online-meeting, 18.12.2020

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Report of the President, ** Ambra Laurenzi **

The interruption forced by the pandemic hits the IRK at a time of transition in which, with the passing of the presidency to the second generation, it is at the beginning of an important phase which - as we know - confronts us with the need to set new goals and also to find new methods, at the same time.

Hanna is right when she writes to me that we have to find instruments and new forms of addressing in order to reach the new generations. This pandemic may have taught us something, and some of the tools we have just learned to use will continue to be useful in the future. I am thinking of the possibility of virtual meetings like this one we are attending today. We should not limit ourselves to the annual regular meetings, but also use this digital tool to create a "live platform" for us, where a potentially larger audience can join in and also guest speakers on certain topics related to the deportation and to actively speak to the Ravensbrück camp. These meetings could even be easily recorded and then freely used in schools or elsewhere, as is already the case.

I am thinking of a series of events in which books are presented, current topics in connection with historical memory are discussed and in-depth investigations are carried out on important points in the history of the deportations: no simple commemorative ceremonies, but opportunities for reflection and discussion that relate to different and also younger audiences than those who usually take part in our celebrations.

The digital tools offer enormous potential here. I ask the director of the memorial, Andrea, if you could imagine an online course on the history of the Ravensbrück camp, which would run in several parts of around 20 minutes each. And all of this using the tools of a technology that has just become more familiar to us due to the pandemic.

I would now like to elaborate on the goals that we should set for the ** future of the IRK **: Our task over the years has been to support the survivors and make their voices heard, but certainly not to be contemporary witnesses ourselves.

That is why I believe today that we must not limit ourselves to commemorating them and paying tribute to them, but that we must always place them at the center of our actions, in order to show their sufferings and sacrifices as a warning so that their experiences do not repeat themselves.

We know that our mothers were connected by a common history which made them "sisters" and which for many years was a guarantee of mutual understanding and working together, even if there may have been internal conflicts. But I believe that they have never lost sight of the main goal: not to forget what they have experienced and to preserve the place of their suffering.

For them, history and memory were linked because they were both protagonists and narrators. Only they could really know what the deportation, the camps, the terror, the hunger, the pain, the cold, the hardship meant. We can imagine it, but we cannot "know" it. The only real voices of survivors on the committee today are those of Stella, Ib, Barbara, and Evgenija.

To achieve this goal, we need to understand clearly that the gap between history and memory is widening over time. We must therefore set a few fixed points. I ask questions that I think we can all answer. How many countries did the women of Ravensbrück come from? We know there are about 40.

What were their offenses? They were political opponents of the Nazis, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, Sinti and Romnija, so-called anti-socials (including lesbians), prostitutes and criminals. What was their fate? The gas chamber awaited those who were not useful to the Third Reich. Anyone who could be exploited had to go to forced labor.

How were they perceived? As inferior beings, with no rights and no will of their own, at full disposal for whatever. If we want to work for a future that respects the values and principles our mothers fought for and for which so many of their comrades died, we must never give these answers, which I believe we all agree on to forget.

Nor should we lose sight of the real cause of all this, Nazi fascism and the reasons for its creation. And we mustn't forget the accomplices. Not to seek some form of posthumous justice, but because, if we do not identify it, we run the risk of not recognizing what could be reproduced at any time.

I have emphasized on several occasions how much I condemn my country for the fact that it never had the courage to come to terms with fascism, which first led Italy into a war against the Spanish Republic and, for the first time in history, bombed a civilian population and entire cities and destroyed villages - example: Guernica - and then stood by Hitler's side during the Second World War, with all the known consequences: arrests, torture and deportations. But the list would be long, because I would also have to talk about the atrocities committed in Africa, starting with the use of gas.

Why am I telling you this? Because the generation contract must be based on knowledge of one's own history. And because, above all, on this in turn the democratic control of a country's politics is based. I am deeply concerned about what we have seen in recent years: incidents of discrimination on a variety of grounds that cannot be accepted.

Our task must therefore be, the future conveying of the story of the deportation of our mothers, to point the finger at every action, every thought or every attitude that discriminates against a person, be it on the basis of gender, nationality, religion, the sexual orientation, political views or any other reason.

For these reasons our mothers were deported by the Nazi fascists. So if we really want the committee to have a future and a purpose, the main goal of our engagement is to talk about the shared memory. We know, however, that history and memory can sometimes diverge when subsequent events conflict. We know that memory forms the identity of a population. But we also know that there can be conflicts with other memories.

Therefore our task is a difficult but necessary one. So I wonder, and I ask you guys, can we find a synthesis to achieve a common memory? Can we find it in those values trampled underfoot in a war that ended in May 1945? Can we find a common language? Finally, can we use the memory of the camps as a starting point? We're a committee of about 30 people, but we represent 130,000 people.

In other words, we represent everyone, the Polish, the Russian, the French, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Belgians, the Austrians, the Dutch, the Germans, the Spanish, the Czechoslovak, the Hungarians, the Slovenian, the Italian and the Italians all the others. That is what must unite us today, for they were united; they understood each other, even in different languages; they helped each other while risking beatings and humiliations; like the Russian women, they looked after the children of the deceased women; they found a way, like the Polish women, to teach the youngest their own language so that they do not forget it; they did it to encourage their comrades to write an operetta, like Germaine Tillion; like Rosalia Poropat, they wrote down the names and addresses of those close to them, because perhaps one day they should notify the families; and in the Siemens block they tried to take over the work of those who did not manage the required workload in order not to be exposed. The list is very long - you know it as well as I do - and it's a whole choral painting of humanity and moral values. This is the lesson they left us and we must not give it away. I know we won't find the synthesis today, but I plead with you to work on it together.