say nothing.

Long ago, as a French and Italian student, I studied what happens under occupations and totalitarian régimes and what defines "collaboration" in such circumstances. We would all like to think we would have been heroes but the truth is that very few of us would have been. Some citizens "collaborated" to keep their jobs and feed their families but on the everyday level of simply keeping their heads down. Others went further and actively helped the oppressors. By this time, of course, the bullies were the ones in power, but how did they get there? They got there because reasonable people let them, listened to their propaganda and cheered them on, even in the most cultured of countries. They did not notice as their freedoms were eroded little by little. They noticed when it was too late and now the bullies were the ones holding the guns. And they were holding the guns because the small incidents were not called out.

Alberta Ticciati, the Mayor of Campiglia Marittima, though, is calling it out. Shocked when the boy's father reported the incident to her and to the police, she has written on Facebook,

"I am a public administrator but first I am a person, a woman and a mother... I understand how complex and difficult it is to bring up a child and guide them as they grow. But there are no excuses. There can be no justification."

No justification and regretfully no surprise. Liliana Segre, the Italian Holocaust survivor and Life Senator said that this kind of incident does not surprise her as unfortunately she is used to it. 

Tonight a torchlit Memorial Procession is being held in Venturina Terme and among those attending is the Governor of Tuscany. Let us hope that the boy and his family are able to take some comfort from the genuine solidarity being offered here.

Depressingly it has been reported that 2021 saw the highest number of reports of antisemitic incidents worldwide - an average of ten per day - in a decade and shamefully Europe accounts for 50% of these. Many more go uncalled out and unreported.

I told my young friend that there are few Holocaust survivors alive today; Liliana Segre, who has spent her life educating young people about it, no longer feels able, at ninety-one, to travel the country to speak in schools; and my generation, whose parents lived through World War II and who conveyed the horror of the Holocaust to us, will soon be gone too. Now it is up to my eighteen-year-old friend's generation to keep the memory alive, call the small incidents out so that they do not become massive ones and, if I may paraphrase a much decried British Prime Minister who did, however, get several things right, "Educate, educate, educate".

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Absolutely necessary, especially as many people are trying to paint the time of Mussolini in a positive light again.


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