On the 79th anniversary of the World War II roundup of Rome’s Jews, Italy’s far-right political leadership called for such horror to never happen again, messages that took on added significance after a national election won by a party with neo-fascist roots.
According to a community spokesman, Giorgia Meloni, who is expected to lead Italy’s first far-right-led government since the war’s end, called the leader of Rome’s Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello, to commemorate the anniversary.
In a statement, Meloni said that the anniversary serves as a “warning so that certain tragedies never happen again.” She claimed that all Italians carry a memory that “serves to build antibodies against indifference and hatred, to continue to fight anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
During the German occupation of Italy, on October 16, 1943, 1,259 people were arrested from Rome’s Ghetto and surrounding neighborhoods and taken to a military barracks near the Vatican, bound for Auschwitz. Only 16 people survived.
Meloni described it as a “tragic, dark, and incurable day for Rome and Italy,” culminating in the “vile and inhuman deportation of Roman Jews at the hands of Nazi-Fascist fury: women, men, and children were snatched from life, house by house.”
Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party received approximately 26% of the vote in the September 25 national election and is expected to form a coalition government with the right-wing League and the center-right Forza Italia. Her party was founded in 1946 by the remnants of Benito Mussolini’s final government in the Nazi puppet state of Salo, northern Italy, as the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, or MSI. It remained a small right-wing party until the 1990s, when it merged with the National Alliance to distance itself from its neo-fascist origins.
Meloni founded Brothers of Italy in 2012 with another former MSI and National Alliance member, Ignazio La Russa, who was elected Senate president this week. La Russa has proudly displayed his Mussolini memorabilia collection and, early in the pandemic, suggested that Italians use the fascist salute instead of shaking hands in a tweet that he blamed on an underling and was quickly removed.
La Russa also marked the anniversary of the roundup on Sunday, calling it “one of the darkest days in our history.”
“It is the responsibility of everyone, beginning with the highest institutions, to pass on the memory so that similar tragedies do not occur again in the future.” “To the Jewish community, today and always, my heartfelt closeness,” he wrote on Facebook.
Other political leaders in Italy also marked the anniversary with tweets, messages, and statements. Rome’s mayor, Roberto Gualtieri, joined Dureghello and other Jewish community members at a commemoration in the Ghetto. They paused for a moment outside Rome’s main synagogue, alongside Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni.
The community launched the #16ottobre43 social media campaign, which featured a video scrolling the names of those killed “whose only ‘guilt’ was that they were Jewish.”
According to Dureghello, the anniversary marked “the date on which we remember the first Nazi-Fascist deportation of Roman Jews.” Men, women, and children were taken from their homes and sent to their deaths. Keeping the memory alive is a moral imperative that helps to quell the sirens of hatred and fanaticism.”