NEWS A tribute to Joseph Varon (1926-2020)

joseph varon

“I’m telling this to young people: read a lot, study history and ponder over the disastrous consequences which can arise from a disastrous policy”. This is the message which Joseph Varon wanted to share on the occasion of the solemn ceremony at the Quirinal Palace for the Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2017. A short but meaningful speech aimed at remembering part of his dramatic experience and raise awareness among younger generations.

As a matter of fact, Joseph was one of the few Jews of Rhodes who survived the massacre. And so did his siblings. The Holocaust, however, took his father and mother’s lives. In Auschwitz he was marked with the number B7501 on his arm, and then he was sent to Mauthausen on a death march. The Americans would set him free.

All Italian Jewish Communities are deeply moved by his death. “Joseph Varon”, says Noemi Di Segni, UCEI’s President, “was one of the last living Witnesses of the Holocaust. It is a grave loss for his loved ones, and for all of us who met him, and for whom had the privilege of listening to his speech on memory, torment and suffering, which he also held at the Quirinal. In these dark times, he was a role model for fighting against widespread antisemitism and denialism. Thank you, Joseph, for everything you told us and taught us, with shyness sometimes, but always with courage. May your memory be a blessing to us”.

Furthermore, Ruth Dureghello, President of the Jewish Community in Rome, said, “Joseph Varon, who was born in Rhodes and came to Italy after the extermination camps, had become part of the Jewish Community in Rome, which is mourning his death. This is a great loss for the whole society which saddens us all”.

(In the picture, Varon during his speech at the Quirinale)

Translated by Sara Facelli and revised by Claudia Azzalini, students at the Advanced School for Interpreting and Translation of Trieste University and interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.