Rome Jewish Leader Insists on Change of Location of Proposed Holocaust Memorial

Head of city's Jewish community threatens to quit foundation's board in dispute with city government.

Reuters

The head of Rome's Jewish community has signaled he may resign from the board of the Holocaust Museum Foundation over the stalled plans to build a Shoah memorial in the city, according to local media reports.

In a text message to members of the board on Monday morning, Riccardo Pacifici said that if the municipality rejects a proposal to move the memorial to a more modest location than originally planned, he would quit the board.

"We proposed to relocate the museum in the Roman residential and business district of Eur," Pacifici said. The city government "agreed and then drew back," he said.

In 2004, then-Mayor Walter Veltroni announced plans to build a Holocaust museum as a commemoration of the 1,024 Roman Jews deported to Auschwitz in 1943 and as an education center for the general public.

The chosen location was Villa Torlonia, the former residence of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

But fearing that the project would never be built, a group of local Jews, including Holocaust survivors and their descendants, has petitioned the mayor to instead support creation of a smaller memorial in an existing structure, a former shopping mall.

Since the announcement of 2004, however, local media reports say, the city government spent 15 million euros ($19 million) for the museum, changed its mind on the location, and construction has been delayed.

Pacifici intends to resign from the board if the city once again decides on Villa Torlonia as the museum's location.

According to reports, Pacifici said that timing matters and said he hoped that the remaining veterans, who were the first to ask for such a museum, would be able to attend the inauguration of the Shoah Museum of Rome.

The board was expected to meet Monday afternoon local time to discuss the issue once again.

The meeting was to be attended by Pacifici; the mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino; the president of the Lazio Italian Region, Nicola Zingaretti, and the president of the foundation, Leone Paserman.

The meeting was scheduled on the same day as the funeral of Mario Limentani, one of the last survivors of the Nazi concentration camps.