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Italy's first Holocaust museum to be built in Rome


Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno has announced plans to construct Italy's first Holocaust museum, to be built in Rome as the focal point in the 10-year "Stati Generali" plan for major projects in the city. The museum will be built in the central area of Villa Torlonia and will lie adjacent to both Benito Mussolini's villa and the 2,000 year old Jewish catacombs. The catacombs, now closed, will be restored and open for visits as well.

"Italy, like Austria, was a partner of Nazi Germany-not a victim, as the populace generally holds. Unlike Germany, we have never even begun the process of soul-searching. Italians don't feel involved-they do not consider themselves as having collaborated," explained the museum's director, Marcello Pezzetti. "This museum, which will cover global Holocaust history but will have a special section on Italy, will speak directly to Italians, and not just to Italian Jews."

The section on Italy will include documentation on the country's most famous and sensitive wartime issues.  The role of the Vatican during World War II will also be discussed, from the opening of its institutions' doors to thousands of Jewish refugees and its provision of false documents to help save Jews, to its silence during the 1943 deportations and assistance in Nazi flight to South America after the war. Evidence will be shown of those who betrayed the Jews, as well as the Righteous who risked their lives to save them.

The mass murder of the Sinti and Roma, the mentally and physically disabled, homosexuals, political prisoners, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses and others will also be part of the permanent exhibit. Additionally, the museum will hold events that touch upon the Holocaust's relevance to more recent history.

To further publicize the museum and build its collection, the Italian government has launched a national television campaign calling for the general public to submit material related to the Holocaust for inclusion in the new museum.