Feature: Thousands visit Holocaust Memorial of Milan on Remembrance Day

By Marzia De Giuli and Song Jian (Xinhua)    07:58, January 28, 2015

MILAN, Italy, Jan. 27 -- There were long queues of people on Tuesday, the International Holocaust Memorial Day, waiting to visit the Holocaust Memorial of Milan.

Between 1943 and 1945, it was from this dock which stands in the Milan central station, in an area beneath the ordinary railway platforms, that thousands of deportees left for the Nazi concentration camps.

"I told my wife: if we do not see this place, we cannot be aware of the Holocaust. Today it is a very important day," a man told Xinhua as he started his visit along with his family.

Around 8,000 citizens visited the Memorial on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, three days of special opening organized to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of KL Auschwitz concentration camp.

Among them there were many schoolchildren. "I have a sense of anger seeing this place, because all those people died just because they were Jews," Andrea said while entering along with his schoolmates and teacher one of the four original freight wagons where the deportees were loaded.

"Today we talked about the historic genocide at school. We also listened to the testimony of a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp," another child, Matteo, said.

"A total of 774 Jews were loaded in the first two convoys that departed from Milan," Vice President of the Memorial Roberto Jarach told Xinhua in an interview. Only 27 of them survived the concentration camps, he said recalling that a total of 19 convoys left Milan in those years.

The area was originally a loading dock for mail and horses and was considered suitable for transporting the deportees because of its characteristics. "It was a hidden place where trucks could enter in reverse and unload people who were then loaded into the wagons," Jarach said.

The wagons were then transported up by elevator onto the platforms directly above and attached to convoys headed for the death camps (Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen Belsen) or to Italian transit camps, he explained. "In this way, nobody could witness these operations," he noted.

The project to build a Holocaust Memorial in Milan was first unveiled in 2002, promoted by Jewish communities and public institutions, and supported by fund raising activities. In 2010 the cornerstone of the Memorial was laid in an official ceremony.

Sites where deportations took place were left completely unaltered, aimed at building a Memorial without demolishing anything, so as to keep the memory alive, lest it sink into oblivion.

Of all the places in Europe involved in the deportations, the very place in which the horrors of the Holocaust took shape in Milan is today the only one still standing intact.

The atrium of the Memorial, formed by the original entrance to the dock where trucks arrived, is dominated by a wall reporting today the word "indifference," the reason why the Holocaust was made possible and real.

The Memorial was conceived as a place of commemoration but also a space in which to build the future and encourage social harmony, hence was designed as a place of study, research and debate. The 7,000-square-meter area houses a library able to hold up to 45,000 volumes, an auditorium with a seating capacity of 200 people and an exhibition space.

Visitors can walk through two of the original four freight wagons and access a hall housing the Wall of Names, on which the names of all those deported from Milan to the Nazi camps are projected.

The route ends at the Hall of Remembrance, an area that is isolated both visually and acoustically from the rest of the Memorial in order to gather citizens together and stress the need to hand down remembrance to future generations. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Liang Jun,Bianji)

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