“The Resistance was a diverse choral movement on a large scale, almost exclusively interpreted as a synonym of the war led by the Partisans for a long time”. This is what Sergio Mattarella, the President of the Republic of Italy, pointed out during his speech in Casoli on April 25, where he compared the Resistance to the Italian reunification, referring to the resilient patriots of the country. “On the one hand, the butchers, the tormentors and the persecutors of the Jews; on the other, a sense of civilization, freedom and respect for the inviolable rights of each individual”.
In the name of those who fought for civilization, freedom and respect for human rights, the major representatives of the Italian Jewish Communities held a parade and rallied throughout Italy. This happened, for example, in Milan, where not only did the local Jewish Community stand up for fundamental rights, but also the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities together with the Jewish Brigade, whose banners led the procession, were present. Despite a few usual protesters, the position of the institutions concerning the flags of the Brigade was clear: “Whoever offends the 5,000 Jewish Brigade’s soldiers, who played the role of protagonists in the final destruction of the Gothic Line, offends the whole inheritance of the Italian Resistance; indeed, this last was a great unitary movement both regarding the people and freedom fighters”. This is what the President of the ANPI (National Association of Italian partisans) Provincial Branch of Milan, Roberto Cenati, stated on the stage in front of the Cathedral, inviting the thousands of attendees to subscribe the petition against new types of fascism.
Moreover, standing next to different banners including the Brigade’s one, the Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella declared: “First of all, our National Liberation Day is a tribute to memory: it is a way to remember that only 73 years ago there was no freedom, there were no fundamental rights and there was no democracy. It is important, because it makes us come to mind that we succeeded in regaining these values thanks to lots of brave people. There is no future without memory. No people will have their own future, if their own memory does not exist”.
As every year, in Turin, the Jewish Community participated in the official event with the opening ceremony at the Monumental Cemetery. Rabbi Ariel Di Porto recited the Kaddish in front of the memorial plaque showing the names of more than 400 Jews from Turin, who were deported and let die in extermination camps.
Likewise, in Livorno, the Community quietly took part in the parade, walking behind the huge banner dedicated to the Jewish Brigade.
“On April 25, 73 years ago, the traditional procession to commemorate Italian Liberation unfolded through a festive and colourful atmosphere in Verona city centre. The flag was raised in Piazza Bra, in front of the Arena. Several civilian and military authorities attended the ceremony, among them the Prefect Mulas and the Mayor Sboarina. The banners of the municipality, the province, the ANPI and the Jewish Brigade, the latter being applauded several times, preceded the parade”, said the President of the Jewish Community of Verona, Bruno Carmi. A commemorative wreath was laid in piazza Viviani, where on 25 September 1943 the Resistance groups of Verona began to act in order to defend the Post Office building and the Caserma Campofiore. Then, a brief ceremony took place in front of the synagogue, where the Prefect and the President of the Jewish Community laid a second wreath under the memorial plaque of Rita Rosani, a female partisan killed by a group of supporters of the Republic of Salò while fighting at the age of 24. That happened just before Rosh Hashanah, on 17 September 1944. She received a gold medal of military valour. “Flyers have been distributed in order to explain the role played by the Jewish Brigade in the fight for the Italian Liberation. The representative of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities and President of the Association Children of the Shoah, Roberto Israel, explained the reason why the Brigade received the gold medal of military valour for the Resistance on July 18, 2017”, said Carmi, who also added that “the people present that day gave a long and warm round of applause” for the symbols of the Brigade. “A priest and the rabbi closed the official ceremony with a prayer. Rabbi Labi mentioned the seven laws of Noah and read a psalm. He also remembered the people who died for a free and democratic Italy”.
As regards what happened yesterday at the Risiera di San Sabba with the activist Giorgio Stern from Trieste, aged 85, together with his daughter showed one of the two Palestinian flags that were at the end of the crowd at the ceremony, the President of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly, rabbi Alfonso Arbib, said: “What happened today in Trieste at the Risiera di San Sabba, which is the only extermination camp in Italy, during the celebration of April 25, leaves us bewildered. It is unacceptable that people booed the rabbi, who in that precise moment was representing the Jewish Community, its sufferings and its participation in the liberation of Italy, while communicating that the community was pained to abandon the event because some groups were politically exploiting the manifestation, referring to anti-Zionism. This is not a new problem: in the last few years it also concerned the rally in Rome, which the Jewish Community did not attend. April 25 is a very important day for the Italian Jews, it has a deep meaning, that of the return to freedom and the end of Nazi occupation. It was the end of a horrible nightmare, which culminated in the racial laws and the Shoah. We reckon that it is outrageous and unacceptable that the common memory is exploited in this way and we think that it is time for people to adopt a strong and clear position on this topic, in particular political forces and religious leaders”.
*Translation made by Anna Pagetti and Giulia Schincariol, students at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of Trieste University, intern at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.