On January 27, the Embassy of Italy in Washington D.C. and the Italian consular and cultural network in the United States commemorate the Day of Remembrance with many virtual events organized throughout the country, in collaboration with local cultural and academic institutions.
Ambassador Armando Varricchio stressed the leading role that Italy plays in the defense of human rights and in the fight against xenophobia and all forms of discrimination, as testified by the many initiatives promoted by Italy at the national and international level. “It is imperative to keep our guard up and defend our societies from the most ominous virus, which is the virus of hatred, racism and anti-Semitism – said Ambassador Varricchio – also in light of the recent episodes of intolerance that have taken place in this phase of profound changes and challenges.”
In Washington, the Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute, in collaboration with the Fondazione Museo della Shoah in Rome and the United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Washington D.C. (USHMM), presented an event on one of the most dramatic chapters of Nazi persecution and occupation in Italy, featuring the documentary “La Razzia” by Ruggero Gabbai on the raid of the ghetto of Rome on October 16, 1943. As underlined by the President of Rome’s Jewish Community Ruth Dureghello in her opening remarks, the film offers future generations “a current, living and vital testimony and is both a warning and a testament to our commitment to ensure that such tragedies do not repeat themselves.” The screening was introduced by Dr. Mario Venezia, President of the Fondazione Museo della Shoah and co-producer of the documentary, and followed by a conversation between Director Ruggero Gabbai and Leslie Swift, Chief of Film, Oral History and Recorded Sound at the USHMM.
On Remembrance Day, the Embassy also attended the solemn commemorations organized by the USHMM, at the presence of Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of General Dwight. D. Eisenhower, who illustrated the efforts made by the 34th President of the United States to document the crimes he witnessed firsthand and his foresight on the need to preserve the memory of such tragic events.
In New York, Remembrance Day was honored through a rich program of virtual events, opened with remarks by Ambassador Varricchio and with the participation of various city Authorities, members of the diplomatic community and of the cultural and academic world. The Consulate General, the Italian Cultural Institute and other participating institutions – including the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, the Primo Levi Center, the Italian Academy at Columbia University, the Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo’ at NYU, the Calandra Institute at CUNY and the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi – organized a “look back” at twenty years of initiatives carried out by the Italian community in New York on Holocaust Remembrance Day, ending with a multilanguage reading of the renown work “If This is a Man” by Primo Levi.
The Consulate and Institute of Culture in Chicago, Miami and San Francisco, presented “Testimoni di Testimoni” (Witnesses of Witnesses), an initiative developed by Studio Azzurro on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation with the support of the Municipality of Rome.
In San Francisco, the Consulate General and the Italian Cultural Institute also published two testimonies on their social media channels: an interview with Mrs. Andra Bucci, who survived the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps after having been deported there with her sister Tatiana at age four (both were conferred the rank of Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 2019 and their story is told in the work “We, Little Girls in Auschwitz”) and a performance by renown singer and composer Sharon Bernstein, Cantor of the “Sha’ar Zahav” Congregation. The Consulate and the Institute also organized initiatives for students, in collaboration with the Italian-American School of San Francisco, and the Consul General attended the commemoration ceremony of the Holocaust Memorial in San Francisco with other European diplomats serving in the Bay area, a tradition born in 2018 under the leadership of the local Italian Presidency.
The Consulate General and the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles, in collaboration with other city institutions – in particular, the Holocaust Museum, the Museum of Tolerance, the University of South Carolina Shoah Foundation, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Los Angeles, the Milken Community School and the Anti-Defamation League in Los Angeles – presented the screening of Mimmo Calopresti’s documentary “I Only Wanted to Live,” which tells the stories of nine Italian Auschwitz survivors using sources of the archives of the USC Shoah Foundation. The event was opened with remarks by Consul General Silvia Chiave and the Director of the Institute of Culture and with a presentation by Director Mimmo Calopresti and was attended by the Director of the Museum of Tolerance Elana Samuels, the CEO of the Holocaust Museum Beth Kean, the Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Stephen Smith and Holocaust survivor Ann Signett.
In Houston, the Consulate General, in collaboration with the Italian Cultural and Community Center and the Holocaust Museum in Houston, organized a lecture entitled “Holocaust in focus: Italy”, which, in addition to a virtual tour of the Museum, highlighted the history of the Jewish community in Italy during the first half of the 20th Century, from the racial laws, to the war, deportation and liberation. The Consul General also attended an online event organized by the AJC, featuring the documentary “Life will Smile,” that tells the story of Europe’s only Jewish community, of the Greek island of Zakynthos, to completely escape the Holocaust.
In Boston, the Consul General delivered opening remarks at an event, organized by the AJC of New England in collaboration with Boston University, featuring the documentary “Holy Silence”, produced by Emmy-nominated director Steven Pressman, on the Vatican’s response to the rise of Hitler and Nazism, followed by a panel discussing the themes of memory and the importance of activities aimed at preserving it.
The Remembrance Day commemorations will end on Sunday with the webinar “Day of Remembrance: A Conversation with Simon Levis Sullam”, organized by the Dante Alighieri Societies of Michigan and Massachusetts with the support of the Consulates in Boston and Detroit, a virtual discussion with Prof. Sullam, an expert in modern Italian history, on the role of Italians in the genocide of Jews in Italy.