ROME (JTA) – Mayor Ignazio Marino of Rome is in Poland leading city high school students on the annual “Memory Journey” Holocaust education trip to Auschwitz and Krakow.
Some 144 pupils from 24 high schools in Rome were flown to Poland over the weekend on an Italian Air Force jet. In addition to Marino they were joined by a team of educators, the president of the Rome Jewish community and Holocaust survivor Sami Modiano.
This year’s trip comes less than a week after Marino announced that the long-delayed construction of Rome’s first Holocaust Museum would begin by January on the grounds of Villa Torlonia, the Roman residence of World War II fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
The cornerstone is expected to be laid on Jan. 27 — the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and a date marked in Italy and other countries as International Holocaust Memorial Day.
Plans for the multimillion-dollar museum at the Villa Torlonia site had been stalled for years, and in recent months there had been calls from Holocaust survivors and others to scrap the original project and open the museum instead in a former shopping center in suburban Rome.
In a statement on his website, Marino said the city was preparing a tender for potential firms to carry out the construction of the museum. As a stopgap while the new museum is being built, he said, the city has provided a building in Rome’s historic Jewish Ghetto to serve as a temporary exhibition space and Holocaust education center.