Holocaust survivor Sami Modiano honored with the German Order of Merit
The Italian Holocaust survivor Sami Modiano has been presented with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by the German ambassador, Viktor Elbling, on behalf of the German government. The award was made in recognition of Mr. Modiano work in combating racism and in promoting tolerance especially among the youngsters. “I believe in young people and in their ability to change the word. Both as Italians and Germans, we must be united in this effort crucial for humanity”, he told Pagine Ebraiche. Sami Modiano – who on the occasion of his 90th birthday, in July, was nominated to the honor of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic – has been sharing his story with the public for 15 years.
“Talking about the past has never been easy for me. Every time it is a terrible suffering”, he said. “However, I did and am still doing it in order to leave a message to young people and to guide their behaviors. I can see that in the eyes of everyone I talk to, both in Italy and in Germany. Witnessing is my mission, and it is what I am going to do, with the help of God, as long as I got strength”.
Born and raised on the island of Rhodes, Sami Modiano was deported together with his father Jacob and his sister Lucia to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in 1944, of which he was the only survivor, and only one of 25 survivors of the entire Rhodes Jewish community.
Only in 2005, sixty years after liberation, Modiano returned to Auschwitz for the first time. Since then, and encouraged by his friend Piero Terracina (who sadly passed away on 8 December 2019), he has dedicated himself to educating others with his testimony. Among other things, he gives talks to children in Italian middle and high schools, and in 2012 he led the Italian national football team on a visit to Auschwitz.
In 2013 he published his memoir “For this I lived”, in which he describes the hell of Auschwitz and writes about the meaning of starting to live again having escaped the horrors of the extermination camp. On the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day Memorial Day in 2018, the documentary film Everything before these eyes, telling his life story was broadcast on Italian TV.
In 2019, during the march that every year commemorates the Nazi raid of the Ghetto of Rome on 16 October 1943, Sami Modiano was asked by a young person if the hated Germany. “Holding rancor is not in my nature. I give talks in German schools. I talk to them as I talk to you. I want no other eyes to see what I had to”.