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: historyThe 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.