by Ben Cohen
A small town in northern Italy was in uproar on Monday after Nazi swastikas were discovered at the entrance to the home occupied by a Jewish family deported during the Holocaust — the second antisemitic incident in the same locality in less than a fortnight.
“This was a despicable act, all the more ignoble because whoever did this understands the significance of that house,” Pietro Valent — the mayor of the town of San Daniele del Friuli, in the northeastern Udine province of Italy — told reporters after the swastika was discovered on Friday.
The Nazi symbol defaced the house owned by the Jewish Szörény family, who lived there prior to their deportation to the Auschwitz extermination camp in 1944. Three members of the family — sisters Arianna and Edith and brother Alessandro — survived the Nazi genocide.
Following the war, Arianna Szörény became well-known in Italy through her willingness to speak out about her ordeal as a Jewish child in Nazi captivity.
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Shortly after the swastikas were found, locals covered them with red love heart symbols in a gesture of solidarity with the family.
On Saturday afternoon, dozens of people attended a demonstration outside the Szörény house that was originally called to protest an earlier antisemitic incident in the town. On Jan. 30, four councillors in San Daniele del Friuli received the same anonymous threat that read, “After 75 years, a Jew is still a Jew” — a reference to this year’s 75th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
Both of the offenses in the town are now under investigation by the Italian DIGOS law enforcement agency.
DIGOS is also looking into a handful of similar antisemitic acts reported in northern Italy since International Holocaust Memorial Day was marked on Jan. 27 — among them stickers bearing the Nazi slogan “Sieg Heil” plastered outside the apartment of a veteran of the Italian partisans and the German words “Juden Hier” (“Jews Here”) daubed on the home of a Jewish family.
The rash of incidents came as a leading Italian think tank warned of a “resurgence” of antisemitism in the country in its annual report.
The “Italy 2020 Report” — compiled by the Rome-based Eurispes research institute — revealed an alarming rise in antisemitic beliefs among Italians.
Asked about the Nazi Holocaust, nearly 16 percent of respondents declared that it was a myth — compared with just 2.7 percent of respondents to the same question in the 2004 report.
In addition, a further 16 percent of respondents in the 2020 report said that the agreed number of six million Holocaust victims had been “exaggerated.”
The Eurispes report also highlighted the clear division in Italian society over the threat presented by antisemitism.
“For less than half of those sampled — 47.5 percent — the acts of antisemitism that have occurred in Italy are a sign of a dangerous resurgence of the phenomenon,” the report observed. “In contrast, for 37.2 percent they are bravado carried out for provocation, or as a joke.”
According to the European Jewish Congress, approximately 28,400 Jews presently live in Italy. The Jewish community is concentrated mainly in Rome and Milan, with smaller presences in Turin, Florence, Livorno and Venice.