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Auschwitz is a name that from A to Z contains the alphabet of horror: right in the heart of Europe, it has become the place of the annihilation of the "different", to be identified not only with Jews but also with dissidents, opponents, the disabled, the mentally ill, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Roma, the Sinti, the Slavs. Today, 74 years after the liberation of that concentration camp, we are celebrating the 19th Day of the Memory of the Holocaust (the "catastrophe", in Hebrew) established by law 211 of 20 July 2000.

How was it possible for such barbarism to take place in civilised 20th century Europe? There are different categories of actors involved, from the "creators" and the "planners" to the "executors" and the "executioners". And finally, the "spectators". Perhaps it is necessary today to activate a broader reflection on this last category. They are those who, as ordinary men, have renounced to exercise individual responsibility. They are the so-called "sons of Eichmann" who, as Gunther Anders writes, "were unaware of everything because they didn't want to know anything; and they didn't want to know anything because they weren't allowed to know anything about it. In short, millions of passive mans-Eichmann". The value of the memory of the Shoah is then expressed, as recalled by Senator Liliana Segre, in the ability to "reject the temptation of indifference to the injustices and sufferings that surround us, to not anaesthetize consciences, to be more vigilant, more aware of the responsibility that each one has towards the others".

 

So what is the use of memory? To defend democracy. For the memory of the Holocaust not to be exhausted in the empty rhetoric of "never again", it must function as the "canary in the mine", according to the effective metaphor of Wlodeck Goldkorn. "It is said that once they took to the mines canaries, birds sensitive to gas, they warned the miners when the catastrophe was imminent. Well, for me memory means being a canary in the mine, giving the alarm when I hear the acrid smell of racism. It is up to us to watch over our fragile humanity, which is always exposed to the danger of the deadly virus of intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia and hatred.

Original in italian