telling has helped. The boys have understood and will speak after me –

telling has helped.  The boys have understood and will speak after me –

A survivor of Auschwitz, Modiano has been a witness to the Holocaust for twenty years. His words in view of the Day of Remembrance which is celebrated on 27 January

Don’t forget what was. We survivors have told and will continue to talk as long as we have strength, you will have to do it when we are gone. a heartfelt appeal, through tears, that of Sami Modiano, 92, Holocaust survivor. In this week in which Remembrance Day will be celebrated on January 27, tired, full of commitments, called to testify or give interviews from morning to evening. But he doesn’t shy away and, always speaking with transport and infinite sweetness, he tries to answer everyone, with a single request: Tell what I saw in Auschwitz-Birkenau, nothing else, no politics. Liliana Segre’s age, he experienced the same horror as her he decided, after many years of silence, to testify. she is also aware that it will not be the same when the last survivors will be gone, but she says she is less pessimistic than the senator for life. Last Monday, the latter expressed strong concern that in a few years on the Holocaust there will be only one line in the history books, then not even that and that around Remembrance Day there is a certain tiredness: People have already been saying for years ” Enough of these Jews, what a bore.” About the tragic past and the possible future, Sami Modiano talks to the Corriere.

She was born in Rhodes, then under Italian rule, and from there she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she lost her father Jakob and her sister Lucia. Remembrance Day is celebrated on January 27, the date on which the Red Army entered the camp in 1945. What memories do you have?
In the days preceding the liberation I was in Birkenau. We prisoners saw the Germans very worried by the approach of the Russian army until they organized the so-called “death march”, the forced transfer of those who were still alive to other concentration camps further and further west. Meanwhile, on January 17 they began to move us towards Auschwitz, about 3 kilometers from Birkenau, in the same concentration camp. Although I was exhausted and could no longer stand up, Someone from above wanted me not to die.

What happened?

I was 14 years old and I had come to weigh 23 kilos. I walked only because I felt my father’s words inside me. Before giving himself up hopelessly to the Birkenau clinic, he had told me: “Hold on Sami, you have to do it”. But it was night, there was a foot of snow and I had only a pair of wooden clogs, a uniform and a striped hat. I fell. I knew I would receive the coup de grâce because no witnesses were to be left alive. I put my hands on my head. But there was a gesture that has no explanation in a situation in which one had no strength even for oneself: two prisoners, slightly bigger than me, with a few pounds more, lifted me up and dragged me to Auschwitz. I think that then, realizing that I would not be able to continue the death march, they decided to leave me there. They leaned me against a pile of corpses and so, thinking I was dead, the Germans didn’t shoot me. I occasionally opened my eyes and saw only bodies. Until I noticed a brick building in front of me. I joined him, then woke up in a hospital set up by the Russians, entrusted to a medical officer who treated me attentively.

How does it affect you today that the Russians have invaded Ukraine and that war has returned to Europe?

It pains me, but I’ll let everyone make their own arguments about this.

Ad Auschwitz incontr Primo Levi.
We exchanged a few words right in that phase of liberation, when I also saw my friend Piero Terracina, who left us in 2019. We were all suffering, we didn’t know what would become of us. Personally, for having saved myself from that death factory that was Birkenau, I felt guilty for a long time, I perceived myself as privileged. I beat my chest and asked myself: why me? It took me a long time, then I found an answer: I survived to testify.

Are you not afraid, like Senator Segre, that the Holocaust will remain a line in the history books?
I don’t think about it and continue with the testimony. In 2005, after a silence of sixty years, I began to tell and returned for the first time to Auschwitz-Birkenau accompanying the students. I had the full awareness that I hadn’t forgotten anything, it was like seeing my dad, my sister, I cried in pain, and I can still say today that I never left Birkenau. But, together with me, the boys cried that day. I understood that I had to go on, speak in schools, do my duty, and I swore it to the innocents who were killed in that hell. I have seen Jews, homosexuals, the disabled, Roma, political deportees killed without any fault… So, as long as I live, I can only go on and on and tell. Thank God, the feedback I’ve had from students so far has been positive.

Do you trust them to transmit the Memory? Are you worried about Holocaust denial or the risk of trivializing it?

They certainly alarm and sadden me. But in general I’m optimistic that when I or Liliana Segre or the other survivors are gone, there will be the kids: the hope of tomorrow. You don’t know how many letters and phone calls I receive from them. I’ve been demoralized and withdrawn for a long time, I’ve been through long periods of depression, but that all changed when I started talking, and I’ve been a happier man for twenty years now. When my time comes, I will leave in peace knowing that I have left my testimony to the young people. And not only to them, but also to teachers and all willing people. Promise me that you will continue to tell.

Below the first episode of the podcast Hold my hand, in which Liliana Segre told the story of her life to Myrta Merlino for Corriere della Sera. Here the complete series.

January 26, 2023 (change January 26, 2023 | 2:12 pm)


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