(JTA) — Italy’s government unanimously approved a bill to establish a Holocaust museum in Rome on Wednesday, 80 years after the Nazis rounded up over 1,000 Roman Jews to be deported and exterminated.
Initially proposed as Italy’s first Holocaust museum in 2005, the project has been mired in financial and bureaucratic delays. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, announced plans to finally make the institution a reality in March. A bill to establish the Shoah Museum passed the Senate this summer and received final approval in the Lower House Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, along with a round of applause.
The bill includes 10 million euros in funding for the center, set to be constructed symbolically next to the park of Villa Torlonia, where fascist dictator Benito Mussolini resided from 1925 to 1943.
Monday marked the 80th anniversary of the Nazi raid on Rome’s Jewish ghetto on Oct. 16, 1943, when 1,259 people were rounded up from their homes. Within days, more than 1,000 were identified as Jews and deported to Auschwitz. Only 16 survived.
Emanuele Di Porto, now 92, was 12 years old when German troops seized him and his mother from the Roman Ghetto. As they were loaded onto a truck, his mother pushed him off and pretended not to know him. The confused boy wandered to a tram stop and got on the first tram he found. He rode the tram for two days, protected by drivers who took turns feeding and watching over him. On the third day, a neighbor recognized Di Porto and helped him reunite with his father and siblings. He never saw his mother again.
Di Porto’s story is being commemorated this month with an exhibit on city buses that riders can visit and follow on the tram route that saved his life. He inaugurated the traveling exhibit on Oct. 10.
Just three days after Hamas surprised Israel with a cross-border attack, killing 1,400 Israelis and taking 200 people hostage, Di Porto said he was shaken by the new scenes of mass murder.
“I am reliving the nightmare of 80 years ago,” he said to ANSA.
Meloni also referenced the Hamas assault while meeting with the head of Rome’s Jewish community on Monday, according to the Associated Press. The prime minister — a far-right leader who has in the past worried Jews through some of her rhetoric and associations — said the targeting of Israeli civilians was proof that “antisemitic hatred” lives on.
Meloni added that Italy’s “fascist complicity” in the 1943 roundup should be remembered alongside the Nazi crimes.
Mario Venezia, president of the Shoah Museum Foundation that is heading the project to build the museum, also said it was critical for the center to emphasize Italy’s role in the Holocaust. Italy was the birthplace of fascism, he told the AP.
“Italy was not conquered by the Nazis. Italy was side by side with the Nazis, and many political ideas of the fascists were adopted by the Nazis,’’ Venezia said.