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Speech on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust

H.E. Orna Sagiv, Ambassador-Designate of Israel to Thailand,

Excellencies,

distinguished guests,

ladies, gentlemen,

Shalom.

This evening I am pleased to present, in collaboration with the Embassy of Israel, here at Alliance Française, an Italian movie on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust – actually a few days later than January 27th . This delay reaffirms the notion that the memory of the Holocaust is not for any specific day, but rather a constant thought.

The movie, by the Italian director Giulio Base, takes place in the ghetto of the city of Rome. Today, the Roman ghetto, established in 1555, is one of the most beautiful spots of the Eternal City. Its atmosphere is unique and many tourists and locals like to enjoy its restaurants and shops. But in October 1943, during WWII, it has been the place of a night of horror that cannot be forgotten: the raid of the Roman Ghetto.

In this movie, past and present meet upon the discovery of an old, mysterious photograph that will end up tying together Christian and Jewish students in search of the truth. Trying to unravel the mystery behind the portrait, the teenagers embark on a journey through the horror of the raid of the Roman Ghetto. Retracing these painful events will give them the chance to take a collective stance towards personal, existential, and cultural commitment.

The racial laws adopted by Italy in 1938, during the Fascist regime, started a process that eventually led to the deportations of Italian Jews during World War II to the Nazi-fascist concentration camps. Overall, more than 6,800 Italian Jews were deported in extermination camps and only 837 came back. After the raid of the roman Ghetto, 1,023 people living there were identified as Jews and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Only fifteen men and one woman survived.

These tragic events place a heavy responsibility on all of us.

History teaches us that, faced with barbarism, entire centuries of civilization can be annihilated in a moment.

As is expressed by the words of Primo Levi, an Italian-Jewish writer and chemist who was deported and survived Auschwitz:

“It happened, therefore it can happen again. (…) Consciences can again be seduced and obscured: even our own”.

It would be misleading to think that the tragedy of the Holocaust happened because it was another era. That the guilty belong to a distant time and place.

It is our duty to prevent the creation of conditions in which this can happen again.

If all this was not always brought to remembrance, we would be turning our backs on ourselves, on our history, it would be a triumph of the unawareness of who we are.

We also like to remember those who effectively helped Jewish people escape arrest and deportation, such as, for instance, the Italian diplomat Guelfo Zamboni. He took up the post of Italian Consul General in Salonika, the second largest city in Greece, at the beginning of March 1943. During the next few months, and at great personal risk, he saved the lives of 280 Jews destined for Auschwitz by issuing them with false travel documents so that they could be transferred to safety in Italian-controlled regions of Greece. I mentioned Guelfo because many years later, in 1956, he was appointed as the first full-fledged Ambassador of Italy to … Thailand.

In Italy and around the world, we commemorate International Holocaust Day with a series of initiatives. I wish to thank the Embassy of Israel and my collaborators at the Embassy of Italy for making today’s event possible.

Thank you.

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