“We must learn about our history in order to figure out who we were and choose who we want to be. By doing so, you will already take a firm stand. We must be in control of our decisions.”
Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi gave a speech to students in Rome. She chose the venue of Cinema Andromeda on a special day, which marks the end of a participatory process leading to the renaming of streets which were named after scientists Edoardo Zavattari and Arturo Donaggio, who had signed the infamous Manifesto of Race in 1938.
Instead, the streets will be named after other major figures who distinguished themselves for quite a different life and academic commitment: Doctor Mario Carrara, who refused to pledge allegiance to Fascism, Nella Mortara, one of the very first female professors of Physics at the Sapienza University of Rome, and Enrica Calabresi, full professor of Entomology at the University of Pisa. These last two were both victims of the anti-Semitic measures adopted by the fascist regime. Calabresi killed herself to avoid deportation.
“You will always cross the streets of the city and, when you lift your gaze, you will understand that there is a story and a meaning behind each name”, highlighted UCEI President Noemi Di Segni addressing the students. “Not only do you have to study your history, but also have to be a part of it, its architects in a positive way. Someday, your grandchildren will stop by a road sign and will be able to understand the meaning of life, dignity and freedom.”
The decision made by the municipality of Rome is in total contradiction with the one made in Verona. Di Segni firmly condemned the Toponymy Committee of Verona giving the green light to a street being renamed after Giorgio Almirante, one of the greatest exponents of anti-Semitism of the fascist period.
Lea Polgar, a Jew from Rijeka who was 5 years old in 1938, delivered a moving testimony. Her story has been told by the documentary “1938. Quando scoprimmo di non essere più italiani” (When we found out we were no longer Italian), made by Pietro Suber and produced by Dario Coen. It is thanks to their work, some clips of which were shown at the event, and to their express request for a review of the street names that this process got underway, ending with the unveiling of the new plaques. Mayor Raggi called it was a memorable day.
Among those attending were U.S. ambassador Lewis Eisenberg, Israeli ambassador Dror Eydar, President of Shoah Museum Foundation of Rome Mario Venezia and UCEI Secretary General Uriel Perugia.
Translated by Mattia Stefani and revised by Claudia Azzalini, both students at the Advanced School of Modern Languages for Interpreting and Translation of Trieste University and interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.