New Shoah Memorial Milano, Italy

From my last business trip to Milan, Italy

On Feb 12, I had an appointment with Daniela from Jewish community. We met at Shoah Memorial building in the Centrale Train station. Location was not clear since most people including my concierge at hotel did not know but they looked it up online and told me it is on central station. I took 4 stops on the subway from Duomo to Central Station and got of there. I asked few people without any until a police officer told me where it is. I walked the station and in the end, found a concrete building without sign.  There were some high school student group waiting. So I thought this is it. I walked in and was told it is not open. So I called Daniela and she came out to let me in. Daniela told me it is new and still under construction. The city donated a portion of the building and architects designed it. It is from this same place Jews get deported from 1942-45.  The deportation  was going on during the war but Nazis did not want Milanese to know, so it’s been done quietly from first floor under train station . The platform was originally used as a mail train. People who were getting on trains with their daily life trips upstairs did not know what was going on…. It is under track 21. This deportation went on literally underneath the noses of the Milan population day after day, year after year.  Imagine the loss or absence in the local infrastructure as these created a void in the community.  But still it went on… on platform ramp

Currently there are no funds to keep it open so it is used for educational purposes or for groups on request. They hope to have it running in 2014 . It had display on train cars (one car had a memorial wreath). On the platform there are plaques on locations where trains went and who was on this train (Besides Jews where communists, Roma, homosexuals).  This space that was tragically transformed from a post office during the second world war to the point of departure for all deportees to the death camps (Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen) concentration and transit camps. There is separate stands with people’s personal stories and in the future will be planned separate rooms. There is a meditation or reflection room. Continuous movie was running in Italian. The visitors as I said were high school students and I noticed how their faces changed from innocent youth running and pushing around before they entered the memorial to sober serious. I thought it is a very powerful experience for young people. Inside the building is the hall and wall of indifference.  Although the space went trough renovations much was left as original with beams and columns exposed.  They developed a time line as it is followed to memorialize the people with photos and cinematic displays. The building entrance has a ramp that shows the difference in elevation corresponding to the original loading platform.  The ramp descends to the lower level containing the library and a place of reflection.  The place of reflection is in the shape of a truncated cone is an isolated quiet space devoid of symbolic connotations. The area of the Stazione Centrale is one of the parts of the city that have greatest room to breathe: the urban space onto which the Shoah Memorial faces is worthy of a European capital and the size of the buildings and breadth of the streets are unusual for Milan.  But it is still a space that surprises and stirs. Being in this place still I still have a great sense of sorrow in me today.  It is hard to imagine what those people who were brought here by force in carts and then loaded onto the train, detached, separated from their families, were thinking about their future. I think of the anguish of their “unknown destination”.

There is the list of the names of deportees that run along the wall for the entire length of the platform. To increase the emotional effective these names appear and are highlighted one by one. The “wall of books” – silent witnesses – will be visible from the outside, as a symbolic image of the Memorial, which is not a museum of Itself but a space of awareness, working­ through and passing on. For more information see www.memorialdelashoah.org

Disclaimer: this report presents just an opinion of individuals who’s been there…. Tastes Differ… Copyrights Jewish Travel Agency, Emco Travel, LLC.