An 89-year-old Auschwitz survivor in Italy now needs 24-hour police protection after getting death threats for calling on the government to combat hate crime.
Liliana Segre, a life senator, urged the government in Rome to establish a committee to tackle the rise of racism, antisemitism, incitement to hatred and violence based on ethnic or religious lines, and the response proved its necessity.
A well-known liberal figure disliked by Italy’s powerful right-wing nationalist parties such as Matteo Salvini’s Forza Italia, Segre received a barrage of antisemitic messages after prompting a Senate vote, which passed despite Forza’s opposition.
Born in Milan in 1930, her father tried to escape persecution with her by fleeing to Switzerland in 1943, but they didn’t make it and ended up on a train to Auschwitz, where her father and grandfather died.
This week she revealed that she had been assigned constant police protection after getting 200 hate messages a day following the vote, during which she said she “felt like a Martian” in her own country.
“I appealed to the conscience of everyone and thought that a commission against hatred as a principle would be accepted by all,” she said.
Salvini and the far-right Brothers of Italy seized on discontent following a flood of refugees into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa since 2015. A surge in support at the ballot box put Salvini in charge of the Interior Ministry until recently.
Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, commented: “This is disgusting and shocking. That efforts to combat hate are met with threats of violence show just how much antisemitism continues to pollute our world today and how important education and awareness is in the fight against hate. A Holocaust survivor, of all people, should not have to face this sort of pernicious racism today.”