Italian Holocaust survivor: 'Silence was the best choice' after Auschwitz

Italian Holocaust survivor: 'Silence was the best choice' after Auschwitz
Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Euronews
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Just 35 of the 776 Italian children sent to Auschwitz survived. Liliana Segre was one of them.


Liliana Segre was just 13 years old when she was taken from her home and transported to Auschwitz. On arrival, she was immediately separated from her father. She never saw him again.

Segre spent almost two years in the Nazi death camp between 1943 and 1945, during which time she survived three 'selections', when guards decided who would live and who would die.

She later found out that her father had been murdered on 27 April, 1944, nine months before the Red Army liberated the camp on 27 January, 1945.

As the Soviet troops approached, Segre was forced to walk to a second camp at Ravensbruck, on a 'death march' during which many died. She was later taken to another camp, Malchow, which the Red Army finally liberated on 1 May, 1945.

Of 776 Italian children under 14 that were sent to Auschwitz, she was one of only 35 survivors.

After she returned home to Italy, she struggled to talk about what had happened to her.

Heavy silence

"It was very difficult to find the right words to describe what we went through. It is almost impossible for those who had not experienced and suffered what we had to understand what we did, and the differences between us and them, coming back to a normal life," she told Euronews' Cecilia Cacciotto.

"I was a silly teenager. I was just 15 years old when I got back, and found my old friends, and what was left of my family. I was so different to them. I decided that silence was the best choice. Heavy silence. It was not easy, but it was better than talking about it and not being understood."

Segre kept her silence until the 1990s, when she finally found the words to talk about what she went through. In the years since, she has spoken at numerous conferences, participated in documentaries and written memoirs about her experience at Auschwitz.

On January 19, 2018, the-then president of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, appointed her as a senator for life, for her achievements in the social field.

Although Segre kept her silence over the years, she was never able to forget what had happened to her and her family during the Holocaust.

"Every morning when I take my shower, I see my arm, and the tattoo. That tattoo is part of me, just like my nose is. I can’t forget that number. Auschwitz and its memory never really left me. In a way, it’s part of me," she said.

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