Dova Cahan: My impressions on Ferramonti

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SFC – My impressions on Ferramonti

This year, on January 27, 2016, at the annual commemoration of the “Holocaust Memorial Day”, I had the opportunity to present my book “An Ashkenazi between Romania and Eritrea” GDS Editions in several cities in Calabria.
My first presentation was the day of the opening events at the Internation Camp of Ferramonti di Tarsia, where for me it was already my second visit to the Camp in half a year.
In this day my commitment was to remember to the pubblic composed of local authorities and also of many students,the past mistakes and attrocities committed by the Nazi-Fasicst regime of Hitler and Mussolini to the Jewish people, which brought to their extermination and genocide.

These anti-Semitic events were not isolated events that were happening at that time only in Germany and Italy, but throughout Europe since the 30s and in particular since 1938, with the emanations of the “racial laws”. This was the starting point of hatred and racism, in a word “anti-Semitism”, towards a people driven away from their land of Israel, nearly 2000 years ago. The Jews all over Europe were persecuted and threatened for centuries, therefore they have been forced to endure countless migrations and displacements in search of new places to live quietly, practice their religion with its traditions and culture, in addition to their intellectual, social and professional occupations.

Between the years 1938 and 1945, unfortunately, the fierce anti-Semitic propaganda degenerated into captivity, deportations, extermination and genocide. The greatest genocide in human history, initially known as “Holocaust”, but today it is more properly known also by the name of “Shoah” whose meaning in the Hebrew language is “catastrophe” or “destruction”. The definition of the “Shoah” is much more suited to the one of “Holocaust”, which is a biblical term that recalls the sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem.

Europe of the past century, the continent of the great civilization and at the avant-garde of all religious, literary, philosophical, political and scientific doctrines has fallen into a spectrum of evil and cruelty that led to the extermination of six million Jews only because it belongs to a different culture and tradition.

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I feel that keeping alive the memory of the “Shoah” it means not only the obligation not to forget the tragedy of the Jewish people in the past, but also to remember what happened in the last 75 years, so that the new generations can learn to build a better present and future, in order to avoid that this horror is not repeated ever again. Today we see that the seed of hatred, violence and intolerance are awakened once again in Europe. Therefore my message to the young students and all those who had the opportunity to listen to my words in this occasion were based on the importance of strengthening this topic not only in this day.

The “Memorial Day” is a duty not only to remember the six million Jews exterminated by the Nazi-Fascist ideology, but also to oppose the current anti-Semitism that Europe is unfortunately going through again in our days.
The world has not yet become aware of the same hatred that we have all seen demonstrated against the Jews in World WarII.

The “Memorial Day” offers useful and necessary reflections with the slogan “never to forget and never again”, with the hope that in the future, the new generations will be able to rebuild in a more positive way what the nazi-fascism ideology has managed to destroy only a few decades ago.

At the end of the day I had the impression that my words were deeply felt by the audience, as I myself being a Jew, where even part of my family were victimes of the Holocaust attrocities. I am sure that all the people had the certainty that my words were a true and painful testimony.

Ferramonti- Italian Internment Camp

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Ferramonti of Tarsia, also known as Ferramonti was the first Italian Internment Camp. It was located in the south
of Italy, in Tarsia, in the province of Cosenza, in Calabria. This was the largest of the fifteen internment camps
established during the Fascist period by Benito Mussolini between June and September 1940.
The construction of Ferramonti began on June 4, 1940, one week before Italy entered World War II.

The decision to place the camp in an unhealthy and malarial zone actually came not from racial or political reasons,
but from an economic interest by an entrepreneur very close to important fascists. His company in fact was already present in Ferramonti where the reclamation works were completed. Having to build the concentration camp, the fascists used already the existing barracks to host the first group of Jews. These barracks were previously used by the workers
engaged in drainage.
Malaria was already in the fields and according to the British officer’s reports, there were no deaths to be claimed
because of malaria exclusively but also for other problems: such as malnutrition, insufficient heating, lack of sanitation, etc, etc.

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The camp consisted of 92 barracks located in an area of about 160,000 m² near the river Crati. There were barracks of 335 m², with two dormitories with 30 beds, and barracks of 268 m² occupied by eight entire families of five or twelve people.

The arrest of Jewish citizens started on June 15, and prisoners began to arrive at the camp already on June 20. Between June 1940, and August 1943, there were 3,823 Jewish imprisoned in Ferramonti and among them, there were also foreigners and only 141 Italians.
The conditions of the camp were not as in the German Concentration Camps. Prisoners were able to organize a nursery, library, school, theater and even a synagogue. Several couples got married at the camp and 21 children were born.
Unlike the Nazi concentration camps, the Italian camps were neither death camps or slave labor camps. Most of the internees were allowed to go freely around and nearly all of them survived their imprisonment unharmed.

img_20160127_084705On September 14, 1943, in a short time away from the armistice, the camp was liberated by the advance ally, coming between the British avant-garde and managing a few days before to convince a Nazi column of the armored division of Hermann Goering not to enter the field itself claiming a fake typhus epidemy. Many of the internees were still scattered for safety in the surrounding villages.

After the liberation and until the end of the war, the camp remained open and supervised by the British. Many of the former internees followed the Allied armed forces. In May 1944, a group of about 350 of them embarked from Taranto for Palestine, while 1000 departed on July 1944 from Naples to the United States, where they were interned for a time in the Oswego Camp, upstate New York, before they were granted with the right of residence.

Among Ferramonti internees, some of them became very famous in various fields. Here is a list:
1) Allan Herskovic, considered one of the world’s largest table tennis champions
2) Imi Lichtenfeld, one of the most famous characters of the martial arts and founder of the method of combat and self- defense called Krav Maga.
3) Michel Fingesten, considered by all art critics the greatest artist of bookplates of history and a very important engraver.
4) Ernst Bernhard, a physician and psychiatrist who was an important student of Carl Gustav Jung in Zurich.
5) Moris Ergas, a greek jew, was one of the most important filmmakers of the 1960s.
6) Alfred Wiesner, a Yugoslav engineer who in 1942 fled to Italy where he was taken to Ferramonti, then become famous for the ice cream Algida.
8) Oscar Klein, considered among the most important jazz trumpet players in the world.
and many others.

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