When, thirty years ago, I decided to tell my experience as a very young deported to Auschwitz, many schools throughout Italy began to invite me to listen to my testimony. Almost everywhere I had been preceded by Nedo Fiano, the author’s father, to whom, right from the beautiful title My father’s perfume, this book is dedicated (to be released on January 19 for Piemme).
Nedo was tall, handsome, vigorous, volcanic, outgoing: he reported the facts exactly, the situations, the characters of the tragedy he had gone through, but he impersonated them as a consummate actor, raised his voice or reduced it to a whisper, was moved and wept over his fate and that of his entire family murdered by the Nazis. The opposite of me, who can’t be moved and cry in public and who never raise my voice: two more different witnesses, perhaps in the same school, it was difficult to imagine them. But that was fine with me, it was right like that, because we were and are two individuals, not two robot-slaves as our torturers would have liked to reduce us.
Five years older than me, Nedo had entered the concentration camp as a young man, while I was just a teenager: he knew a little German, while I not even a syllable. He was assigned to the Kanada – the warehouse where clothes, suitcases and any possessions snatched from the victims were sorted – where the suffering, for those who worked there, was a little less terrible and the possibility of survival a little higher, while I, by pure chance escaped the selections, worked as a slave laborer in the Union ammunition factory. In short, not only were our temperaments different, but also our experiences in Auschwitz-Birkenau were very different.
After the Liberation our roles had somewhat reversed: I, more fortunate, had found a certain material comfort to welcome me and – not without difficulties and misunderstandings – what remained of my family, my maternal grandparents, uncles. Nedo, on the other hand, hadn’t found anyone. After hell, the desert.
With a lion’s courage, which I have always admired and still admire today, he had literally rebuilt a life, a family, an education (graduating as a working student after the age of forty), a career and an economic and social position. Nedo, with his incurable wounds common to all of us survivors, was despite everything the very embodiment of the optimism of the will, of wanting to do it in spite of every tragedy and adversity. His fascination for everything modern and for America land of opportunity, which his son Emanuele tells very well in this book, was the visible sign of his indomitable character.
In the book of Emanuele Fiano – also of him as of his father are for many years became a friend and admirer of his constant civic commitment – many other family events are told with taste and talent as a writer: the Florence of origin among luxurious villas of rich relatives and more modest pensions, the Milan of the economic miracle that unites social progress and economic Jews and non-Jews in an atmosphere of open solidarity, the tender attachment to Jewish traditions even by those who, like Emmanuel and myself, do not consider themselves believers. And of course there is the Shoah, discovered progressively and painfully between unspoken things and dropped phrases, the incomprehensible and ever-present Shoah.
But if I’ve talked so much about Nedo, about our being both survivors and of my relationship with him is because this book is above all a great act of filial love. Love for a father is not always easy, inhabited by his ghosts and his nightmares – I should say by our ghosts and our nightmares -, but capable of passing on to his son a witness or perhaps a yeast that Emanuele thus describes at the end of his I tell: “” Never leave me “, the voice inside seems to tell me” don’t allow yourself to forget me, to forget your father and those smoking ruins he passed through […] never abandon the desire to enter into the crudest meanders of the human soul, to where every moral has been lost, know that you are the son of the superhuman strength of those who have not given up, of those who have continued to hope “” .
© 2021 – MONDADORI LIBRI SPA – PIEMME
The meeting live on Facebook
On January 18 at 6.30 pm Emanuele Fiano will be live on Facebook (pages: Piemme and Associazione Sons della Shoah). Participants Liliana Segre, Maurizio Molinari, Pierluigi Battista.
The book: family and collective memories
“Papa had holes in his legs, and a severed big toe; a mysterious number marked on the arm and often many tears ». From here, when he was still a child, Emanuele Fiano’s path in «My father’s perfume. The legacy of a son of the Holocaust “ (Piemme), delivered shortly before his father Nedo, a survivor of Auschwitz, died at 95 on 19 December 2020. A journey through the history of the father and family, the story of the relationship with a parent who had crossed the abyss. But also the attempt to pass the baton. A reconstruction that from private reflects on the need for a collective memory and a public conscience. For today and for future generations.
January 17, 2021 (change January 17, 2021 | 21:03)