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Witness of the witnesses - by Simona Angela Celiberti

21 Gennaio 2021
Witness of the witnesses - by Simona Angela Celiberti Foto: Angela Simona Celiberti Angela Simona Celiberti
An entire life would not be enough to tell about all the eyes met, the voices heard, the hands clenched upon arrival and the hugs upon departure. I am happy to be able to say “I met them". by Simona A. Celiberti

The Ferramonti di Tarsia International Museum of Memory was inaugurated in 2004, thanks to the continuous work of the municipal administration of Tarsia (CS), by the Pro-Ferramonti Committee, later formed into a Foundation, and also thanks to the network of volunteers amiably defined "Angels della Memoria ”, who actively collaborate to welcome the thousands of visitors every year. 

From the beginning, the Museum's activities have been characterized by close collaboration with former internees or second-generation witnesses, so the cultural heritage has grown year by year, thanks to donations and above all to the voluntary help of those who consider fundamental remember what it was. Among these, an important role is played by those who from year to year can be present during the commemorations of the Day of Remembrance to witness those terrible years that in Ferramonti, the duce's concentration camp, are transformed into hope first and then salvation. 

In all these years as a volunteer of Memory (from 1999), I have met many people, many faces, many hands clasped, but what will remain forever in my memories are the eyes of the many witnesses, who arriving in Ferramonti are moved up to cry and then smile and thank them because their lives were saved here. 

Among them there is Paul Fuhrman, he was 5 years old in 1942 when he arrived in Ferramonti with his family, where he remained until 1944: when he came to visit the Museum he gathered all his family around the world, he told me that his children had to know the place that had saved. 

Buena Alcalay, inmate and sister of the more famous Albert Alcalay, a painter trained in the atelier of Maestro Michel Fingesten in Ferramonti. Buena opened to me the doors of her house in Boston, making me admire the works of her brother who disappeared a few years ago. She too thanked me for the help the Calabrians had in their years of internment. 

Dina Neumann Smadar, born in the camp, is an  international artist who wanted to make a gift of her art and her time by setting up the rooms currently open to visitors in the Museum. His grandfather, Yehoshua Friedmann, lived with his family in Berlin, had been interned in Sachsenhausen, where he had known hell, in his words "any human language is too poor to describe torture and suffering". He arrived with his wife and daughter in Ferramonti and shared the hut with other inmates, ready for anything, especially to go hungry, but "nothing was comparable to what they had experienced in Germany"

Dina's father, Zvi Neumann, was a Slovakian Jew, he embarked on the Pentcho along with 500 other refugees hoping to be able to reach Palestine on a river boat. He arrived in Ferramonti in 1942, where he met Gita and immediately felt in love with her, as Dina recounts in the meetings with the thousands of visitors "there was no time for romance, they did not know what could happen soon, they got married as soon as possible at the inside the camp: the Chief Rabbi of Genoa Riccardo Pacifici celebrated their wedding ”

Eva Rachel Zalmanovich Porcilan and Josef Wesel, also born in the camp. There are different stories that met each other. Who found love in those spaces, who died because the heart could not stand up to a football match. Who was looking only for a way to leave legally and who instead tried to escape. Those who asked to be interned to rejoin his family, like Riccardo Ehrman, defined by everyone as "the man who brought down the Berlin Wall", but he with his disarming humility has always rejected this label, as he specified when we met in his house "I did not drop anything ..." also recounting the years he lived in Ferramonti, a concentration camp that oxymorically represented the salvation for over 3000 inmates. 

Stories of life lived, indeed surviving, years of deprivation of freedom, years of hardship, hunger, fear of tomorrow, because none of them knew anything about the outside world except when the new "transport" of inmates arrived. An entire life would not be enough to want to tell about all the eyes met, the voices heard, the hands clenched upon arrival and the hugs upon departure. Witness of the witnesses, Angel of Memory, but above all happy to be able to say “I met them”!

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Ernst Bernhard
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Ernst Bernhard

Ferramonti di Tarsia (Cs)

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