New Italian-language publication by the Auschwitz Museum presented at the Turin Book Fair
"Gli italiani ad Auschwitz (1943-1945). Deportazioni, «Soluzione finale», lavoro forzato. Un mosaico di vittime" is the title of a book in Italian by Laura Fontana published by the Auschwitz Museum. The book was presented at the Turin International Book Fair that took place from 14 to 18 October. During the meeting, the author talked about her work on the book over several years and shared her thoughts on the topic she had developed and the need for historical education for young people.
Laura Fontana’s publication is a monographic, exhaustive study on the deportation of Italian citizens to the German Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. It is a difficult and moving read, as the author often gives voice to the deportees. As she points out: “The enormity of the crimes and numbers of victims are so striking that, paradoxically, individuals and their fates are lost. That is why I decided to recreate those events in their words. The result is a polyphonic story, authentic and moving”.
The nearly 500-page publication is divided into two parts. The main themes of the first part cover the situation of Jews under Mussolini’s rule, the introduction of racial laws in Italy, the gradual exclusion of Jewish citizens from society, their incarceration in transit camps and finally, their deportation to Auschwitz. The author does not shy away from touching on difficult and controversial topics, such as the Vatican’s indifference to the persecution and deportation of Jews to extermination camps or the involvement of Italian fascists in the persecution and arrest of their Jewish compatriots,
The second part is a detailed history of the deportation to Auschwitz of Italian citizens, both Jews and non-Jews, shown through the prism of individual fates, The people described include both adults and children, such as female factory workers in northern Italy punished with deportation to concentration camps for taking part in strikes, Italian doctors of Jewish origin, women who gave birth in the camp, women subjected to pseudo-medical gynaecological experiments, and finally several-year-old children who miraculously managed to survive almost a year in the camp.
According to historians, the Germans deported 776 Italian children under the age of 14 to Auschwitz. Only 25 of them survived. Among the survivors are sisters Tatiana and Andra Bucci, whose photograph appears on the cover of the publication. Sergio, the cousin, standing between them, was deported from Birkenau to the Neungamme camp and subjected to medical experiments before being murdered.
Between the autumn of 1943 and the last months of 1944, more than 7,800 Jews were deported from Italy to Auschwitz. Only 7% survived. In 1944, about 1,200 non-Jewish Italian citizens were also imprisoned in the camp. As Laura Fontana points out, they were predominantly women. The deportation of non-Jewish Italians to the camp and the history of Italian workers employed to work near Auschwitz III-Monowitz, which the author also discusses in her book, are still topics that have not been explored extensively.
“This publication is the result of several years of hard work: analysing archival sources, available literature on the subject and, of course, survivors’ accounts. However, I believe that much more needs to be done in this area,” concludes the author.
The first official event of the Fair was an online meeting with Halina Birenbaum, an Auschwitz survivor and author of the famous memoir book “Hope is the Last to Die”. Many listeners were, as usual, attracted by the opportunity to listen live to a witness of such tragic events.
The Auschwitz Museum presented its publications at the International Book Fair in Turin for the sixth consecutive edition. This year’s edition of the second largest book fair in Europe attracted 150,000 people, several thousand more than in the previous year before the pandemic. The Museum’s long-standing partner in this project is Associazione Treno della Memoria, which has been organising visits to the Auschwitz Memorial for young Italians for more than 10 years.