Speech by the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, at the Commemoration of the Nazi massacre at Cibeno 

Campo di Fossoli, Carpi, 11 July 2021

Greetings to the people and citizens of Carpi, to Mayor Bellelli, to the families of the martyrs of Cibeno, to the civil and religious authorities, to the partisan associations, to the associations of former inmates of concentration camps, to the municipal representatives present.

Greetings to the government representatives - Minister Bianchi, Undersecretary Amendola - and thanks to the President of the Region, and to the dear friend Hon. Pierluigi Castagnetti and the entire Fossoli Foundation which he chairs.

Thank you for the honor of allowing me to take the floor in this ceremony which, year after year, continues to ask us questions and helps us to reflect in order to preserve the memory of what took place.

Special thanks to the President of the Commission. Thank you for being here and for what you just said.

With your presence we reaffirm that our institutions, together, feel the responsibility not to forget and that our Europe was born from the lowest moment of pain in our contemporary history, from the moral degradation of societies that believed themselves immune to unleashing horror and did not perceive the danger of Nazism and Fascism, from the cries of mothers who in all our countries, whichever side they belonged to, whenever they received the news of a dead son, they shouted 'never again war'.

But how many times, dear Ursula, in recent years have we heard from citizens, "what is Europe?” “What is Europe for?" or that “Europe does not exist.”

Then one comes here - or in the hundred, thousand places of inhumanity produced by European culture - and the answers arrive. Simple questions, that give challenging answers for everyone.

There is no doubt that in places like these echoes the silent voice of the killed, of the innocent, the cry 'long live freedom, long live Italy' broken by the shooting at Cibeno where important leaders of the Resistance were murdered. Here in Fossoli.

I have always been struck by the eyes of the victims, the fixity of the eyes that look, but do not see. Yes, the eyes of humanity deprived of humanity. And the eyes of the victims are always the same. They are those of the photos in the concentration camps, of those sentenced to death, those we always find, in every war, in every person raped, killed, in all those who try to save themselves, in broken women, in the columns of families who run away, in lost children, in those who drown, who cling to life and forgive it.

Mathausen's eyes, like the eyes of Srebenica, of Syrian refugees, of mothers filmed on rubber boats before drowning in the race towards a life that will never come about from our indifference.

The eyes we see in the photographs of victims and prisoners whenever freedom and truth are lacking, and whenever freedom and truth are not joined with justice.

My pilgrimage here today has only one reason – to remember that it is not enough to believe that you are safe, and to reiterate that the horror that overwhelmed us was born in great democratic, liberal, even progressive cultures, in a time of great technological inventions, of discoveries, of cosmopolitan and full-fledged artists, writers and philosophers of ingenuity, but all incapable of sensing in time the danger of fascism and Nazism.

Cultures sure that an overturning of the fundamental values of humanity and civilization was not possible.

What happened is the result of societies aware of rights, but unable to make them prevail against prejudice and hatred. A society with a pacifist temperament, but unable to eradicate the pandemic of war. Societies that believed themselves to be better than their neighbors, exasperating an antagonism that transformed love for their land into fanatical and criminal nationalism.

And not only. All this was fueled by the ruling classes convinced that they could postpone justice, peace, equality, preaching that all this should be thought of later, because it was not yet the right time, and coming to the conclusion - pay attention to this - that with more democracy, equality and justice, the violent and extremists would have been fooled ...

Dear Ursula, they say the same to us today too, when we say to save migrants they tell us that we are playing the game of smugglers, or that the independent judiciary or journalism are expressions of disorder, or that it is going against common sense when we defend the dignity of people who want to love each other, when in Europe, unlike most of the planet, they have the right to do so because for us the rights of people and humanity are the measure of all things.

In Cibeno, here in Fossoli it happened. It can happen again.

For this we must remain committed, as Giuseppe Dossetti - political leader, constituent, monk, born in this land - wrote "for a clear historical conscience", to always bear truthful testimony to the events that have happened and prevent denials, amnesia, or vulgar opportunism.

But Dossetti also adds that historical awareness alone is not enough. Our conscience must be “alert”, that is, capable of “opposing every beginning of a system of evil, as long as there is time”.

This is why we cannot afford to underestimate the manifestations of hatred, violence, discrimination that occur in the European space.

However, there are signs of the times that makes us confident to say that we have learned some lessons.

It is good that the debate on the recovery, on the reconstruction of our economies, runs hand in hand with concerns over the defence of the rule of law, of our fundamental values, of the freedoms that must be guaranteed to our citizens. It had never happened, not even during the great crisis that hit Greece and Europe ten years ago. Never before had the debate over the worrying trends in some European states been so actively followed, and followed up with new and unprecedented sanction mechanisms.

Why did this happen?

Because there is a risk that without a firm defence of fundamental values, Europe could lose its identity and meaning, with catastrophic effects. If we relaxed the threshold, we would no longer be able to argue that democracy is the system that best accompanies people's desire for freedom, justice and well-being, we would not have the possibility of protecting ourselves from the interference of authoritarian regimes, of asserting our identity in international relations at a time when the European way of life is admired and desired.

Often, in our debates, in our polemics, we do not realize what we are, how much desire for Europe there is in the world. And how much attention is paid to us for the effects of a European law which in 70 years has produced an indissoluble link between individual freedoms and social freedoms.

Losing all this would mean falling into nothingness.

On the other hand, why do all authoritarian regimes care about us?

We do not make war, we do not even have an army, if this would come into being it only be to save on dublicated national military expenses, we do not impose our model, our relations are based on dialogue, we talk to everyone, we try to develop diplomacy where there is conflict ... so why do they care about us?

There is only one reason. European values are frightening, because freedoms allow for equality, justice, transparency, opportunity, peace. And if it is possible in Europe, it is possible everywhere.

We want to get out of this crisis with more open, more welcoming societies, with fewer inequalities, with concrete commitments in the fight against poverty, with a more functional and participatory democracy, putting at the center some of the most vulnerable in our societies, particularly women and young people.

This is why we do not tolerate that in the European space there are countries where the judiciary or journalism are attacked for doing their work, where an anti-Semitic wind forces European Jewish families to move to North America or Canada, where immigrants and refugees are considered a problem, in which women are underpaid, in which national laws produce discrimination, in which European territories are declared "LGBTI free zones".

In Europe, the rights of every person are the rights of all.

And when we talk about territories forbidden to someone, it comes to mind when in '42 the Nazis declared Belgrade the first 'Judenfrei' city, free from Jews ... because, it is customary, we always start with minorities.

Memory is part of our identity. Our identity as citizens. We have been able to build the future, reunite the country, start a period of democracy, development, peace, we have begun to build the new Europe by looking up to the horizon because we have climbed on the shoulders of the women and men who have put all their possessions on the line, who risked all to express human solidarity with those in difficulty or on the run, who did everything to put an end to the Europe of exasperated nationalisms and war.

The Italian Republic, with its Constitution, originates from that hope. A united Europe has its deepest roots in these places.

The idea of the common good is based on freedoms for all.

The field of Fossoli is a civil monument. But in its own way, it is also a place that tragedies have modified, shaped. A place that, after having experienced the desperation of the concentration camp, the prison camp, the refugee camp, saw itself open to other colors in the post-war period. Yes, the register changed here too when Don Zeno's orphans and abandoned children cut through the fences of segregation and built their Nomadelfia, the city where fraternity is law.

Nomadelfia is a provocation: no money circulates, there is no unemployment, men and women work within the community without receiving a salary, as you cannot pay your brother.

The concept of family is also different from that which exists everywhere. Here men and women are required to exercise paternity and maternity over all children: even those who do not belong to their family. From here emerges an idea of family that is not limited to the biological dimension. The children of Nomadelfia describe the family as follows: “Mum is not the one who generates you. This is a fact of God. Mother is the one who nourishes you and leads you to Love ".

Pope Francis on May 12, 2018 reminded us that Don Zeno "was able to identify a peculiar form of society where there is no room for isolation or solitude, but where the principle of collaboration between different families is in force, where members recognize each other as brothers".

In addition to blood ties, there is fraternity, which means recognizing ourselves for the same dignity we enjoy. The German philosopher Ernst Bloch - who spoke with the Protestant thinker Jorgen Moltmann and, like him, influenced his “theology of hope” - wrote: “A historical novum is never totally new. A dream or a promise always precedes it.”.

The Europe of democracy and peace is the promise born with the Liberation, with the liberations of Fossoli, the Risiera di San Sabba, the fields scattered throughout central Europe, but also with the pickaxes we gave to the Berlin wall, regaining freedom in our Eastern countries.

Europe is a construction that is always in progress. And it must never stop. It is a construction site that never stops operating, or if you want, it is a cathedral whose workshop requires the commitment of successive generations.

For this reason, we are so determined to speed up the accession process of the Western Balkans, and to keep the promises made by Europe for a reconciliation of the political space with the geographical space. We do not want the disappointment of Albania and North Macedonia to prevail and their gaze to turn elsewhere. And the same goes for all those countries that still feel a strong desire to be part of our family.

The pandemic has hit and stopped Europe and the world. This time, however, Europe was not passive as it did during the financial crisis of ten years ago. This time Europe was able to take a leap forward. Not an ordinary answer, but a paradigm shift. Which is a prelude - so we want to think - to a more just and stronger Europe with a global outlook. And among the lessons of these 16 difficult, painful and uncertain months there is now the awareness that Europe is not only the institutions of Brussels, but also the national governments and parliaments and our regions. We are all fundamental building blocks of this great enterprise.

Nobody thinks that this is a definitive choice, valid once and for all. In democracy, there are never foregone achievements. It is up to us to implement new strategies, new policies, new common responsibilities. Democracy itself must be continually nourished, adapted, because otherwise it risks drying up, of not being loved, of giving way to destructive rages, to instincts of closure, perhaps in the illusion that a caste, or an elite, can save itself by itself in an armored fort. An efficient democracy, which offers answers, which is not blocked by veto rights, is an assurance of our future.

We have a historic responsibility in this period, where we want, where we can, get out of the most acute phase of the pandemic. The responsibility of setting in motion a more sustainable development, of building more socially cohesive communities, welcoming societies, of fighting against poverty and passing on the witness of life to a generation that can also be free to plan its own future.

Basically, there is something that unites the passing of the baton at that time, between the resisters, liberators and innocent victims, with that of today: opening the door to a better tomorrow for young people.

Back then it was only the intuition of courageous, generous and far-sighted women and men. Today we would be blind to deny the evidence: that it is possible only by considering Europe as our destiny.

A great European thinker, Edgar Morin, who has just turned 100 but does not stop helping us reflect, argues that our Europe was born from the revenge of humanism over barbarism. "It took the death of the Europe of modern times (in 1945) for there to be a first desire to be born European". But now, Morin tells us, with global markets, supranational powers, the extraordinary possibilities of technoscience, Europe must set itself the task of a new European humanism. "Unity in diversity and diversity in unity" are the foundations. And it is up to us to transform what appears to be a fragility or weakness of our continent into a fabric of dialogue, civilization, cooperation that can be a point of reference in the world.

All this makes us feel - today here in Fossoli remembering the martyrs of Cibeno and the five thousand and more who left for the concentration camps in Germany - children of this Great History.

The one that has caused millions of deaths in Europe and in the world. That reached its peak in the Holocaust, in the massacre of Roma and Sinti, the one that opened the way to Liberation and to a civilization, certainly imperfect, but which was capable of promoting equal dignity, universal rights, growth, opportunities, social security and today it is admired around the world.

All this reminds us of our role as sentinels of tomorrow for our children. We cannot blindfold ourselves, because indifference leads to violence and "it is already violence", as Senator Liliana Segre warns, inviting us to "feel the pain of others, because each is the trace of each".

Only in this way will we honor the women, the men, on whose shoulders we were able to climb to enjoy a different destiny.