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"My father, Giorgio Perlasca"

Interview with Franco Perlasca

Giorgio Perlasca is one of the most well-known and beloved Righteous of Italy. What are the initiatives that you and the Perlasca Foundation organize to remember and spread the story of your father?

There are many places, above all in schools, where I think my father’s testimony of his experience would be very important. However, we are pursuing other options as well. For example, on February 10 The Invisible Hero comes out, the book for children of Luca Cognolato and Silvia Del Francia about Giorgio Perlasca, edited by Einaudi, that will be presented in March at a children’s bookstore in Bologna, and in May a bookstore in Torino. Another very important project is that which we created with the Venice Region in November, about the city of Budapest and the places of Giorgio Perlasca. Close to various points of the route, a sign has been positioned that shows the steps that he describes in his diary. We have also brought children to Budapest, to visit the city and follow the footsteps of Giorgio Perlasca.

How was the example of your father heard of in school, in the city and in the community?

It is strong especially between the children and this very beloved figure, for a simple reason: he demonstrated that any of us, if they want, can do something. Giorgio Perlasca was a normal person and wasn’t in Hungary to save someone with super powers. His example teaches us and makes us reflect that anyone, if want, can say the proverbial “yes or no” of Hannah Arendt. My father is known as an extremely positive figure, also because, in the midst of the moral disaster of our society, examples of people like him are much respected.

Do you think the example of your father and that of the other Righteous of the Holocaust represent universal values, applicable for the whole human race?

Of course. I always say that the Righteous aren’t solely the prerogative of the Jewish world, even if said world had the capacity to standardize them, giving the concept rules and a structure. Other communities have never done this, but the core of the Righteous is something common to all of humanity. The Righteous have always existed, they exist today and they will exist tomorrow, even outside of the Holocaust. To remember the exemplary figures during every historical injustice is appropriate, also to not let the idea of the Righteous remain exclusively connected to the Holocaust.

What is your opinion about the importance of the European Day of the Righteous?

It is important to try to make this day a day of remembrance for all the Righteous that are scattered around the world and acted when dire situations occurred and the injustice grew too heavy. It’s also essential to remember them and “give them a date.”The sixth of March should be valued in an important manner and should be spread in cities all over the world. This concerns us, the Perlasca foundation, in that during the European Day of the Righteous we will inaugurate a school in Ferrara dedicated to Giorgio Perlasca. We have chosen this date to better show that the values of the Righteous are absolutely universal.

In this universal perspective, who are the Righteous today?

It is never anyone’s hope to be put to the test in extremely complicated situations like those in which my father and the other Righteous were found. I think that to be Righteous in our society means also to behave in a correct and consistent manner, privileging our duties before even our rights.

What is the most important message of Giorgio Perlasca you can pass on, especially to the children?

Above the idea of doing something good without expecting something in return, the fundamental message of the story of my father is to fight against indifference. Giorgio Perlasca showed that any one of us can do something and not look the other way and let the suffering of others rest on their shoulders. This is the spiritual testament that my father left behind, expressed in the famous quote “I would like that my story is recorded for the children, so that, knowing what happened, they know also how to oppose this kind of violence if it should ever repeat itself.” Today, this phrase means that if we are familiar with the history, we can strive to create inside of us a series of antibodies against hatred, violence, intolerance and indifference. If we try, these moments would be first felt on a personal level, and then they could become collective moments of refusal of these negative sentiments. 

Interview by Martina Landi, Gariwo Editor

27 February 2014

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The European Day of Righteous

The value of individuals and personal responsibility

On May 10, the European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted the Written Declaration establishing March 6th as European Day in memory of the Righteous.
The concept of Righteous, born from the elaboration of the Yad Vashem Memorial to remember the non-Jews who rescued the Jews, becomes the patrimony of all humanity.
The term "Righteous" is no longer confined to the Holocaust only; it becomes a point of reference for those who remember the genocide and totalitarianism in all their efforts to defend human dignity.

The significance of this decision is reminiscent of one of the cornerstones of European culture: the value of the individual and personal responsibility.

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