ON THE SIDE OF THE RIGHTEOUS
I read a book on my outward journey to Krakow: “Until my star shines” (Liliana Segre with Daniela Palumbo). There is something I would like to share because subsequently I was faced with such current situations that I was forced to make connections between a past time that does not seem to have passed at all.
In the introduction of the book, edited by Ferruccio de Bortoli, a sentence is pronounced that struck me a lot, a sentence that emerges from the stories of Senator Liliana Segre: “How much intimate violence is hidden in small daily gestures of indifference”.
Back from my trip I was sure I would like to write my next article for this blog about what I experienced emotionally, both reading the book mentioned above and visiting the extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. I strongly felt the need to tell how much inhumanity and horror I perceived in those places and I would have tried to conclude with words that certainly resembled something like this: “let’s never forget what happened, let’s continue to tell what some human beings were capable of in the course of history; let’s do it to prevent such an atrocity from happening again.”
Then on 18 February the news reported an assault in front of a high school in Florence; two students are beaten up by six boys belonging to “Azione studentsca” (Italian student movement linked to the extreme right). The event saw various political exponents intervene and on 21 February the principal of a school in the same region (Annalisa Savino) wrote an open letter to all the students. I would like to quote a passage: “Fascism in Italy was not born with large gatherings of thousands of people. It was born on the edge of an ordinary sidewalk, with the victim of a beating for political reasons who was left to herself by indifferent passers-by. ‘I hate the indifferent’ – said a great Italian, Antonio Gramsci, whom the fascists locked up in a prison until his death, frightened like rabbits by the strength of his ideas”.
The Minister of Education and Merit Giuseppe Valditara intervened on these words, defining the letter as completely improper and declaring that it is not up to a principal to send messages of this type. Not satisfied, he also added that if this type of attitude had continued, he would have evaluated the need to resort to some measures.
The common thread between the book read and what happened in Florence a few days ago I think lies in the word “indifference”. I found it in the preface of the text and in the letter from the principal Annalisa Savino.
I don’t want to go into something that doesn’t belong to me professionally but I think I can have my say as a human being, or at least to propose a reflection on the matter.
In the terrible story told by Liliana Segre we talk about the “Righteous”. The term Righteous is taken from the Talmud passage which states “he who saves one life saves the whole world” and was applied for the first time in reference to those who saved Jews during Nazi persecution in Europe.
Are the “Righteous” perhaps those who have not remained indifferent, managing to maintain that affection that is needed to not turn away in the face of injustices?
Can the term anaffectivity be substituted for that of indifference?
This is a question that I leave to anyone who can and wants to answer me.
I also wonder why the government didn’t intervene in what happened in Florence? I know…I always have many, too many questions.
Personally, I don’t think the principal’s intervention is inappropriate. I think that a principal has an important responsibility towards all students and that it falls within her competence to condemn dangerous and violent attitudes. She took it upon herself to state something that someone would like to take action on.
In the final part of the book, Liliana Segre tells of her beloved Alfredo in these following lines: “Alfredo was twenty-four years old when he was taken prisoner by the Germans. He had suffered from hunger and cold. But he had always continued to refuse to join the Fascist Republic. For me this was important because if Alfredo had been a fascist I would never have been able to fall in love with him”.
Her beloved suffered from hunger and cold. Because despite everything, despite someone taking measures for this deployment, he remained human. He remained among the “Righteous”.
In 2020 Liliana Segre, invited to the European Parliament for the commemoration of Remembrance Day, says that some things happen because the political moment of a country can offer fertile ground in some circumstances; this also makes me think of very current events. (https://youtu.be/jFxjugBe69I)
He concluded his speech by telling of a little girl who, before being killed, drew a yellow butterfly flying over the barbed wires. The fantasy of a little girl who despite the horror she was experiencing was able to see the possibility of beauty, of freedom.
I will not close my article as I thought at the beginning, but with a message from Segre herself during her speech to the European Parliament; a message that somehow reminds me of the letter from the principal Annalisa Savino: “..to my ideal future grandchildren. May they be able, with their responsibility and their conscience, to always be that yellow butterfly that flies over the barbed wire.”