Israeli president writes to persecuted Holocaust survivor in Italy: ‘Yet another terrible example of reality in Europe’

Senator for Life Liliana Segre had proposed to parliament to establish a commission to combat anti-Semitism and hate crimes.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter of encouragement Sunday to an Italian Jewish senator who is now receiving police protection after hundreds of death threats were sent to her for proposing that Parliament establish a commission to fight all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

Liliana Segre, 89, is a Holocaust survivor who was appointed by the Italian president as a Senator for Life in January 2018 “for very high merits in the social field.” Segre had become well-known for speaking about her wartime experiences and educating people about the Holocaust since the 1990s.

As a life senator she has the same powers as elected senators, and her motion was accepted to establish a committee to combat all forms of racism and anti-Semitism, as well as incitement to hatred and violence on ethnic and religious grounds.

“I appealed to the conscience of everyone and thought that a commission against hatred as a principle would be accepted by all,” she said, according to Italy’s La Repubblica.

However, ever since the vote, she has received as many as 200 hate messages a day, mainly on social media, and the police have now assigned her two paramilitary officers to protect her wherever she goes.

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In his letter, Rivlin wrote, “I was appalled to hear the news that anti-Semitic threats against you require you to receive protection to ensure your safety, and deeply regret that the circumstances of me writing to you are so distressing. Your personal mission, your strength and your bravery are a role model for us in Israel and for Jewish communities around the world.”

Rivlin also referred to the wider problem of rising anti-Semitism across the continent, calling her case “yet another terrible example of the reality for Jews in Europe today.”

Praising Segre for being “a campaigner for justice” who works “tirelessly for a better world,” the president said it would be “a great honor, personally and for the State of Israel, to welcome you to Jerusalem and to visit Israel.”

Born in Milan in 1930, at age 13 Segre was sent to Auschwitz by the fascist Italian authorities after being refused refuge in Switzerland. She survived slave labor in a munitions factory for a whole year before being taken on a death march to Ravensbruck in Germany when the camp was evacuated.

She was eventually liberated by the Soviet army at yet a third concentration camp.