An Italian Senate Committee debated modifying the law on Holocaust negativism to enable the courts to imprison anyone found guilty of denying the Holocaust to up to three years in jail.
The debate coincided with the 59th anniversary of the rounding up of Rome’s Jewish community, and was witnessed by representatives of Rome’s Jewish community, including Riccardo Pacifici, President of the Hebrew Congregation of Rome and Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni.
Proposing the bill, Senator Silvana Amati declared herself “excited and satisfied” at the initiative which has attracted support from across the political spectrum. Fellow senator Lucio Malan added that Holocaust denial is not only a crime of opinions, but also has the potential to promote incitement. Senate President Renato Schifani said that legislation of this kind was essential in defending the memory and reality of the Holocaust, at a time when many survivors are no longer around to tell their accounts.
The Nazis entered Rome, the oldest Jewish community in Europe on September 10, 1943, having already invaded central and northern Italy, which it renamed the “Italia Socialist Republic”. Having sourced a comprehensive list of the city’s 12,000-strong Jewish community, on September 26 they demanded 50kg in gold be handed over in ransom to prevent é00 members being deported to Auschwitz.
After Chief Rabbi Israel Zolli secured the Vatican’s pledge of a loan, both Jewish and non-Jewish Romans instead rallied around and paid the sum in jewellery and other valuables. However, the Nazis later reneged on their agreement and entered the Ghetto on October 16 to begin the process of rounding up Jews to be deported to concentration camps.
The Vatican and other Catholic facilities succeeded in hiding 4,000 Jews from Nazi inspection, and 2,091 Roman Jews were deported two days later on October 18, half of whom to Auschwitz, where 839 died. At the end of the war, only 102 of Romans deported had survived, with the majority of the community disobeying orders to be transferred to internment camps or hiding with their non-Jewish neighbours and government officials.
Resistance from the Italian public and officials alike impeded Nazi deportations and led to 80% survival rate following WWII, higher than other European countries.