On January 27th 1945 Russian soldiers entered the Auschwitz death camp and became aware, for the first time, of the Nazis’ cruelty that had been driven by a crazy goal: that of systematically defeating Jewish culture. On July 20th 2000 (only 55 years later…), the Italian Republic approved a law that would acknowledge January the 27th as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I have always been fascinated (and scared at the same time) by World War II and the Jewish Shoah, I absolutely needed to post something about the Jews in Tuscany in occasion of the Memorial Day.
Jews in Tuscany: history
The history of the Jewish community in Tuscany gets lost in centuries. Jewish traces in Tuscany date back to the XII century, but the main facts started during the Renaissance, when Siena and Florence introduced ghettoes that Jewish people were “invited” to estabilish in Pisa or Livorno (cities with a maritime port or an access to the sea) in order to carry on their business. Pisa and Livorno were “ghettoless” cities, places in which religious freedom was granted and where Jewish, Turkish and Arabic people lived together. But minor cities such as Pitigliano, Sovana and Sorano (in the Tuscan Maremma countryside) where safe too, thank to the Orsini family (enemies of the more famous De Medici family). Maybe you don’t know that the Pisa Jewish cemetery contains tombs which date back to 1274! It is close to Piazza dei Miracoli, just out off the city walls, and it’s such a peaceful place, well described by Gloria’s blog post.
On the other hand Pitigliano, the city dug in tuff, was known as the “Little Jerusalem”, the main Jewish rural hub in Italy, where the building of the ghetto didn’t compromise the Italian (Catholic) and Jewish population’s good relationship. The old Jewish bakery stopped baking just during World War II but nowadays you can visit it, together with the old Synagogue, the Kasher butcher’s rooms and what remains of the ancient ghetto dug in Pitigliano’s tuff undergrounds. Unfortunately, when Italy signed the armistice with the Allies on September the 8th 1943, civilians (expecially Jewish) population' worst period began, because German soldiers started to persecute the Jews sistematically, deporting them into work and extermination camps, expecially to Auschwitz.
Why am I telling you all of this? The reason is simple. Sometimes I stop and remember my grandparents’ sories about their childhood and disadventures during the war. The cruelties they lived and saw, the pain, anger and famine they felt. Now that they have passed away who is going to tell my children and their children about the dangers and monsters of the war? Will they have Memory of all of this? I am kind of obsessed by these questions because I am firmly convinced of the importance of Memory.
Jews in Tuscany: museum
So I am happy to inform you that in Tuscany we have a deportation Museum in Prato, near Florence, that I suggest you visit in order to Remember and Learn from past mistakes. Here’s the opening hours: Winter timetable (from October to May) Mon-Wed-Thu-Fri: 9,30 a.m. / 12,30 p.m. Mon, Thu, Sat and Sun: 3/6 p.m. Tuesday: closed Summer timetable (June, July e September) Mon, Thu, Sat e Sun: 4/7 p.m. Wed and Fri: 9,30 a.m. / 12,30 p.m. Tuesday: closed August: closed I’d like to finally leave you (this post is soooooo long and heavy!!!) with a poem by Salvatore Quasimodo. Of course, translated in English it loses much of its charm, it’s sad but it summarises my thoughts. Its title is "Man of my time" ("Uomo del mio tempo"): You are still the one with the stone and the sling, Man of my time. You were in the cockpit, With the malevolent wings, the meridians of death, -I have seen you - in the chariot of fire, at the gallows, At the wheels of torture. I have seen you: it was you, With your exact science set on extermination, Without love, without Christ. You have killed again, As always, as your fathers killed, as the animals killed that saw you for the first time. And this blood smells as on the day When one brother told the other brother: "Let us go into the fields." And that echo, chill, tenacious, Has reached down to you, within your day. Forgot, O sons, the clouds of blood Risen from the earth, forget your fathers: Their tombs sink down in ashes, Black birds, the wind, cover their heart.