In the heart of Milan, a place of Remembrance, to carry out historical research, teach, where to debate and reflect on our society. Last week, when new spaces were inaugurated and the new headquarters of the Centre of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (in Italian, CDEC) opened to the public, the Milan Shoah Memorial became such a place, even more than it was in the past. “The synergy between the two institutions aims to give a place back to Milan, renewed in terms of intent and prospects, where to experiment and offer cross-cutting contents, ranging from historical research to a debate on contemporaneity”, explained the Memorial and CDEC.
The words of Liliana Segre, Italian senator for life, summarise the meaning of this change: “Today, the Shoah Memorial – founded to remember indifference – changes shape and evolves, not only thanks to those who created this place architecturally and historically, but also thanks to all the youngsters and people who, after visiting it, began to remember.
Now – said Segre – it is not only a place of history and remembrance, but also a place for studying and reflecting: a place that gives the opportunity to rediscover both the past and the future, rich in knowledge, wisdom, curiosities and answers. This is the hope of the few of us who are still here, who have lived this place and intensely desired it. A hope that, today, we see fulfilled in the candle of Remembrance and in that ray of future life that we have always longed for”.
This is therefore a new chapter for the Memorial, for CDEC as well as for the entire city of Milan. The public is able, from mid-June, to access the new spaces designed by the Morpurgo de Curtis Architetti Associati studio: over 750 square meters that include the library, the educational hall and the Agora, a place for meeting and dialogue. Visitors will have access to the library of CDEC Foundation, which hosts 31,000 monographs in various languages, 700 dissertations and 2000 periodicals.
Alongside with these sources, it will be possible for them to consult the archive, containing most of the existing testimonies on the history of the Jews in Italy, from the Emancipation Age to the present day.
The president of the Shoah Memorial Foundation Roberto Jarach believes that this last and crucial stage “will give the entire project a new boost and greater intensity. The spaces of the Memorial will become a stage for anyone who wants to open up to dialogue and listening, for anyone willing to get involved and contribute to building a more inclusive community”. Giorgio Sacerdoti, the president of CDEC Foundation, thinks of the venue change as “not just a simple relocation, but a qualitative leap in historical research, access to cultural activities, dialogue with the public for the Centre for Contemporary Jewish Documentation”. And the presentation of the research dedicated to the resistant Jews of Italy carried out by the historian Liliana Picciotto was the right occasion for Sacerdoti to highlight his beliefs.
Talking with Mirco Carrattieri, historian of the Resistance, Picciotto recently presented the first stage of the work carried out to tell the stories of Jewish men and women who fought against Nazi-Fascism in Italy. This first phase took place in Campania, Lazio and Tuscany and lead to the creation of a database with 236 names which can be browsed on the website: resistentiebrei.CDEC.it. “It’s a useful project, necessary to piece together the lives of those who managed to rise up against fascism and against the Nazi occupiers. – pointed out Pacinotto – We should remind people that it was not easy, it meant putting your life at terrible risk”.
The head of the Archive and the digital library, Laura Brazzo, describes thoroughly the different sections of the website. A work which, as the UCEI president Noemi Di Segni stated represents an important step forward at an international level as well. “The history of the role of the Jews in the Italian resistance is too little known outside our country and projects like this one have an international scope. They allow to explain the distinctive features and characteristics of what happened in Italy”.
The project will continue and expand to the rest of the Italian boot, along with other projects that will be started in association with the Shoah Memorial thanks to what will become – as the two institutions described it – an increasingly strong synergy. “The meeting between the Foundations – they explained – will allow to start new projects meeting the demands of the contemporary world and will create unprecedented opportunities. For example, the Rooms of Testimony – part and parcel of the permanent display of the Memorial – will be completely renewed. Visitors will be able to watch videos from the CDEC Foundation’s archive and consult new sources produced by the Memorial”.
Translation by Alida Caccia, revised by Maria Cianciuolo, students at the Secondary School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities – Pagine Ebraiche.