There is at least one Holocaust museum or center in 15 countries around the world and soon Italy will be added to the list. The Roman Jewish Diaspora is the second oldest in the world so the museum will serve as an educational vehicle for the Italian people and the world. Under the direction of Marcello Pezzetti and with support from the Roman Stati Generali, the new Holocaust museum will cover both the history of Jews in Italy and in the world.
The location of the museum is set to be at the center of the large and gracious Villa Torlonia, on the outskirts of Rome. This villa, complete with a vast garden, was first seized by Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in 1929 from the Torlonia family and then later abandoned. While under Mussolini’s ownership a pair of catacombs, that were once intact, had been discovered.
The burial ground for Jews tells an in-depth history of how Jews lived and died; the colorful frescoes that cover the interior are of the iconographic symbols of Jewish people, the menora and the circumcision knife to name a few. Unfortunately, because of falling rocks and unsafe conditions, the catacombs have since been closed to the public. When the Holocaust museum is unveiled within the next 10 years, the catacombs too will be opened to the public.
The Italian government, with the help of RAI-TV, is sponsoring a television segment that will be played repeatedly through June encouraging Italians to come forward with any relevant records or material for exhibition in the museum. The museum will highlight the positive and negative roles Italy played in the Holocaust and their involvement with the Jewish people; how some Italians helped by providing Jews with fake documents while others assisted the Nazis in their post-war escape to South America. The cost to build three sections of the museum and assemble the library, archives and vast video collection, will cost approximately $30 million. — Kendra Howard
Article – Touring Rome’s Jewish Ghetto
Informative Book – The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecution, Rescue, and Survival