Milan Marks Holocaust Memorial Day on Platform 21
This morning, the inauguration of the Shoah memorial on railway station's notorious Platform 21 in Milan marked the anniversary of the day in 1945 when the Red Army arrived at the gates of Auschwitz death-camp.
The city of Milan was at the center of the Shoah in Italy, and its central railway station witnessed the deportation of hundreds of Jews between 1943-45, Platform 21 was part of an underground railway network that mirrored overground passenger lines and was used to ship goods through Milan's Central Station, which was in those days the clearing house for half of Italy's rail freight. But in World War Two, the platform was put to more sinister use with at least 850 Jews loaded onto the wagons in secret going through the belly of Milan's main station before being shipped off to Germany and Poland. Most of them never came back. On the 30th of January 1944, 600 deportees, among them 40 children of all ages, were taken in the cold winter morning to the station until they filled a complete train. After seven terrible days on the train they arrived at their unknown destination: Auschwitz Birkenau. It was the morning of February the 6th and in a few hours 500 of them were killed with gas and burned in the Krematoria.
For nine years, a foundation and a pair of Milanese architects have been working to transform the grim, cavernous depot —all but abandoned after the war — into the Memorial of the Shoah.
The project is finally completed and national and local authorities today gathered at platform 21 to attend a ceremony marking International Holcaust Remembrance Day.
Among them, Silvio Berlusconi who sparked outrage when stating that Mussolini did well: "The racial laws were his worst mistake, but Mussolini, in many other respects, did well," he told reporters on his arrival at the Shoah memorial in Milan and later fell asleep during the ceremony.
The fascist regime of Benito Mussolini imitated Germany's Nazis to introduce anti-Jewish laws in 1938. But deportations started only after September 1943, coinciding with the German occupation of northern Italy. Of the estimated 7,800 Jews deported from Italy, just over 10 percent survived. A total of six millions European Jews and millions of others, including Poles, Russians, homosexuals and Gypsies were deported and killed at Nazi concentration camps.