Conflicts & War

Remembering the Holocaust with Italy’s stumbling stones

Rome, Jan 27 (efe-epa).- “Here lived Fortunata Perugia, born in 1881, arrested on 2.2.1944. Deported to Auschwitz. Murdered on 23.5.1944.” This is the message engraved onto one of the latest stumbling blocks to be laid in Rome on the lead up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday.

The golden-topped cobbles, like this one in the Rome neighbourhood of Garbetella, and thousands across Europe, give a name to those who were murdered in the Nazi concentration and death camps of World War II.

Some 11 million people were killed by the German Nazi regime, the majority, some six million, were Jews.

In Rome, 21 new stumbling blocks were added to the 336 scattered around the city this week.

For Adachiara Levi, founder of Arteinmemoria association, the blocks “go beyond a mere monument: it’s part of the city, something public that everyone can stop and see, and read and reflect”.

Sara, a woman who was going to visit her mother in the building above the block, took a picture of the commemorative piece.

“This building has seen dark stories,” she says, adding that her mother knew people who lived through those tragic years.

Giulio, another resident of the building where Fortunata used to live, says he never knew of her story but welcomes the initiative.

“We all think it is a good idea, it is not something you can disagree with.”

While this Roman neighbourhood has embraced the stumbling stones, Sara laments that “Italy forgets easily.”

Polling concurs — Holocaust denial has jumped from 2.4% of those surveyed in 2004 to 15.6% in 2020, according to the Eurispes investigation institute.

The stumbling blocks, created by German artist Gunter Demnig, made their first appearance in 1993. Since then a map of history with over 50,000 stumbling blocks has extended across the continent.

In Italy, there are some 1,500 stumbling blocks dedicated to the more than 6,800 Jews who were sent to extermination camps during the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, an ally of Adolf Hitler. Only 837 Italian Jews returned from those camps. EFE/EPA


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