The president of Lazio football club has promised a new anti-Semitism campaign after fans plastered Rome’s stadium with stickers of Anne Frank wearing city rivals Roma’s team shirt.
Claudio Lotito visited the capital’s main synagogue to disassociate the club from the hardcore fans who plastered the stickers around the Stadio Olimpico during Sunday’s Serie A game against Cagliari.
Mr Lotito said the club would intensify efforts to combat racism and anti-Semitism and announced Lazio would organise an annual trip to Auschwitz concentration camp with 200 young fans to “educate them not to forget”.
The images of Anne Frank, the young diarist who died in the Holocaust, was the latest in a long line of racist and anti-Semitic incidents involving Lazio supporters, including a banner in the city derby nearly 20 years ago aimed at Roma supporters that read “Auschwitz Is Your Homeland; The Ovens Are Your Homes”.
The head of the European Parliament also strongly denounced the fans who used Anne Frank’s image, saying anti-Semitism has no place in Europe.
Antonio Tajani, himself Italian, told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that “using the image of Anne Frank as an insult against others is a very grave matter”.
He said the EU must remain a place of religious tolerance where Europe’s Jewish communities feel welcome, and anti-Semitism must be confined to the past.
“The Jewish communities are part of our European Union. I am proud to have fellow citizens belonging to the Jewish faith, and I think that anti-Semitism must remain only a horrible experience of our past, a horrible experience of the century that has ended,” he said.
Former Italian premier Matteo Renzi said: “The anti-Semitic squalor that prompted some Lazio fans to make fun of even Anne Frank’s memory is a shameful gesture.
“Obviously we’re talking about a small minority but not shedding light on this news would be a mistake. Because when things like this happen it’s important that children know and learn how to deal with a complete lack of dignity.”
The northern end of the stadium where Lazio’s “ultra” fans usually sit was closed on Sunday for the match with Cagliari, due to racist chanting during a match against Sassuolo earlier this month.
As a result, Lazio decided to open the southern end and let the ultras in where Roma’s hardcore fans sit for their home matches in the stadium the sides share.
With a long stadium ban likely and police launching a criminal inquiry, Lazio’s ultra group, the “Irriducibili” (diehards), expressed surprise at the widespread outrage.
“There are other cases that we feel should lead the newscasts and fill newspaper pages,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.