italicsBy Daniela Gross

During the last weeks, international media has reported widely about the impressive wave of refugees reaching Italy’s coasts, from Africa and the Middle East. It’s a real humanitarian emergency for all of Europe, and unluckily it is often confronted with a lack of answers from public institutions. In this scenario, the action recently taken by the Shoah Memorial and the Saint Egidio Community in Milan is highly symbolic. As Zita Dazzi writes, on the newspaper La Repubblica, thirty five refugees have been given shelter at Binario 21, the train track of Milan’s railway station from which the deportation trains departed.

At the entrance of the Memorial there is a sign reminding how horrible indifference may be, said Roberto Jarach, president of the Shoah Memorial Foundation. “So, when we realized we could do something to help people in the middle of this tragedy, we said ‘here it is our mission, we cannot turn our head away’. There are people on the run, who saw their civil and human rights suppressed. We cannot close our eyes.”

It was not an easy decision to make, because this place is conceived as a memorial and not as a shelter, pointed out Mr. Jarach. However, the step was taken, and now thirty-five beds lay near an armored car train used in 1945 to take Jews to extermination camps. The refugees, which are “Africans escaping from dictatorships and Syrians, for sure don’t know anything about the Holocaust and what happened at Binario 21”, writes Zita Dazzi. But providing solidarity in a place so full of painful memories is a way of fighting racism and prejudices that is more effective than many words.