By Daniela Enriquez
Every year, for Holocaust Remembrance Day, I make a point of doing “something Jewish” that helps me focus on the terrible events of the past and remember them. This year, driven by two Italian pieces of news, I decided to spend some time of my Saturday writing this blog post. The first article that captured my interest was titled:
Most of you probably – unfortunately! – are familiar with last October’s events at an Italian soccer stadium, where during a match against Roma, some Lazio supporters created big stickers with the photo of Anne Frank wearing the Roma jersey. The idea was to mock their adversaries: saying that Anne Frank cheered for Rome was apparently a terrible insult…
Without going into all the revulsion and reaction of various politicians and soccer presidents, I was particularly struck by the choice of using Anne Frank as a derogatory example. We all know that some soccer hooligans in general, and Lazio supporters in particular, have always shown some signs – to use a euphemism – of racism and antisemitism; however using a murdered young girl for their stupid mockery seemed beyond the pale.
Anne Frank has always been, for Jews and non-Jews, children and adults, an example of positivity and optimism even in the worst of times. Her diary has been read by people all over the world as a testimony to the tragic events that struck our past and the attempt of a young girl to overcome desperation and
grief. Sad to say, some of the Italian boys that prepared the sticker were as young as 13-years-old – almost the age of Anne Frank when she was killed by the Nazis.
Why did I decide to write about this event today? Because a few days ago, finally, the FIGC (Italian Football Federation) fined Lazio’s soccer team €50,000. Of course, this decision is far from solving the problem of racism soccer fields, but I hope it can be an example for other supporters to understand that actions and words have strong effects and that the consequences of the actions of a small group will be payed (literally) by the entire society they belong to.
The second – more cheerful – article I would like to talk about was all over the national and international news:
A few days ago, President Mattarella called Ms. Liliana Segre, an Italian Auschwitz survivor, to give her the news of her nomination to be senator for life! Ms. Segre was a 13-year-old when she was detained, together with her family, in the polish concentration camp. While her father and paternal grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, she was one of 25 children to return home. For many years Ms. Segre’s goal has been to tell her story to younger generations: the ones that need to know and preserve history. As she pointed out, Holocaust survivors are becoming fewer and fewer, and the danger that this horrible part of our history could be forgotten is, scarily, tangible.
On this Saturday afternoon I tried to imagine the lives of young Anne and Liliana: what was their childhood like before the racial laws? Was it so different from mine? What did they think, two young children, when the racial laws were implemented – when they had to change schools? Were they sad to leave all their friends and teachers? Or, did they understand immediately the danger of the situation?
I am sure Liliana Segre read Anne Frank’s Diary … what did she think of it? Did she consider herself “lucky” simply because she … survived? Was she as positive about humanity and its future as Anne? Is she still so positive about it when she reads about events like those at the Italian stadium?
What would 15-year-old Anne and 13-year-old Liliana say to the boys who put up the stickers? Would they be better than us in explaining them why doing that is wrong? Would they be any better at creating a decent society?
With the recent manifestations of anti-Semitism in the U.S., Italy and all over the world we must continue to think, say, and write the words NEVER AGAIN every year for Holocaust Remembrance Day, in order both to remember the past and make sure that we’ve learned from experience. Nowadays, too often when I read about the holocaust, rather than “never again”, my mind lingers a little too long and thinks “could it happen again?”