Italian town says no to Holocaust memorial calling it “divisive”

The municipal council of the Italian town of Schio, with a population of 40,000, has rejected a proposal to honour its citizens who perished in the death camps with Stolpersteine.

Stolpersteine, or stumbling stones, are memorial engraved brass stones placed in front of Holocaust victims’ former residences.

The art project was created in 1992 by German artist Gunter Demnig. Each stone features the name, year of birth, date of arrest and fate of the person honoured. There are currently about 70,000 stones in 21 countries in Europe.

Alberto Bertoldo, a member of the centre-right governing coalition, said that an initiative of this kind would have risked “generating new hatred and division. Let the victims rest in peace,” he said as reported by the Italian daily La Repubblica.

The motion to install 14 stones was presented by an opposition council member from the centre-left Democratic Party.

The rejection sparked outrage among many representatives of the local and national authorities, as well as in the Italian Jewish community.

“The fact that ‘stumbling blocks’ have been considered a provocation by the municipal council of Schio represents a shameful legitimisation of the attempt of oblivion on the crimes of the regime,” the president of the Italian Union of Jewish Communities Noemi Di Segni said in a statement.

She added that a similar decision by a public institution is “even worse than acts by individuals because with this decision Holocaust denial becomes an official act.”
The mayor of Schio Valter Orsi defended the rejection. “We do not support political exploitation. A plaque honouring camps’ victims already exists in our city,” he said.

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