To commemorate International Holocaust remembrance Day, the Embassy of Italy in Washington D.C. and the Italian consular and cultural network in the United States organized several events in many cities throughout the nation.
The commemoration initiatives in Washington D.C.
In Washington D.C., the Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute organized two events to commemorate this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On January 24, writer, advocate, and Holocaust survivor, Edith Bruck, was in conversation with Prof. Stefania Lucamante, Professor at the University of Cagliari and Professor Emerita at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Through her writings, and especially in her last work “Il Pane Perduto” – soon to be translated in English – Ms. Bruck shared a poignant testimony of the persecution and murder of Europe’s Jews through her story, also telling how she had to live past the Holocaust, beyond the horror of lagers to find a new life after so much death and sorrow.
In her introductory remarks, Ambassador Zappia stressed the importance that Italy attaches to the date of January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Italy’s leading role in the defense of human rights and in the fight against xenophobia and all forms of discrimination.
On January 27, Film Director Ruggero Gabbai offered the screening of his latest work, “Kinderblock” (L’ultimo Inganno): a documentary produced by Forma International, Fondazione Museo della Shoah in Rome, in collaboration with Rai Cinema and the Swiss association Goren Monti Ferrari Foundation. The film tells the tragedy of Auschwitz concentration camp through the survivors’ testimonies who were just small children at the time. The screening was introduced by Ambassador Mariangela Zappia and by a brief conversation between Director Ruggero Gabbai and Leslie Swift, Chief of Film, Oral History and Recorded Sound at the USHMM.
The Embassy also participated to the solemn commemorations organized by the USHMM, which included film footage, photographs, music, and reflections from Holocaust survivors urging all of us to preserve the memory of such dramatic events.
The initiatives of the Italian Consulates and Cultural Institutes throughout the U.S.
The Consulate General of Italy in New York hosted the traditional ceremony of the reading of the names of the Jews deported from Italy and the Italian territories. This initiative is part of a program of events in collaboration with the Primo Levi Center, the Italian Cultural Institute, Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò at NYU, the Italian Academy at Columbia University, the Calandra Institute at CUNY, the Scuola d’Italia Guglielmo Marconi, the Center for Italian Modern Art (CIMA) and Magazzino Italian Art to commemorate the victims of the Shoah and preserve the memory of those tragic events.
The Italian Cultural Institute in New York has also published three videos. In the first, Edoardo Ballerini read the famous Judeo-Italian Elegy, the oldest surviving text in Judeo-Italian, accompanied by the images of a photographic reportage made in Jerusalem by Alessandro de Lisi. The second one features Prof. Vincenzo Pascale of the University of Long Island in conversation with journalist Gianna Pontecorboli, author of the book “America. Nuova terra promessa” in which she tells the drama of the Italian Jewish exiles who fled to America at the promulgation of the racial laws, in 1938. The last one is dedicated to the restoration project of the Venice ghetto, also supported by the World Monument Fund, with contributions by David Landau (art historian and fundraiser) and Marcella Ansaldi (Director of the Jewish Museum of Venice). To complete the program, the Institute’s website offers a special preview of the new American Opera “The Gardens of Finzi-Continis” based on Giorgio Bassani’s 1962 novel, produced by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (Dominick Balletta, Executive Director) and the New York City Opera (Michael Capasso, General Director).
The Italian Cultural Institutes of San Francisco and Chicago have jointly proposed the online screening of the film “Il Giudice dei Giusti”, winner of the “Ilaria Alpi” award in 2003, written by Gabriele Nissim together with Emanuela Audisio, directed by Enrico Marchese. The film is based on the book “Il Tribunale del bene” by Gabriele Nissim (Mondadori 2003), which traces the story of Moshe Bejski, for many years president of the so-called “Court of Good”, the Israeli commission set up to safeguard the memory of those who helped and saved the Jews during the Shoah.
The Consulate General in Miami hosted two webinars with author Franco Beato who told the story of his friend and Holocaust survivor, Luigi Bozzato, to groups of AP students of the Mast Academy, Ispa, and University FAU Boca Raton.
The Italian Cultural Institutes of Chicago, New York and the Consulate General in Miami offered a virtual tour of the exhibition “1849-1871. The Jews of Rome between Segregation and Emancipation”, inaugurated in Rome on November 10, 2021, by the Jewish community of Rome and the Foundation for the Jewish Museum of Rome. The exhibition presents a selection of works from the most important Italian museums of the Risorgimento and prestigious private collections, and highlights the contribution of Jews to the unification of the country. The video-presentation, produced by MAECI, is directed by Dario Prosperini, curated by Giorgia Calò and Francesco Leone, with the participation of Olga Melasecchi, director of the Jewish Museum of Rome.
As every year since 2017, the Consulate General of San Francisco, along with the European Consular Corps, visited the Holocaust Memorial in San Francisco for a commemorative ceremony organised jointly with the local American Jewish Committee (AJC) delegation and also took part in a virtual ceremony organised by the AJC.
The Italian Institute of Culture in San Francisco has also organized a concert, in collaboration with New Age Productions, which is a journey into the Klezmer musical culture and the Yiddish song, a genre that boasts four centuries of history and has strongly influenced jazz music. Together with Gabriele Coen, one of the greatest exponents of Klezmer music in Italy, performed the pianist Pietro Lussu and the singer Barbara Eramo.
The same musicians were guests of a video-concert of traditional Jewish music, reminiscent of the communities and way of life destroyed in the Holocaust, organized by the Italian Institute of Culture in Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Museum of Tolerance and the Consulate General. The virtual event included remarks by the Consul General, who also read some of the names of the Italian victims of the Holocaust, and by Liebe Geft, Director of the Museum of Tolerance.
In Boston, the Consulate Generale promoted an event, organized by the AJC of New England in collaboration with Boston University, the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies, and the Consulate General of Israel to New England, dedicated to understanding of the roots of modern anti-Semitism in the ideas of early Christian thinkers.
The Consulate in Detroit – in collaboration with Dante Alighieri Michigan – organized the screening of the film “Un Cielo Stellato sopra il Ghetto di Roma” (A Starry Sky over the Ghetto of Rome) at the Maple Theatre in Birmingham, for. The screening was introduced by a video interview with distinguished author, Dacia Maraini, who retraces her experiences in the concentration camp, and with film director Giulio Base. The film, about memory and religious coexistence from the perspective of its young protagonists, was greatly appreciated by about 180 guests, including representatives of the American Jewish Congress, as well as the Italian community and lovers of Italian cinema and culture.
The Consulate General of Houston, in collaboration with the Italian Cultural and Community Center, organized the screening of the documentary “Oro MachtFrei” (L’oro rende liberi) narrating the story of Roman Jews and anti-Jewish persecutions in Italy, from the racial laws of Mussolini to the Nazi occupation of Rome (1938-1944), with a focus on the controversial position of the Vatican during the Nazi persecution. The Consul General participated in an official commemoration ceremony organized by the Holocaust Museum in Houston in collaboration with the AJC, during which it was also commemorated the adoption by 33 States (including Italy) of the definition of anti-Semitism promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).