ROME (JTA) – City authorities in Rome may drop the idea of building a $30 million Holocaust museum in the city — with the apparent backing of the Rome Jewish community.
After years of delays on the project, the community’s board issued a statement last week that seems to back plans for a smaller exhibit in a former shopping center in a Rome suburb.
Plans were announced a decade ago to build a state-of-the-art Shoah museum on the grounds of Villa Torlonia, wartime dictator Benito Mussolini’s residence, where ancient Jewish catacombs also are located. Financial and bureaucratic problems have stalled the project in the central part of Rome for years.
Funds were finally freed up and architectural plans approved in 2012, but since then there has been no movement.
As a result, Holocaust survivors and their families this summer launched appeals and petitioned the Rome Jewish community and City Hall to speed up plans in order to inaugurate a Shoah museum before they passed away.
Proposals were floated to drop the Villa Torlonia plan and install a permanent Holocaust exhibit in a building already standing – a former shopping center in EUR, a southern suburb of the city. The exhibit would be inaugurated on next year’s International Holocaust Memorial Day, Jan. 27 — the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Responding to the petition, the board of the Rome Jewish community issued its statement that appeared to support the idea.
The board said that a Holocaust museum should be completed within a rapid time frame, take into consideration the “economic difficulties” of the country, and have a “decorous and dignified” structure. It urged the museum founders to “consider any concrete and immediate proposal” that respects those “mandatory requirements.”
A mayoral spokesman offered no explanation for the delays in building the museum, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported, and added that it was understandable the Jewish community would be leery of whether it would be built anytime soon.