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Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research in Italy

Member Since: 
1999

Holocaust Remembrance Day: 27 January

Overview

Italy was one of the first countries to join the IHRA and sign the Stockholm Declaration in 2000. Italy held the Chairmanship in 2004/2005. The Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) is appointed  by law to be the Italian Institution committed to disseminating accurate knowledge of the Holocaust, both in schools and universities.  The study of the Shoah is compulsory by law in all Italian schools. MIUR also coordinates institutional activities about the Shoah at a national level. MIUR represents Italy on matters of Holocaust education and remembrance in International fora, beginning with the IHRA.

The Italian Ministry of the Interior and the Italian police carry out monitoring to identify and punish anti-Semitic crimes. On June 8, 2016 the Italian Parliament approved the amendment to Article 3 of Law n.654 of October 13, 1975 on the subject of combatting and suppressing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as defined by Articles 6, 7 and 8 of Statute of the International Criminal Court. The amendment obtained an increase of the penalties imposed by the old legislation for the promotion of ideas based on racial supremacy or hatred, for the incitement to acts of discrimination or for the incitement to commit or the same committing acts of violence for racial, ethnic, national or religious reasons. Although our legislation already forbad any organization, association, movement or group with such purposes, the amendment established and increase of penalty in case the promotion and public incitement are based - totally or partially-  on Holocaust Denial or crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Italian Government, through the Office of the Prime Minister, carries out research on the plunder and expropriation of Jewish property in Italy. The Italian Ministry of Justice allows access to the Italian Prefectures archives to reconstruct crimes and trials against Jews during the Fascist regime and the Nazi occupation. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation promotes awareness of Holocaust issues throughout its embassies and consulates. The Italian Embassy in Israel is particularly committed to take all its official visitors to the Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. With the law 155 of 2009, Italy assigned a fixed Contribution to the Foundation Jewish Contemporary Documentation Centre (CDEC) for accomplishing its institutional goals (particularly focused on the history and memory of Shoah and contemporary anti-Semitism).

The Union of the Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) is the non-profit body representing the 21 Jewish Communities in Italy and their members whose ancient roots in the country contribute to its cultural, artistic and social enrichment. The Union Of The Italian Jewish Communities represents and protects the Italian Jews before the State, Government, other authorities and public opinion -also through its coordination and unification activities. The main goal of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities is to promote the unity of the Italian Jews ensuring the continuity and development of the Jewish religious, spiritual, cultural and social heritage. On 27 February, 1987, the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities signed an official Agreement with the Italian State. Since it is the highest Authority representing Jews in Italy, the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities plays a crucial role also in the Shoah education, working side by side with MIUR thanks to a bilateral agreement.

In 2000, Italy established 27 January as the “Remembrance Day” dedicated to the Holocaust. From 1998 to 2001 a special Committee (Commissione Anselmi) for the research into property looted by the Nazis was formed. A report on its activities is published both in Italian and English at: http://presidenza.governo.it/DICA/beni_ebraici/.

In 2003 the Italian Government established the National Office Against Racial Discrimination (UNAR), which is part of the  Prime Minister Office.

Legislation

Law n. 211, July 20, 2000 which establishes the “Remembrance Day” for remembering the extermination and persecution of the Jewish People and the military and political Italian deportees to the Nazi camps.

Art.1. The Italian Republic recognizes the 27th of January, date when the gates of Auschwitz were broken down, as the ‘Remembrance Day' to remember the Shoah (extermination of the Jewish people), the racial laws, the Italian persecution of its Jewish citizens, Italian citizens who suffered deportation, imprisonment and death, as well as those, even in various fields of action and political allegiances, opposed the genocide project and saved lives of others and protected victims of persecution at the risk of their own lives.

Art. 2. On the occasion of the ‘Remembrance Day' referred to in Article 1, ceremonies, initiatives, meetings and shared moments of storytelling and reflection are to be organized, particularly at all levels of school education, in order to reflect upon what happened to the Jewish people, the Italian soldiers and politicians deported to the Nazi camps so that we preserve in the future of Italy the memory of a tragic, obscure period in the history of our Country and in Europe and in order to ensure that such events will never happen again.

The Italian Delegation (appointed by the Minister of Education University and Research in October 2014) is composed of 9 members. Every member  of the Italian delegation is strongly engaged in disseminating in his/her own field the outcomes of IHRA, through the translation of the  IHRA documents into Italian, and through a constant individual and group action.

Education

Every year MIUR organizes an institutional trip to Poland and to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in collaboration with UCEI and Fondazione Museo della Shoah (Foundation for the Museum of the Shoah), which sees the participation, together with the Minister and other members of the Government, of a number of students from secondary schools. These visits create an example for many more schools, associations and groups.

MIUR also organizes an annual trip of the Minister and some Italian schools to Israel, which is particularly focused on the visit to the Memorial and the Educational Centre for the Shoah “Yad Vashem”, in Jerusalem.

Every official Italian delegation (Presidency of Republic, Presidency of the Council, Members of the Government, Undersecretaries, Security Forces, Local Authorities) visiting Israel dedicates a part of their program to visiting the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem.

Every year through the General Direction for Students, Integration and Participation, MIUR organizea national contestand in collaboration with UCEI, now in its13th year, named “Young people remember the Shoah”, dedicated to students at all levels of school education, in order to promote studies and analyses of the tragic event which marked  European history in the 20th century.

Every year, on the occasion of the “Remembrance Day”, the winners of the competition are awarded by the Minister  of Education University and Research and are received by the President of Republic together with the highest representatives of the State,  and the President of the Jewish Communities of Italy.

Considering the growing interest shown by the Italian schools and the success of the exhibitions organized in Rome in 2014 and 2015, MIUR, in collaboration with UCEI, is working on a traveling exhibition in order topresent the best of the students' work from all the past contests.

Since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Yad Vashem and the Ministry of Education, University and Research in June 2011, every year at least three seminars for Italian educators, organized by the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies, are held in Jerusalem.

Under the umbrella of the Italian Presidency of the European Council,  and as a follow up of their bilateral agreements, MIUR, Yad Vahsem and UCEI co-organized   a European Symposium by the title “Establishing a European Teaching Network on the Shoah Education” on December 2014. The partners are now committed to  reaching the goal which emerged from the Symposium, namely building a network for European educators, experts in the field of the Shoah, and creating a common platform accessible to teachers and institutions in order to share their best practices related to the Shoah education.

Remembrance

27 January, “Remembrance Day”: established in Italy by Law 211, of July 20th, 2000, all the Italian institutions hold one or more significant events to mark this day. A Coordination Commission meets at the Presidency of the Council in order to choose and promote the most significant public events. Just before the 27 January, the Presidency of the Council of Ministries organizes a press conference where every institutional initiative is presented, particularly those organized by or under the patronage of the Ministries (MIBACT, Ministry of Interior). It is crucial to underline, however, that many cities organize their own celebrations along the whole year, according to their particular history linked to the Shoah and the persecutions perpetrated by Fascists and Nazis, also in collaboration with the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities. Many of the activities are also organized in collaboration with the Community of Sant’Egidio.

16 October: the date that commemorates the deportation of the Roman Jews in 1943. On this occasion, the Jewish Community of Rome organizes a ceremony of commemoration at the Great Synagogue in Rome, where the highest Officers of the State are invited. On the same day, a torchlight procession has been organized for many years by the Community of S.Egidio. The procession goes from Piazza S. Maria in Trastevere to Piazza di Portico d’Ottavia, named after October 16, the day of the main roundup  of Jews in Rome.

24 March: on this date in 1944 the Nazis perpetrated  the massacre of 335 Italians, both civil and soldiers (many of whom were Jews) at the site of the Fosse Ardeatine in Rome. Together with the massacre in Sant’Anna di Stazzema on August 12, 1944, the slaughter at the Fosse Ardeatine is among the most brutal committed by the Nazis in Italy. Yearly, on this date, the highest Italian authorities participate in the commemoration and pay a tribute to the victims.

For a list of the main events please refer to this link.

Museums and Memorials

The Foundation for the Museum of the Shoah was born in July 2008. The mission of the Foundation for the Museum of the Shoah is to foster the creation of a Museum of the Shoah in Rome: an institution of collective utility, meant to be a reference for the numerous public activities related to the Shoah, dedicated to the young people, teachers and Italian and foreign citizens. The Museum is under construction; at the moment, some activities are developed in a temporary location, the “Casina dei Vallati”, a municipal building very close to the old “ghetto”.

In 2014 the Memorial of the Shoah  of the Central Station of Milan was inaugurated; from there, the first trains to Auschwitz left. In this area - originally destined for postal wagons – between 1943 and 1945 hundreds of Jews and political opponents were crammed into freight wagons to be deported to the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz- Birkenau, Bergen Belsen, or the Italian camps of Fossoli and Bolzano. The former Binario 21 (Platform 21), now called Memorial of the Shoah, is a place where the memory becomes an irreplaceable tool to share a project for the future. The Memorial is open to the public, while its Library is under construction.

The National Museum of the Italian Judaism and of the Shoah “MEIS” was established in Ferrara according to Law 91 of April 17, 2003 (amended by Law 296 of December 27, 2006). The decision reaffirms and values the exceptional continuity of the Jewish presence in Italy for more than 2000 years. The main goal of the Museum is to disseminate comprehensive knowledge of the history, philosophy and culture of Italian Judaism, but a part of the museum is also dedicated to the testimonies of the racial persecutions and the Shoah in Italy. The Museum is under construction.

Since 2013 an Italian group has introduced to Italy the setting of ‘Stolpersteine’, small stones invented by German artist Gunter Demnig, which are set in places where Jewish people were deported from. Started in Rome, the project has been developed with success in many other Italian cities as well.

Research

The Foundation Jewish Contemporary Documentation Centre - CDEC (Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea) is an independent non-profit historical cultural institute located in Milan, formalized by Decree ratified by President of Republic on April 17, 1990. CDEC was established in 1955, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the liberation, the end of the Italian Social Republic and the Nazi occupation, by the Federation of the Italian Young Jews (today UGEI) with the goal of “researching and archiving of every kind of document regarding antisemitic persecutions in Italy and Jewish contribution to the resistance. Nowadays CDEC represents the main Italian institute on history and documentation of contemporary Judaism in Italy, Shoah and contemporary anti-Semitism.

The Foundation for the Memory of the Deportation (Fondazione Memoria della Deportazione) in which the documentation of more than 50 years of ANED activity has been gathered – was established thanks to the commitment of ANED, donations and contributions of the ex-deportees to the Nazi camps and their families. The mission of the Foundation is the promotion of studies and the archiving of documents and testimonies on the Nazi-fascist deportation, in order to preserve in time the memory and lesson of the Holocaust. In this way the Foundation aims, through memory and the constant development of historical culture, to foster the civic growth of the new generations – strictly related to education – letting them know the tragedy of the deportation and the reality of the Nazi-fascist oppression. The Foundation is associated with the National Institute for the History of the Movement of Liberation in Italy (INSMLI).

The International Primo Levi Studies Center (Centro Internazionale di Studi Primo Levi) is based in Turin, the city where Primo Levi lived from 1919 to 1987. It aims to collect the editions of his works, their numerous translations published all around the world, their critical bibliography and all kinds of written and audiovisual documentation on his figure and on his reception. It also aims to support scholarly research and to mount its own initiatives, such as the annual Primo Levi Lecture every fall, in order to encourage discussion on topics that were most dear to Levi.

The international Master “Didactics of the Shoah” at Roma Tre University offers a chance for inter-disciplinary in-depth analysis of the didactics of the Shoah, the transmission of memory through generations and the elaboration of the tragedy of the Shoah in its psychological, philosophical, religious, literary, historical and artistic aspects.

Associations

ANED - National Association of Ex-Deportees to the Nazi Camps. 

ANFIM - National Association of Italian Martyrs' Families.

Association Children of the Shoah is located in Milan and is one of the promoters of the initiative “Binario 21" (today Memorial of the Shoah).

Edited November 2016