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Honouring Anne Frank’s memory. Liliana Segre: “I don’t know if she would still have been hopeful today”

Liliana Segre: “Anne Frank's message remained positive until the very last moment. Do we want to ruin it? Do we want to destroy it not only with T-shirts, but by showing that after so many years her message was useless, that it wasn't received? Unfortunately, that' s the case... Sooner or later we are all bound to die, executioners and yet surviving victims alike. Perhaps a sentence will still remain in a history book, and subsequently not even that. The message of Anne Frank? I don't know if today she would still have been hopeful...”

Sad words. Spoken in a faltering voice; loaded with sadness over the way in which the past is easily erased from memory in Italy and past mistakes tend to be repeated. Offensive t-shirts, swastikas, vandalism, hate speeches. On the anniversary of the birth date of Anne Frank, June 12 1929, Senator Liliana Segre  reiterates her message: “I attended exhibitions on Anne Frank. How many memories, how many speeches. I am a survivor, a witness, I am what she would have been like today, if her life had been spared…”.

Who is Anne Frank for you?

Anne Frank died before becoming the woman she would have been. She never got to be a bride, a mother, and she couldn’t become a grandmother. She remained the girl from the secret shelter, in everyone’s hearts.

How is it possible to forget Anne Frank? How can football fans in stadiums mock Anne Frank on their t-shirts? Is it possible to express this kind of blasphemy? It’s ignorance, as well as insensitivity.

It means not having read and studied history. Wearing those t-shirts means killing Anne Frank a second time, as many times as the number of people wearing them.

What has Anne Frank been to you?

We share a similar past and I know what happened in the unwritten pages of Anne Frank’s diary. That’s the difference between me and those who read her diary. I know what happens next. I have therefore made reflections that are impossible for others. A young girl at the beginning of womanhood who spent the last two years of her life in the secrecy of an apartment. The love for her father always moves me as I remember my own. People sympathize, but I know the sequel. On me it had a completely different impact.

What impact did it have?

I’ve been to a place similar to hers. So of course today I can picture her ordeal in there, with her illness, with the terror of losing her sister. The last, wonderful affection of the family that was left. 

It must have been a constant stream of terror, for death was one step away, every second, every moment could bring death.

Italy is a country where swastikas are again brandished in stadiums and where the “stumbling stones” placed into pavements in remembrance of the victims of the Shoah, are periodically desecrated. What message would Anna Frank send out today?

Anne Frank’s message remained positive until the very last moment. Do we want to ruin it? Do we want to destroy it not only with T-shirts, but by showing that after so many years her message was useless, that it wasn’t received? Unfortunately, that’ s the case.

Whenever a stumbling stone is defaced it’s as if that person died a second time only for being born. Even Anne Frank died with the only fault of having been born.

And since history is being erased from history books, only its traces will remain. Then everyone will die. We will all have died, executioners and yet surviving victims alike. Perhaps a sentence will remain in a history book and subsequently not even that. The message of Anne Frank? I don’t know whether she would still have been hopeful.

What can be done? What is your request to youths who have a future ahead of them?

When I assumed office as Senator I immediately drew up a bill to counter hate speech. I deeply believe in this bill. I hope it passes, in order to take action against escalating words of hatred, expressed with a frightening recurrence. These are facts that I have personally experienced. Then there is a path to be pursued, which is precisely that of studying history. Rather than being on their mobile phones or immersed in the nonsense circulating on TV and throughout the web, I ask young people to make a choice, a choice for every day and minute of their life.

It’s the choice to follow one’s conscience. Only then will there be a safe path to tread on, for no one else will decide for you.

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