When an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor proposes a political commission on anti-racism and anti-hatred, you would imagine that the motion would get wide support. That was not the case in Milan, Italy this week. Liliana Segre, an Italian senator, instead needs a police escort of two paramilitary officers because of death threats she received after Italian Parliament approved the commission. Segre received regular threats before she proposed the commission, however after the commission was passed she reported an increase in number and intensity. She now gets around 200 online threats a day. The prefect of Milan, Renato Saccone, thought that a police escort was needed after far-right political party Forza Nuova hung up banners condemning anti-Fascism near a theatre where Segre was speaking. Segre has declined to comment on the police escort, however, her son Luciano Belli Paci, says that she “is not afraid” and “is shocked by these tensions and by this entire situation.”
Right-wing parties in the senate abstained from voting on the commission, which did not go unnoticed, especially as the harassment of Segre increased. Right-wing politician Matteo Salvini was criticized for trying to compare his experience with Segre’s, saying that he “gets threats too, every day.” Many pointed out the disparity between being a Holocaust survivor versus being a right-wing politician.
Segre was one of 776 Italian Jewish children deported and sent to Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of 13. She was one of the only 25 Italian children that survived the concentration camp. She went public about her experience in the 1990s and since has been travelling around the country, going to schools and holding lectures for awareness about the Holocaust. In a recent lecture at a university in Milan, she said “haters are people we should feel sorry for… every minute of our lives must be lived to the full – whether enjoyed or suffered.”
This is not the only incident of anti-Semitism and racist hate in Italy recently. Mario Balotelli, a black Italian soccer player went on to the field of a soccer game to be met with racist and xenophobic chants by the opposing team’s supporters. Noemi Di Signi, the president of the Union of the Italian Jewish Community said that “an increased tolerance for Mussolini and Fascist nostalgia was troubling and creating an uncomfortable climate for Jews,” reported the New York Times.
It is a concerning portrait of the world when a Holocaust survivor needs a police escort for protection because of death threats she received for wanting to launch an anti-hate agenda. However, online vitriol is not an uncommon occurrence nowadays. What is more concerning is the blasé attitude of right-wing politicians in Italy towards this situation and the fascist nostalgia for a violent time in Italy’s history. Those in power must denounce this kind of behaviour immediately, so as not to be seen as condoning it in any way. Otherwise, those who threaten online in anonymity gain the confidence to take their hateful attitudes further.
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