Liliana Segre recalled the “absolute inhumanity” of the concentration camps and “death marches” organised by the Nazis in 1945, which she survived as a young girl “unlike many others.”
Saying she has a “duty to bear witness, as long as she lives” she said, "they were merely guilty of being born."
Speaking in Parliament, she remembered her “introduction” to Auschwitz on February 6, 1944. Seven days previously the thirteen-year-old, along with her father, had been put onto a train carriage departing platform 21 of Milan Central Station.
The passengers, she said, were “paralysed by a frightening silence” among themselves as they made their way north, destined for the “cradle of Europe’s most heinous evil.”
“As soon as I go off the train my father’s hand left mine. He was hastily marched to the gas chamber but I was spared. Due to my physique I had been regarded as fit for work.”
She was one of the few who survived Auschwitz but says she was “forever confounded by the nauseating terror that marked this fragile period of my childhood.”
The pensioner, fighting back tears, also spoke out against what she says is a “rising tide” of anti-Semitism in Europe, adding, “We must be aware of this and ensure action is taken to tackle it, including at the EU level.”
“I am a gypsy and the Nazi crimes against gypsies are, sadly, often forgotten. This is particularly dangerous as we have also seen recently a wave of attacks on Roma and gypsies” Zoni Weisz
She said she had recently been assigned two paramilitary carabinieri officers to accompany her in public, as well as being offered police protection at her Milan home.
This came after she began to receive a barrage of anti-Semitic threats on social media, following her support for the establishment of a parliamentary committee on combatting hate.
Speaking at the same event, Zoni Weisz, an 82-year-old Dutch citizen, told how, as a seven-year-old boy, he managed to escape from a train taking passengers to a Nazi death camp.
He said, “I was put on a similar train to Liliana but managed to get off at the last minute and jump on a normal passenger train. My parents were on the train which went to the concentration camp and I never saw them again.”
“I am a gypsy and the Nazi crimes against gypsies are, sadly, often forgotten. This is particularly dangerous as we have also seen recently a wave of attacks on Roma and gypsies.”
“It seems Europe is going backwards in time and that feelings of hatred and intolerance we thought were buried are re-emerging” Antonio López-Istúriz MEP
Meanwhile, Spanish EPP MEP Antonio López-Istúriz has asked the European Commission for measures to combat growing antisemitism.
He said, “Given the wave of antisemitic attacks that’s been taking place in the EU over the past few years, it seems Europe is going backwards in time and that feelings of hatred and intolerance we thought were buried are re-emerging.”
His sentiments were echoed by the S&D group leader Iratxe García Pérez who said, “The most horrendous crimes against humanity were committed in concentration camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.”
“We must never forget those victims, because they remind us that the foundations of Europe after World War II rely on the universality and inviolability of human rights. We owe them a lot. We now have the responsibility to ensure a society free of intolerance and discrimination, be it based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or any other ground.”
“Unfortunately we see that anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and the extreme right are again on the rise in Europe.”
“The most horrendous crimes against humanity were committed in concentration camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau” Iratxe García Pérez, S&D group leader
Further comment came from NATO deputy secretary general Mircea Geoană who said, “The Holocaust was an assault on all of humanity. It was about the destruction of the different and what makes us different, what makes us unique, is what makes us human.”
“After the War, the free nations of the world sought a new path - a path built on the upholding of universal values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, values such as the right to life, to freedom of religion, to freedom itself.”
He added, “NATO was created to uphold those values and to protect the peoples of Europe and North America from the tyranny that led to the Holocaust; we must always remember. We must always remain vigilant and we must always be prepared to act. For seventy-five years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism remains. This we cannot accept.”