Last public testimony for Liliana Segre, Holocaust survivor and champion against hatred
By Adam Smulevich
Last public testimony for Liliana Segre, 90, survivor of Auschwitz and since 2018 Senator for life upon appointment by the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella. To conclude thirty years of commitment on this front, a speech was held in front of the highest authorities of the Italian State in the “Cittadella della Pace” in Rondine, a center in Tuscany where young people from all over the world learn good practices of dialogue and coexistence. A very strong initiative also on an emotional level. A way, for the whole country, to say thanks to Liliana.
In Rondine, to testify to their admiration were, among others, the Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the Presidents of the Senate and the Chamber, Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati and Roberto Fico, the Ministers Luciana Lamorgese, Luigi Di Maio, Gaetano Manfredi and Lucia Azzolina. The President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Noemi Di Segni and the President of the Italian bishops Gualtiero Bassetti also spoke and expressed their gratitude.
At the beginning, Segre’s last speech on the Shoah was to be held in summer, in front of thousands of young people. The health emergency has forced a change of program. The students from Rondine were anyway there. And with them, students from all over Italy connected remotely from their classes.
Segre called them her “grandchildren”. The debut of a powerful lesson on the value of Memory and its meaning in the present in which Liliana recalled the childhood marked by fascist racist laws, the attempted escape to Switzerland with her father Alberto, the capture, and the deportation to Auschwitz from which only she returned.
A long applause greeted her when she told of when, after the experience of the concentration camp, she could have shot a German soldier. But, after an initial hesitation, she didn’t. Segre commented: “I didn’t pick up the weapon, and it was a decisive moment. I then realized that I could never kill anyone. From that moment on I became a free and peaceful woman”.
The opening of the ceremony marked the inauguration of Janine’s Arena, a space named in memory of a French friend that Liliana was unable to greet before she was taken to the gas chamber. “It is a remorse – she has repeatedly said in these years – that I carry inside. The remorse of not having had the courage to say goodbye. To make her feel, in the very moment Janine was going to die, that her life was important to me”.
President Mattarella donated to Liliana a copy of the Constitution. The Constitution, stressed the Head of State in a message, “has been written having on our sight the tragic events that also involved Liliana Segre as a girl and was approved with the firm determination not to allow the monsters of totalitarianism and anti-Semitism, which had devastated Europe a few years earlier, to still poison Italy, our continent and the world “.