Afterwards, I went up to Cacciari and asked if he knew Franco Filippi, the publisher of the book, to whom I was supposed to introduce myself. He sort of smiled and said that Filippi had been there, but appeared to have left. I didn't realize I had just spoken to the Mayor of Venice!
This morning, Massimo Cacciari, together with Vittorio Levis, president of the Jewish Community of Venice, spoke about the Holocaust, and why it was important to remember it. Cacciari spoke very strongly, and said several things that struck me -- made me weep, to be honest. He said that what we must accept and understand is that the Holocaust was a rational design. That it was a rational, thought-out, political project, years in the planning. That the complicity of France, Italy and England allowed it to happen. He said that the concept of "Ama il prossimo tuo" or "Love Thy Neighbor" had been taken and completely inverted.
The Holocaust can seem far away, as part of another era, another century, long, long ago, especially to those who were not born. In reality, there are many people who are still alive who can remember the Holocaust because it happened only 70 years ago! Think: just a short time ago, the Nazis were exterminating an entire segment of the population right in front of everyone's eyes and nobody did anything to stop it!
After the speeches, we watched a performance of Salonicco43. It was the second time I had seen this piece performed. I wrote about it before near the end of A Sea of Angels back on December 8, 2008.
Click to read it:
Thessaloniki, also called the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’ or the “mother of Israel, counted a population of 100,000 in 1939, 50,000 Jews, many of Italian origin and nationality, present in all the different social classes and perfectly integrated with the Greek population. Historian Albertos Nar remembers it as “the largest and most prosperous Sephardite Jewish community in Europe, and one of the most important in the world”. Of the 32 synagogues in the city, fourteen of which were built by people from Sicily, Calabria, Puglia, all that remains are faded old photographs…
During the terrible months of 1943, the Italian consul in Thessaloniki was Guelfo Zamboni, a Fascist functionary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who, in the face of the inhumanity of the Holocaust, began a personal, heroic battle to try and save as many lives as possible by providing forged Italian identity cards that would allow their possessors to reach Athens and save their lives.
His tenaciousness, his courage, his perseverance saved more than 500 Jews from Nazi barbarity, men, women, children who became the protagonists of our cultural project, and who transformed our Zamboni into a new Italian Schindler. In 1992 he was given the title of “righteous among the nations”.
Cold, hard statistics from Wikipedia:
Jewish Population of Thessaloniki
|Year||Total Population||Jewish Population||Jewish Percentage||Source|
|1842||70,000||36,000||51%||Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer|
|1870||90,000||50,000||56%||Greek schoolbook (G.K. Moraitopoulos, 1882)|
|1882/84||85,000||48,000||56%||Ottoman government census|
|1902||126,000||62,000||49%||Ottoman government census|
|1913||157,889||61,439||39%||Greek government census|
|1917||271,157||52,000||19%||J. Nehama, Histoire des Israélites de Salonique, t. VI-VII, Thessalonique 1978, p. 765 (via Greek Wikipedia): the population was inflated because of refugees from the First World War|
I apologize for the brevity of this blog, but unfortunately the Querini Stampali has changed its rules about Internet access, and have installed a two-hour limit.
Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog