By Daniela Enriquez
Every year, for Holocaust Remembrance Day, I make a point of doing “something Jewish” that helps me focus on and remember the terrible events of the past. This year, driven by two pieces of Italian 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 a photo of Anne Frank wearing a Roma jersey. The idea was to mock their adversaries: the idea 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. It’s sad to say, but some of the Italian boys that made the stickers 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 the Italian Football Federation finally fined Lazio’s soccer team €50,000. The decision is, of course, very far from solving the problem of racism in soccer, but let’s hope it can provide an example for other supporters to understand that words and actions 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 was all over national and international news:
A few days ago, President Mattarella called Ms. Liliana Segre, an Italian survivor of Auschwitz, to give her the news of her nomination to be senator for life. Ms. Segre was a 13-year-old when she was put, together with her family, in the Nazi concentration camp. Her father and paternal grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, but she managed to return home together with only 25 other children. For many years, Ms. Segre’s mission has been to tell her story to younger generations: those who need to first know and then 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 were their childhoods like before the racial laws? Were they 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 focused on the sadness of leaving their friends and teachers? Or, did they understand immediately the danger of the situation and turn immediately to the struggle of survival?
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 any better than us in explaining them why doing that is so wrong? Would they be any better at creating a decent society?
In recognition of 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 wonders “could it happen again?”