About 5,000 people rallied under a pelting rain in front of the Holocaust Memorial of Milan on Monday night to express their solidarity with Auschwitz survivor and Senator for Life Liliana Segre.
The event was titled “Milan does not hate.” In videos of the rally posted by Italian media, hundreds of colorful umbrellas can be seen, protecting participants singing partisans’ songs.
The Italian daily La Repubblica reported that Segre, 89, did not attend the rally herself, but said that she was moved by the initiative.
On Thursday, Italian authorities announced that they were placing the senator under police escort after she received threats from far-right fanatics.
The Holocaust Memorial is located in the warehouses of Milan’s central station, where Nazi and fascist soldiers loaded the trains destined for the death camps, concealed from view.
Born in 1930 into a Jewish family in Milan, Segre was one of the Jews who were deported to Auschwitz from there. She was 13 years old – one of 776 Italian children under the age of 14 who were sent to the Nazi concentration camp. Only 25 survived.
The underground track used by the Nazis was rediscovered at the beginning of the 2000s and turned into a memorial.
On Segre’s suggestion, the word “indifference” is carved out in prominent letters on the gray wall that visitors encounter when they first enter the site – because, as the survivor has tirelessly pointed out in her decades of testimony, the annihilation of Jews did not start with deportation and death camps, but with the indifference of Italian and European society towards the increasing persecutions.
In January 2018, the Italian President Sergio Mattarella appointed her Senator for Life.
A life tenure appointment in the Senate can be granted by the president “for outstanding patriotic merits in the social, scientific, artistic or literary field.”
Since she took the position, Segre has become one of the most well-known and appreciated public figures in the country, working to promote not only Holocaust remembrance but also a message of tolerance and solidarity.
Among others, she pushed for the creation of a parliamentary commission to investigate hate, racism and antisemitism.
At the end of October, La Repubblica reported that she was the target of about 200 online antisemitic messages and threats every day, disclosing the findings of a report by the Milan-based Centre of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (CDEC).
After the Italian Senate voted on establishing the commission on October 31 and Italy’s right-wing parties did not back her proposal, the resulting controversy has only added to the abuse, with a neo-Nazi group this week hanging up a banner to denounce anti-fascism close to where she was making a public appearance. A few days later, the authorities announced they would assign Segre two police officers.
As per Segre’s request, no political banner was used in the event on Monday night. However, several representatives of local and national authorities attended the rally, including Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala, La Repubblica reported.
Read more: The Jerusalem Post