Pope leads remembrance of Rome-Jew deportations
Memories of tragedies needed to build better future says Francis16 October, 20:02
Priebke, who died last Friday, had been serving a life sentence for his part in the murders of 335 men and boys in Rome in 1944.
At the same time, parliamentarians debated a new law aimed at making Holocaust denial a crime in Italy.
Still, much of the day was devoted to honouring the dead and pledging that their suffering would not be forgotten and was not without purpose.
"The memory of the tragedies of the past should for all of us become a commitment to work with all our strength for the future that God wants to build for us and with us," Francis wrote in a message to Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni. "It is our duty to keep before our eyes the destiny of those people who were deported, perceive their pain, their fear, their desperation, in order not to forget it, to keep it alive in our memory and in our prayers, together with their families, their relatives and friends, who cried for the loss and who were appalled by the barbarism that the human being can reach".
On October 16, 1943 the SS swarmed the streets of Rome, rounding up more than 1,000 Jews of all ages for deportation to the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps death camps. Very few returned. During a ceremony at city hall, Rome's mayor paid homage to the city's two living Holocaust survivors. "The city of Rome kneels before you and thanks you," Ignazio Marino told Nazi concentration camp survivors Lello Di Segni and Enzo Camerino. "The guilty indifference of those days is another wound inflicted on the Jewish community," Marino added.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called on people of every religion to fight Holocaust denial as he endorsed a proposed amendment to Italy's penal code making such revisionism a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. The proposed amendment on Holocaust denial was passed almost unanimously in the Senate justice commission one day earlier, on the eve of the anniversary of the Nazi roundup.
With passage in the Upper House nearly assured, the amendment has yet to clear a critical hurdle in the Lower House.
Napolitano called the measure "a merit of our parliament". "I am convinced that the process of its approval will be completed soon," Napolitano added, speaking at Rome's largest synagogue for the 70th anniversary commemoration ceremony.
Riccardo Pacifici, president of the Roman Jewish community, applauded the bill and said that it was important not to forget what people like SS officer Priebke had done.
Yet the community spirit and sentiment behind Wednesday's ceremonies were a reminder of the good that has developed in Rome despite all the city endured during war times, he added. "So, we are proud to be Romans and Italians just to have seen civil society at the forefront of this battle of civilizations". Pacifici also called on the Lower House to quickly approve the amendment.
"If the Chamber also gives the green light to the bill on revisionism without a single vote against it, we will be the fifteenth European country to have introduced that law. "It is a medicine, however, that will never substitute education about the Holocaust," Pacifici added. Italian MPs from across the political spectrum have endorsed the amendment, including senators from the center-left Democratic Party (PD), the center-right People of Freedom Party (PdL), the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and other smaller parties.
However, amid nit-picking about the details, the bill ground to a halt on the Senate justice committee.