Who ever imagined the liberation of the Nazi death camps as a joyous moment of celebration should think again.
Above the entry to the camp and beyond the offensive notorious sign that reads, “Work sets you free”, the vision is devastating: how can one rejoice when you weigh a little more than thirty pounds and are laden with a sense of fear, death and humiliation?
In this spirit, the exhibition, “The End of the Horror. The liberation of the Nazi camps” was inaugurated last Tuesday at the Vittoriano in Rome. The exhibition is put on by the Foundation of the Shoah Museum in Rome with the support of the local Jewish community and the collaboration of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, the patronage of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities and Tourism, the Region of Lazio and Roma Capitale and it will be open until March 15.
“The exhibition that you see today has been strongly supported by the Foundation and confirms the partnership created by years with the Vittoriano” said the Foundation President Leone Paserman as he welcomed the visitors. “Why is this so important? Because, as the Senate president Pietro Grasso pointed out, we have to remember what happened every day of the year, not only during on January 27th. The aim of the Foundation is to become a center of learning.”
The Education Minister Stefania Giannini explained the importance of education about the Shoah in stimulating the subjective consciousness of every child. The minister praised the student winners of a contest sponsored by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities “The Young Remember the Shoah”.
“Exhibitions of this kind are increasingly important because over the years the number of people who lived through the war lessens every day,” underlined the Minister for Cultural Heritage Dario Franceschini. “We must do everything possible to pass on to future generations the tragedy of the Shoah. It is precisely for this reason I believe that it is essential that exhibitions like these have our support.”
The Scientific Director of the Museum of the Shoah Foundation then guided the audience through the halls of the exhibition. Also visiting the exhibit were the Ambassador of Israel to Italy Naor Gilon, the President of the Lazio Region Nicola Zingaretti, the Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni, the head of the foundation “Memory UCEI” Victor Magiar and Witnesses of the Shoah, Sami Modiano and Andra and Tatiana Bucci.
The exhibition focuses on the difficult process of liberating the camps. Among other items displayed are uniforms, suitcases which have been deformed by time, small items of daily use such as combs and eyeglasses. The exhibition also tells personal stories such as the one of a Jewish survivor from Tripoli who had been deported to Bergen Belsen and that of Nathan Cassuto, Chief Rabbi of Florence and an ophthalmologist, who most likely died on January 22, 1945.
The Italian Jews’ deportation to death camps is explained through maps and includes some disturbing images. The exhibition also offers glimpses of camps that existed in Italy such as the Risiera of San Sabba in Trieste and detailed information concerning the fate of political prisoners.
At the end of the exhibition recorded voices of the survivors follow the visitors towards the exit: “What do I remember from Auschwitz? The gnawing sense of hunger”. “In my life I have become a very successful man, but this experience has condemned me to feeling poor forever.”