Florence’s 2021 International Holocaust Memorial Day

The Italian Auschwitz Memorial in Florence

Nearly 80 years ago almost 300 Italian Jews were expelled from Florence and brought to concentration camps during the Holocaust. The city annually acknowledges the event with various initiatives. Officially inaugurated in 2019, the Italian Auschwitz Memorial will welcome visitors again this January 25 to 29, as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day falls on January 27. The day of remembrance is hallmarked all over the world, reflecting on when the last survivors were liberated from Auschwitz in 1945.

The memorial is on display at the Ex3 Contemporary Art Center in the Gavinana neighborhood at Viale Giannotti, 81. All events this week are free but reservations are necessary. The immersive art piece features a spiraling canvas on which stories, moments, and symbols from Auschwitz are recounted. “Remember What They Did to You in Auschwitz,” by composer Luigi Nono plays in the background. On January 27 there will be a special digital event through the online platform, Zoom. For all inquiries or to reserve a guided tour on-site, email info@muse.comune.fi.it with your full name and the date you would like to visit, from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.

Another memorial site worth visiting this week is Platform 16 of the Santa Maria Novella Train Station. It was from here in 1943 that 243 Jews in Florence were taken to Mauthausen. Out of all of them, only 13 returned. Besides the annual wreath laying done by mayor Dario Nardella, Tuscan regional president Eugenio Giani, and members of the Florentine Jewish community, there is striking installation of an iron wedge penetrating a giant stone on the track that was brought to Florence in 2013 by Nicola Rossi. With Rotary Club Firenze and the Platform 16 SMN Initiative, the platform will install a new bilingual commemorative plaque on January 27 making it more accessible to non-Italian speakers.

It is impossible to ignore the continued discrimination against Jewish people as several rioters who participated in the storming of the United States Capitol building on January 6 were photographed with shirts and other clothing emblazoned with phrases like “Camp Auschwitz.” The Anti-Defamation League recorded an all-time high of anti-Semitic attacks in 2019 as a myriad of hate crimes occurred throughout the US.

As there is a rising presence of alt-right political groups in present-day culture, it is even more crucial to remember this historical period of immense tragedy and “raise awareness of the madness of Nazism and anti-Semitism, and above all to fight it,” says Tommaso Sacchi. (cathy doherty)