ROME (AP) — Piero Terracina, one of the last survivors of Italy’s tiny Jewish community who were deported to Nazi death camps during World War II, has died. He was 91.
Terracina died on Sunday, Rome’s Jewish Community said.
As a 15-year-old, he escaped the roundup by German occupying troops of Rome’s Jews in 1943 and went into hiding with his family.
But the next year he was arrested and deported to the complex of Auschwitz-Birkenau camps with his family, where his parents, three siblings and other relatives perished.
Terracina’s recounting of the horrors suffered there won praise by Italian leaders.
Noemi Di Segni, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, hailed Terracina as a”true light in these dark times” which she described as being marked by words of hate and denial of the Holocaust.
Terracina was described as the last Roman Jew among Italy’s Holocaust survivors at the time of his death. Even before many of them were hauled off to death camps by Nazi occupiers, the nation’s Jews were already suffering under Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, whose regime, in 1938, enacted anti-Jewish laws. Among other things, the laws banned Jews from holding public positions, including teaching, and forcing Jewish-owned stores to put signs in their windows identifying them as such.
There has been a surge in anti-Semitic incidents in Italy in recent years. Recently, a police escort was assigned to another Holocaust survivor among Italian Jews, Liliana Segre, who received death threats and hundreds of anti-Semitic insults. She was named a senator-for-life for speaking to Italian schoolchildren about the horrors of the concentration camps.