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Italy names Holocaust survivor 'senator for life'

Italian Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre
Luca Bruno Associated Press
The prestigious title was conferred by the President of Italy ahead of the anniversary of 'racial laws'

President of Italy Sergio Mattarella has nominated Liliana Segre, an Italian Holocaust survivor who is tirelessly engaged in testimonies on the deportations and the war, 'senator for life'.

The senate is Italy's higher chamber of deputies and the title of 'senator for life' can only be conferred by the President of the Republic to people who have "made the homeland shine for their high merits in the social, scientific, artistic or literary fields".

Segre was deported to Auschwitz in January 1944 from Milan, and lost her father and grandparents at the concentration camp in Poland. She was one of the 25 Italian children who survived deportation and detention in the concentration camps, while 751 others died.

After her return to Italy in 1945, after the Russians liberated the camps marching east to crush the Nazi regime in Germany, Segre refrained from speaking about what happened for decades.

Segre said she felt what she experienced was too tragic to be recounted and feared people would not believe what she had been through.

However, about 40 years after her return to her hometown of Milan, Segre became fully dedicated to recounting her personal experience of the Holocaust in schools, public event and commemoration ceremonies.

Segre quickly became Italy's most renowned Holocaust survivor and a constant presence in the media every 27 of January, the day dedicated to remembering the Shoah in Italy. She spoke in schools, institutions, as well as at the "binario 21" (or Platform 21) from where local Jews were deported in the last years of the War.

Segre was informed of her nomination as "senator for life" with a phone call by President Sergio Mattarella, and Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni broke the news on Twitter quoting Italy's upcoming anniversary of the enforcement of "Racial laws".





 

"The life of Liliana Segre was a testimony of freedom. As a Senator, she will teach us about the value of memory. A precious decision 80 years after the enforcement of racial laws", Gentiloni wrote on Twitter.

Italy enforced racial laws, discriminating against the Jews, in 1938 three years after the Germans. In her testimonies, Segre often recalls the day when she was told she had to leave school by her parents.

"My father and grandfather kindly explained to me I had been expelled from primary school, that was the moment when I felt I had actually become the Jewish girl", she recalls.

Segre is now 88 years-old but is still in good shape, she still lives in Milan and has children and grandchildren. She issued a statement on her nomination shortly after the announcement was made.

"President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella called me this morning saying I'd be nominated senator for life. I thank you for this extremely prestigious acknowledgment of my work", she said.

"I was completely caught by surprise. I was never involved in politics and I am a common person, a grandmother with a life still full of interests and engagements. I'm sure the President is trying to honor, through my person, a lot of other people ahead of the 80th anniversary from the racial laws", Segre added.

Referring to her upcoming work at the Senate, Segre said she felt felt "humbled by the great burden of having to bring to the Senate of the Republic, despite all my personal limits, the voices of people who risk being lost and forgotten with time".

Segre said she wanted to give a voice to "thousands of Italians who were humiliated in 1938 by the homeland they loved because they belonged to the small Jewish minority. People who were expelled from schools, from their jobs, and from society at large which considered them second class citizens".

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