MILAN. “Anger”. Franco Schoenheit answered this way when his son Gadi asked him how he managed to survive the Buchenwald camp. The father was only 17 at the time and wondered every day why he should die. Not because of an ideal, not fighting, but simply because he was born, because he went to the synagogue on Saturdays instead of Mass on Sundays. Anger, therefore, had helped him not to let go.
“My father was arrested in Ferrara in February 1944 and then left for Buchenwald in August of the same year, where he remained until April 1945, when the camp was liberated by the Americans – recalls Gadi Schoenheit, councilor for Ucei Culture (Union of Italian Jewish Communities) – He did not tell about his terrible experience until the 1980s and there were two reasons for this silence. The first was that no one could really understand what it meant to live in a concentration camp. The second was that, even years later, when friends told friends that they had been to Buchenwald, someone might reply that they too had suffered from the bombing. The experience of war is always horrible, but they were not experiences that could be compared. So, he decided not to say anything ».
In 1986 Alexander Stiller was writing the book One in a thousand and among the testimonies collected there was also that of Franco Schoenheit. After the publication came the invitations to the schools. “When the boys asked him what he felt on the day of the Liberation, he replied that he finally knew what it meant to be a free man – adds Gadi Schoenheit – Then he added that even the Nazis had become free because you cannot say that you are really free even if your neighbor is not. It was not a subjective question for him, it was objective. This is my father’s great lesson: do not look the other way in front of those who ask for help today to become free ».
According to the UCEI councilor for culture, hope is now all in the new generations, who have had the opportunity to really study history: “My school program in the 1960s ended with the First World War – he continues – So many things we can explain them like this: entire generations have not really learned what had happened. It is an example when two years ago a gentleman on social media had commented on the death of my father with the message “Finally” ».
For Gadi Schoenheit the truth is that: «Italy is a country that has never really come to terms with its history. When I think about this aspect, this anecdote always comes to mind. Four years after returning from the camp, my father needed a passport to go to England, and thanks to the help of the Archbishop of Ferrara, with whom he had become a friend, he went to the police station to collect it. He was confronted, as head of the Passport Office, by the same man who had previously been head of the Political Bureau and who had deported him. He gave him his passport and just said “Have a nice trip”. ‘
“For years we have pretended not to remember – specifies Schoenheit -. We said that the bad guys were the Germans and the Italians were just good people. But is not so. Only three years ago we felt the need to appoint Liliana Segre, a survivor of an extermination camp, a senator for life: 75 years after the Liberation. This is not because Mattarella’s predecessors were worse, simply because we didn’t think about it. Today, however, more than ever we must remember what it was, to avoid it happening as in Novara, where a group of No Vax felt authorized to wear a bib that simulated the uniforms of the fields. They compared not wanting to receive a vaccine to the deprivation of liberty that occurred in the Nazi concentration camps. All this is simply unacceptable ”. For this reason, the “Run for Mem” Memory Marathon this year was organized in the Piedmontese town, precisely to remember that: «There is a limit to everything», concludes Schoenheit.