First, I would like to ask you why you chose the movie The Historic Ghetto of Venice...
I chose it when I met the movie’s director and producer, Regina Resnik. She belongs to a generation that actually lived the facts that we are commemorating today. For us those are memories, for her they are part of her personal experience.
Having been married to a Jewish woman, I had the chance to hear and meet people who witnessed that period in a painfully intimate way. One of them is my former mother-in-law. After her parents died at Auschwitz, she moved to Great Britain and then to America. Regina’s story is pretty much the same. She looks at the question of Semitism and anti-Semitism just like my family does, from the same point of view. So I thought it would have been appropriate to present her documentary for this occasion. This is also because this year I want to give more room to what I call the “real” memory, which is what the witnesses of the facts handed down to us. Last year Stella Levi attended our event. Her words were more significant than any of our reflections and comments could have ever been.
After the projection, there will be a reading of extracts from “The Truce” by Primo Levi. What brought you to choose this particular author?
Every year, in occasion of Remembrance Day, we read one of Levi’s books. With his writing Levi accompanies the reader through a parallel universe, showing them at once in the simplest and most realistic way, the inhumanity he experienced and the emotions he felt once he was released. We consider these readings the most imminent way to reach the greater public’s heart and to faithfully commemorate the innocent people who died, both in the past and the present.
What is your personal way of preserving this historical memory?
I travel; I try to visit as many places as possible so I can actually realize what happened. When I moved to Poland for work, I immediately went to Auschwitz. I think it is mandatory for all of us born in the 20th century. We must understand, retain in our minds what it is that happened. Learning from the past is the only path to building a better future. Watching movies, documentaries, reading books is not enough. We must go there. And feel, smell, touch the scenarios of the tragedy.
The movie you are presenting is set in the Ghetto of Venice. How important is the preservation of the urban architecture of that time for the divulgation of historic memory?
It is fundamental. I went to the Ghetto of Prague and I thought it was amazing. It is a conjunction of history, life, architecture and memory. You feel part of it; it becomes a part of your identity. Walking in a Ghetto is like walking in the life of the people that lived there. This is why keeping them “alive” and accessible is so important: it is a key way of allowing significant life experiences and, thus, preserving memory.
What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of the victims of the concentration camps?
I remember my visit to the cemetery in Prague. You might know that Jewish people do not pay homage to the dead by putting flowers on their tombs. They put stones. Well, that day I saw the highest piles of stones I had ever seen. And I knew that people of all religions, races and cultures had put them there. It was one of the most significant examples of fraternity and solidarity I had ever witnessed.
How will you contribute to avoid similar tragedies in the future?
One day I will bring my kids to Auschwitz. They could not go there with their grandma: it would have been too hard for her. That place affected their personal story: going there with them is part of my duties as a father.
On January 26 (6:00 pm),the institute will host the event “Traces of Memory”, a screening of the documentary “The Historic Ghetto of Venice” by Regina Resnik, followed by readings from Primo Levi’s “The Truce” by Maria Tucci. (For more info click here)