The importance of “being a lighted and living candle of memory”

Liliana Segre and her testimony

On 27 January 1945 the soldiers of the Red Army liberated the largest concentration and Nazi extermination camp in Auschwitz. The American and British forces, however, in April of the same year released Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen respectively. But everywhere, the spectacle in the eyes of the liberator was brutally identical and indescribably chilling. Already in 1943 the Nazis had proceeded to dismantle other extermination camps (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka) in an attempt to hide evidence of their abomination from the world. But the world, at the end of the war, has seen where cruelty and madness can come. The UN chose precisely on 27 January as a “Day of Remembrance” to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, but also in honor of those who protected the persecuted and those who survived. Among the latter there is Liliana Segre, 88, senator for life, survivor and witness of the Auschwitz camp, which – every time she offers her precious testimony – always starts with “I remember …”. She was still a child when she was deported and tattooed on her arm with n. 75190: “At the age of thirteen I was alone with an enemy. But I found strength inside me, one step in front of the other, without giving up, and my mind was free like a butterfly flying over the fence. It was so incredible what I had to say that for forty-five years I was silent. Then I began to think about it and when I became a grandmother it was as if I had become for myself too, of the girl I was: alone, desperate, miserable, to whom I felt the need to tell everything, making the pain of memories an instrument of strong ethical value.
I had chosen to live, to not be there, to estrange myself. My body was beaten and tortured, it was hungry, it had lost weight, it was afraid. But my spirit no. My mind no. Three times I passed the selection in the year I spent at Auschwitz. These were selections announced, of which we knew the results. Here the Kapos closed us inside the barracks and then in groups they took us to the shower room, so dear to our murderers, and there all naked, in single file, we had to cross the hall and go through a compulsory exit, where a small court of three people looked at us, like the cows at the market, in front, behind, in the mouth, if we still had teeth, if we were able to work. I remember how I went through that room: my heart was beating like crazy and I said to myself: “I do not want to die, I do not want to die …”. I hope that when none of our voices stand up and say “I remember” there is someone who knows how to collect this message of life and make sure that six million people have not died unnecessarily. If sometimes someone will be lighted and alive candle of memory, the hope of good and peace will be stronger than the fanaticism and hatred of our murderers >>.