Auschwitz survivor warns Italian Senate away from anti-immigrant actions

In Italy's Senate chamber on Tuesday, an 88-year-old survivor of Auschwitz spoke to the newly formed right-wing popul...

Posted: Jun 6, 2018 5:58 AM
Updated: Jun 6, 2018 5:58 AM

In Italy's Senate chamber on Tuesday, an 88-year-old survivor of Auschwitz spoke to the newly formed right-wing populist government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, reminding the legislators that Italian racial persecution in 1938 paved the way for the Holocaust.

Liliana Segre, who this year was made an Italian senator for life, received a standing ovation from the packed chamber just before the government's confidence vote, when she noted she is one of the few people still living in Italy to have the numbers of Auschwitz stamped on her arm.

"I refuse to think that today our democratic civilization could be dirtied by special laws against nomadic people," Segre said. "If it happens, I will oppose it with all the energy I have left in me."

The Conte government proposes to close nomadic camps of the Roma people throughout Italy.

"I have known what it is to be clandestine, to be an asylum seeker," she said. "I have known jail; I have known hard labor, working as a slave when I was a minor in a satellite factory of a concentration camp."

Italy's League party, a majority in the new government, campaigned heavily on an anti-immigrant platform, with the slogan "Italians First."

"The fun is over," said Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the League party, during a break in Saturday's Senate hearing, referring to the presence of illegal immigrants in Italy.

The government proposes to send 500,000 illegal immigrants back to their countries of origin.

Segre reminded the government that the expulsion of the Jewish minority in Italy from schools, professions and society paved the way for the Italian Shoah of 1943-1945.

She called upon Italians not to allow their consciences to be anesthetized.

"Be more vigilant, more aware of the responsibility that each of us has towards others," she said.

Conte thanked Segre for reminding legislators of that "very painful page" of history.

"Time goes on and we move further away from that phase of history but we must never allow ourselves to forget," he said.

The Senate gave a vote of confidence to the Conte government with 171 approving, 117 against and 25 abstaining.

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