Historical remembrance, collective conscience, civil conviviality: conserving, promoting responsibility and building for the future. These are the values the Milan Shoah Memorial is intended to promote and illustrate in relation to the themes of genocide and discrimination.
The Milan Shoah Memorial (Platform 21) is in an area of Milan Central Station located underneath the ordinary railway platforms. The area was originally used for loading and unloading post wagons, and had direct access to Via Ferrante Aporti. From 1943 to 1945, this was the place from which hundreds of deportees were loaded onto convoys headed to the concentration and death camps (Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen Belsen) or to the Italian concentration camps such as Fossoli and Bolzano.
The Memorial project not only pays homage to the victims of the Holocaust, but is also intended to be a place for a vital and dialectical discussion of the Shoah itself.
The first stone was laid on 26 January 2010, and was the first step towards the realisation of the project, initiated with the donation by Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane of the area inside the Central station with its entrance on Via Ferrante Aporti 3. This was followed by the creation of the Foundation and the start of works. Today, the spaces of the memorial have been returned to their original aspect, thus giving this place its documentary character.
The project covers 7,000 square metres, and is characterised by a total respect of the original morphology of the area. It consists of a system of integrated spaces which follow a thematic path: from the "Room of Witness", dedicated to the narratives of Holocaust survivors, to the "Discrimination Eyeglass", with its moving images, and ending at the heart of the Memorial, represented by the "Platform of the Unknown Destination" and the "Wall of Names", which records the names of everyone deported from Platform 21.
Three years after the ceremony to lay the first stone, the Inauguration Ceremony of the Shoah Memorial was held on 27 January 2013, to coincide with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Foundation, Ferruccio de Bortoli and Roberto Jarach, together with the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and the Mayor Giuliano Pisapia, unveiled the plaque dedicated to Edmond J. Safra, a philanthropist and benefactor of the Memorial, who died in 1999. His widow, Mrs Lily Safra was also present at the ceremony.
Bortoli's opening words reminded those present that “The Memorial is not only a place where one can show respect: it also provides a space for dialogue, reflection and gaining a deep perception of what the Shoah tragedy meant for humanity. The foundation stone was laid here three years ago and now the Memorial opens its heart to us: we are happy and proud of this fact and aware that this project represents a significant tribute to those no longer with us.”
“Through this Memorial,” asserted Mauro Moretti, the Managing Director of FS Italiane, “A forgotten area in the station returns to life to recount the story of the worst tragedy in contemporary history. This site that once marked a place of grief, persecution and shame has become a place of knowledge and dialogue between cultures and civilizations. A place where people can remember and where people can meet and share their views to gain greater understanding. An area, which was closed for years and almost hidden from the view of bustling passengers, trains and our very existence, has now been re-opened. A place that was the silent witness of sorrow and forced departures for what was to be the most dramatic destination in our history. This space has come back to life to remind us to remember and to share and elaborate our memories. In this way, future generations will also be able to reflect on the horrors of the past.”
The ceremony was concluded by Liliana Segre, who at the age of thirteen departed from Platform 21 on 30 January 1944 bound for Auschwitz, together with her father who died there. Liliana Segre is one of the very few survivors of the 605 Jewish deportees who left that morning: only twenty-two of them returned home.