From the Shoah to October 7, historian Liliana Picciotto’s lecture

Liliana Picciotto is one of the most prominent Shoah scholars in Italy. A guest speaker at the University of Padua, she gave a lectio magistralis on “Resisting Extermination. Jews in Italy during the Fascist Occupation,” which she opened addressing the present. October 7, she explained, represents a new watershed. “This year, presidents and leaders of Jewish communities around the world wondered whether it was right not to participate in the public commemoration of what happened 80 years ago, to mark the collective mourning that swept over us four months ago with the massacre of October 7, 2023 in southern Israel,” Picciotto began. “I myself feel a great sense of unease and have turned down many invitations”. According to Picciotto, is it essential, as never before, that “everyone, but especially we Jews, Israelis, Palestinians, Arab peoples,” try “to reconvert the negative energy that is engulfing us and that could cause other unspeakable tragedies, into an effort to imagine a future where all the people of the region are satisfied and safe within their own borders.”
It is not a mirage, according to the scholar from the CDEC Foundation, on whose behalf she is editing a biographical project on Jewish Resistance. “If in 1948 the Jews succeeded in realizing their dream of having land and political shelter, why couldn’t the Palestinians do the same?” she wondered about the matter. What matters “is that the project involves the State of Palestine living alongside the State of Israel and not instead of Israel.”
Picciotto recounted her dialogue with Lysel, a Filipino girl who told her about her cousin Nina who worked in Israel as a caregiver for a lady in a wheelchair. “Nina was working in kibbutz Beeri, when a terrorist suddenly kicked open the front door, a rifle pointed at her. She tried to protect the lady, but he shouted, “Get out of the way I have to kill this old Jewish woman.” She then jumped onto the wheelchair, and he riddled both with bullets, leaving them dead in each other’s arms,” Picciotto explained.
“I don’t know about you, but this story has completely shocked me, perhaps more than the many others I have heard in the media, and since I am dealing with anti-fascist and anti-Nazi resistance these days, I talk about this episode to the children as the highest example of contemporary resistance against evil.” According to Picciotto, “we are not allowed to make comparisons with the Shoah, which was, first and foremost, a state mechanism, studied and conducted with science, determination and organization, but the heinousness of that man, who also had a small camera strapped to his forehead, is still the same, it is the same as it was then, produced by one of the worst emotional engines that occasionally move men.” And that is, she punctuated, “fanaticism.”

Translated by Claudia Editori, revised by Laura Cattani, students from the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, trainees in the newsroom of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities – Pagine Ebraiche.