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Articles by: Francesco maria Talò

  • Il giorno della Memoria a New York: La storia nelle strade


    Il 27 gennaio il mondo ricorda. Il 27 gennaio 1945 il mondo fu obbligato ad aprire gli occhi di fronte all’orrore supremo del campo di Auschwitz liberato. Dopo 64 anni non dobbiamo dimenticare. L’Italia e’ stata tra i primissimi paesi a dedicare il 27 gennaio al dovere della memoria dell’olocausto. La giornata della memoria e’ poi diventata una commemorazione riconosciuta da tutta l’Unione Europea ed in seguito l’intera comunita’ internazionale ha deciso che ogni anno in questa data occorre uno sforzo particolare per evitare che il passato passi dalla nostra mente e dai nostri cuori. Sta scomparendo la generazione delle vittime e dei carnefici ed e’ ancora piu’ importante fermarsi e pensare, ricordare quindi conoscere. Occorre rendere omaggio ed allo stesso tempo imparare, perche’ c’e’ un’ignoranza che spesso confina con la mistificazione e la malafede. Allora si rischia di ripetere gli errori, di ricadere negli abissi della disumanita’ di cui un uomo puo’ essere capace.

     

    A New York, la citta’ piu’ italiana fuori dell’Italia e la piu’ ebraica fuori di Israele, il cuore della comunita’ internazionale, con la sede dell’ONU, queste riflessioni s’impongono in modo ancora piu’ forte. Per questo a pochi mesi dal mio arrivo, lo scorso anno, ho deciso con alcune istituzioni italiane di attribuire un carattere particolare alle commemorazioni promosse dal nostro paese a New York. Anche quest’anno ripeteremo un’esperienza, che vogliamo condividere con la citta’. Un contributo di riflessione in una vita convulsa, un ulteriore segno dell’Italia in una citta’ nei confronti della quale vogliamo sempre di piu’ aprirci, coinvolgendoci e coinvolgendo nelle nostre iniziative. Ecco il senso della lettura dei nomi delle vittime italiane dell’olocausto, che verra’ effettuata sul marciapiede davanti al Consolato Generale a Park Avenue martedi’ 27 gennaio. Per circa sette ore a partire dalle 9 una staffetta di personalita’ e di anonimi cittadini italiani, americani, del mondo, leggera’ nomi di persone che vivevano come noi e la cui esistenza e’ stata troncata da altri uomini, come noi. Questo non deve piu’ ripetersi.
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    Il suono dei loro nomi si diffondera’ nell’aria gelida di New York. Vogliamo che i passanti frettolosi ed infreddoliti, gli automobilisti, gli indifferenti, s’interroghino su questi nomi che riecheggiano nel cielo di New York. L’anno scorso in centinaia hanno aderito al nostro appello: dal Presidente dell’Assemblea Generale dell’ONU al Console Generale d’Israele, dal Nunzio che rappresenta la Santa Sede all’ONU al Rabbino Arthur Schneier e poi i ragazzi della scuola della Park East Synagogue e quelli della Scuola d’Italia (che e’ sempre piu’ partecipe delle nostre attivita’), il Rappresentante Permanente d’Italia all’ONU, dirigenti delle associazioni italiane ed italo-americane, esponenti del mondo ebraico e di quello culturale, giovani e anziani, rappresentanti della polizia di New York e giornalisti. Uno dopo l’altro a leggere i nomi di chi e’ stato annientato perche’ qualcuno aveva deciso che era diverso.
     
    L’Italia non dimentica. Orgogliosi di non dimenticare, proviamo vergogna per quanto e’ successo anche nel nostro paese. Anche quest’anno saremo forse gli unici, sia tra gli stranieri che tra gli americani, ad organizzare una manifestazione cosi’ particolare perche’ si svolgera’ all’aperto in una strada della citta’, un modo per sentirci comunita’ nella piu’ vasta comunita’ newyorkese.
     
    Il nostro impegno e’ stato possibile perche’ tra i tanti centri di cultura ebraica a New York ne esiste uno dedicato a Primo Levi, l’autore che a tanti di noi ha spiegato la realta’ dei campi di sterminio. Il Centro Primo Levi testimonia in questa grande citta’ la grandezza di un gruppo piccolo di dimensioni ma di enorme importanza culturale: l’ebraismo italiano.
     
    Il Consolato Generale e il Centro Primo Levi non solo organizzano la lettura dei nomi il 27 gennaio, ma promuovono anche una serie di incontri, altri momenti riflessione che si articolano per quasi una settimana a partire dal 26 gennaio, insieme ad istituzioni vicine alla cultura italiana che si sono coordinate offrendo un calendario comune di iniziative: dallo stesso Centro Primo Levi all’Istituto Italiano di Cultura, dalla Casa Zerilli Marimo’ alla NYU all’Italian Academy alla Columbia University e al Centro Calandra della CUNY. Insieme offriamo alla citta’ un ventaglio di proposte per la giornata della memoria che credo non abbia uguali. Per questo e’ importante avere con noi i-italy, che trova una ragione d’essere nella capacita’ di fare sistema e dimostrare che a New York possiamo dare vita ad un’italianità diversa dai peggiori luoghi comuni.
     

    Il giorno 27 Gennaio 2009, dalle ore 9 alle ore 16, si tiene di  fronte al Consolato Generale d'Italia a New York (690 Park Avenue, alla 68esima strada) la lettura dei nomi degli ebrei deportati dall'Italia e dai territori italiani.  

  • Op-Eds

    Taking History to the Street


     On January 27 the world remembers. On January 27, 1945 the world was forced to open its eyes and face the supreme horror of the liberated Auschwitz concentration camp. After 64 years we must not forget. Italy was among the first countries to dedicate January 27 to the duty of remembering the Holocaust. The day of remembrance then became a commemoration recognized by the European Union and as a result, the entire international community decided that every year on this date there should be a concerted effort to prevent the past from slipping away in our hearts and minds. The generation of victims and executioners is passing away and it is now even more important to stop and think, to remember and understand. We must continue to pay tribute and learn because ignorance often borders on distortion and bad faith. We then risk repeating the mistakes of the past and falling into the abyss of inhumanity of which man is capable.

     
    New York is the most Italian city outside of Italy and it is the most Jewish city outside of Israel. With the U.N.’s headquarters located here, New York is also at the heart of the international community, which makes these observations even more significant. For this reason, just a few months after my arrival last year, I decided, along with other Italian institutions, to do something special to commemorate this day. This year we will repeat the event. It is an experience that we want to share with the entire city. We hope to provide an opportunity for reflection in the city’s frenetic daily life, as well as an opportunity for us to be more inclusive and the city to be more involved in our initiatives. In this way, we will read the names of the Italian victims of the Holocaust on the sidewalk in front of the Consulate General on Park Avenue on Tuesday, January 27. Beginning at 9:00 a.m. for about seven hours there will be a relay of personalities and anonymous Italian, American, and world citizens who will read the names of people who lived like us and whose existence was cut short by other men like us.
     
    This should never happen again. The sounds of their names will be carried into the cold New York air. We want hurried and cold passersby, motorists, and the indifferent to ask themselves about these names that echo in the New York sky. Last year, hundreds joined our call including the President of the U.N.’s General Assembly, the Consul General of Israel, the Nuncio representing the Holy See to the U.N., Rabbi Arthur Schneier, school children from Park East Synagogue and the School of Italy (which is increasingly participating in our activities), the Permanent Representative of Italy to the U.N., leaders of Italian and Italian-American organizations, representatives from the Jewish community, members of the N.Y. Police Department, and journalists. One after the other they read the names of those who were perished because someone had decided that they were different.
     
    Italy does not forget. Although we are proud not to forget, we still feel shame that this occurred in our country. Perhaps again this year we will be the only foreign or American institution to organize an event so singular that it takes place on a city street as a way to experience community in the vast city of New York.
     
    The realization of our goal was made possible by the Centro Primo Levi, the organization for Jewish culture in New York that is dedicated to Primo Levi, the author who explained the brutal reality of the concentration camps to many of us. The existence of the Centro Primo Levi in this big city attests to the greatness of a group that is small in size but of enormous cultural importance: Italian Jews. The Consulate General and the Centro Primo Levi have not only organized the reading of the names on January 27, but are also presenting a series of events and other opportunities for reflection which will take place over a week beginning on January 26. Other Italian culture institutions are also participating and have provided a coordinated calendar of events: the Italian Cultural Institute, NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Italian Academy at Columbia University, as well as CUNY’s John D. Calandra Institute. Together we offer the city an unparalleled variety of events to mark the day of remembrance. It is also important to have i-Italy join our mission, as it becomes a part of the system and shows that we can create a vibrant sense of italianità in New York that is completely different from the worst clichés.

     

    On January 27 there will be the reading of the names of the Jews deported from Italy and the Italian territories in front of the Consulate General of Italy (690 Park Avenue, at 68th Street, 9am-4pm)

  • Op-Eds

    The Institutions & the Piazza


    The concept of the piazza has always been deep-rooted in Italian culture—it reaches all the way back to the Ancient Roman forum and it still is a distinguishing characteristic of Italian cities and towns.

    Since my arrival in New York, it has been my job to make the Italian Consulate into the city’s Italian piazza. This piazza is not limited to the physical location of the Consulate; the virtual aspect of it is also important, since it is a far-reaching link among all Italians and Italian-Americans. It is even more vital to all those who are or would like to become interested in Italy.
     
    In this way, we unitetwo distinct aspects into one common purpose: that of seeing each other and being together and that of reaching those who are farthest away. We are trying to accomplish this dual purpose through a series of initiatives designed to bring the Consulate to all of the neighborhoods of New York City as well as to the states of New York and Connecticut.
    To do this, it is necessary to use technology. We not only want to optimize the official website of the Consulate, we also believe that it is important to link ourselves to other websites. Indeed we are entering a new dimension where there are many piazzas that intermingle with each other and multiply. We intend to participate in this communication revolution because it provides the tools that allow us to perform our traditional duties even better. Diplomacy and the consular functions, in fact, are by their own nature ways to unite people and foster the creation of meeting places. 
     
    In the spirit of the ‘net and of the new so-called “web 2.0” – the new interactive, multimedia, user-driven web of today – we have supported the creation and the development of i-Italy, a virtual piazza with which we have launched a series of common initiatives. One of these is the absorption and strengthening within i-Italy of another site that the Consulate used to manage, “Italy in New York.” We now have an entire section of i-Italy called“Italy in New York” that is available to all organizations and institutions who wish to promote their initiatives and events to a broader public. This information exchange is a vital aspect of the website. 
         But exchanging information also means exchanging ideas, demonstrating the importance of dialogue. This, too, is a characteristic of the piazza that is best expressed through the introduction of electronic “neighborhoods,” such as blogs and forums. We were very happy this past summer to collaborate with i-Italy in launching a new interactive blog, “Sistema Italia.”
          A system is also a network, and thus a kind of a piazza because it offers a vision of harmony and togetherness. This is how “Sistema Italia” was born; it is a place where people can dialogue and where members of the Italian community can present ideas and exchange opinions. 
     
         This is another expression of one of the piazza’s essential characteristics—it is the location of the marketplace, where merchandise is exchanged. And, taking this a step further, we can say that ideas are exchanged in the piazza, as well. If the exchange of merchandise for money is an equal exchange, the exchange of ideas, as someone suggested, is an exchange that enriches everyone. This is a win-win situation, for if I give an idea to you and you give one to me, we both have two ideas. This is our goal, after all: to share ideas and opinions.
           I believe that it is important for public institutions to participate in this kind of dialogue, even by means of technology. I can say that a great deal of my daily work consists of creating contacts and making connections—and I have dozens of meetings every day that allow me to unite people in this way.
     
      We don’t have many financial resources. Unfortunately, we don’t even have much in terms of human resources, but we put all of our energy into uniting others in such a way that a system of contacts is created from which everyone can benefit.
       The spirit of our work is making the Italian Consulate General of New York into an even larger piazza for all Italians, Italian-Americans, and all those who love Italy.
     
     

    Francesco Maria Talò is Consul General of Italy in NY