Italian President Sergio Mattarella has nominated Holocaust survivor Sami Modiano to the honour of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
On the occasion his 90th birthday, President President Mattarella congratulated Modiano and paid tribute to him.
Born and raised on the island of Rhodes, Sami Modiano was deported together with his father Jacob and his sister Lucia to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in 1944, of which he was the only survivor, and only one of 25 survivors of the entire Rhodes Jewish community.
Only in 2005, sixty years after liberation, Modiano returned to Auschwitz for the first time. Since then, and encouraged by his friend Piero Terracina (who sadly passed away on 8 December 2019), he has dedicated himself to educating others with his testimony. Among other things, he gives talks to children in Italian middle and high schools, and in 2012 he led the Italian national football team on a visit to Auschwitz.
In 2013 he published his memoir, “For this I lived”, in which he describes the hell of Auschwitz and writes about the meaning of starting to live again having escaped the horrors of the extermination camp. On the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day Memorial Day in 2018, the documentary film “Everything before these eyes”, telling his life story was broadcast on Italian TV.
“I thank the President very much for the nomination, so important and unexpected. It has moved me deeply. However this recognition is not for me. This recognition is for those who no longer exist, for those who have not survived, for those who have not had the opportunity to tell their story, “said Modiano in an exclusive interview to Mosaico, the magazine of the Jewish community of Milan. “On the other hand, with or without the nomination, I continue to remain the same: a grandfather: Grandpa Sami. ”
The Order of Merit of the Italian Republic is Italy’s highest ranking honour. It is awarded for “merit acquired by the nation” in the fields of literature, the arts, economy, public service, and social, philanthropic and humanitarian activities and for long and conspicuous service in civilian and military careers.