CULTURE In Milan, an Archive to Preserve Jewish History
Its library is a crucial stop for anyone who studies the Holocaust in Italy: historians and writers as well as prominent directors such as Roberto Benigni for his masterpiece “Life is Beautiful”. The Milan Centro di Documentazione ebraica contemporanea (Center for Jewish Contemporary Documentation, known as CDEC) just turned 60, and carries on its mission, as reported by an article in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
The CDEC was started in the fifties by members of the Federation of Italian Young Jews, many of them children of survivors. “They wanted to reconstruct the facts, collect materials and interview survivors,” explains historian Liliana Picciotto, who currently serves as the scientific director of CDEC. “Venice dermatologist Robi Bassi was the first secretary and tells us that he kept the initial documents in suitcases stored under his bed.”
Today, CDEC is located in the small building that used to be the venue of the Jewish day school, opened after Jewish students were expelled from public schools due the anti-Jewish laws promulgated by the Fascist regime in 1938.
In 1991, Picciotto authored the landmark study, “Il libro della Memoria” (“The Book of Memory”) a collection of all the names of Jews killed or sent to death camps from Italy.
CDEC library has over 30,000 Jewish-related books, and does research on topics like the stories of the Jews who managed to escape deportation, or of those who had to flee Arab countries in the second half of the twentieth century.
The Center also has a photographic archive and a department that monitors anti-Semitism in Italy.