Anne Frank diary read at Italian stadiums after latest anti-Semitic outrage
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A passage from Anne Frank's diary will be read before football games in Italy this week after Lazio fans posted stickers of the Holocaust victim wearing the jersey of rivals Roma alongside anti-Semitic slogans.
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) announced that a minute's silence will be observed before Serie A, B and C matches during the week and amateur and youth games over the weekend.
A passage from Frank's diary will also be read before games to keep alive memories of the Holocaust, while referees and captains will give a copy of the diary to child mascots accompanying players onto pitches.
In addition, Lazio's players will wear an image of Frank on their shirts for Wednesday's Serie A game at Bologna to show their fight against "all forms of racism and anti-semitism," the club said.
During Sunday's league game against Cagliari, Lazio fans defaced the Stadio Olimpico, which they share with rivals Roma, with anti-Semitic slogans and stickers showing images of Frank.
The Jewish teenager, who died in Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in 1945, was depicted wearing a jersey of their hated city rivals.
Italian police have opened an investigation after Lazio fans posted stickers of Holocaust victim Anne Frank wearing the jersey of Roma. pic.twitter.com/WtMVNUpwEcMootaz Chehade (@MHChehade) October 24, 2017
The images have whipped up a storm in Italian football with the Roman club announcing they also intend to take youngsters every year to visit the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, in Poland.
"This is not football, this is not sport. Get anti-semitism out of stadiums," responded Ruth Dureghello, president of the Jewish Community of Rome, on Twitter.
Italian president Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday urged the country’s interior minister to ensure that those responsible would be identified and "permanently banned from stadiums".
Mattarella said that using the image of Frank "as an insult and threat, as well as being inhumane, is alarming for our country which suffered 80 years ago from the cruelty of anti-Semitism".
Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni condemned the fans’ behavior as “incredible, unacceptable, not to be minimised and not to be underestimated."
Lazio president Claudio Lotito paid a visit to the Rome Synagogue bringing a floral wreath to remember all victims of anti-Semitism.
"Today we intend to reaffirm our position once again with this clear and unequivocal gesture -- no one can use Lazio in this way," said Lotito.
"Most of our fans are with us against anti-Semitism," stressed Lotito, adding that they would bring 200 young fans every year to Auschwitz, to where Frank was deported before dying in Bergen-Belsen.
He explained that Lazio would also be undertaking a series of initiatives such as visits by players to schools to educate on respecting rules and stamping out racism and social barriers.
Lazio's ultras were housed in the south end of the ground normally reserved for Roma supporters for Sunday's game, their own north end having been closed following racist chants during a match earlier this month.
The club’s hardline fans have a history of racist and anti-Semitic abuse, including a notorious banner targeting Roma fans during a 1999 derby that read: “Auschwitz is your homeland, the ovens are your homes”.
That banner was held by Lazio's 'Irriducibili' fan group, who this week refused to distance themselves from the Anne Frank stickers, stating they were surprised by the furore.
"We don't distance ourselves from what we've done, we simply wonder why nobody takes our side when we are the victims of these alleged incidents," a statement read.
"We wonder why nobody talked about our initiatives to remember the victims of terrorism. We think these moves are oriented to block and boycott Lazio's growth, as they're one of the best Serie A teams."
Meanwhile, Roma fans have responded to their rivals’ provocation by proudly posting the offending stickers on social media, accompanied by the hashtag #WeAreAllAnneFrank.
The hashtag was widely picked up by supporters of other clubs, who posted pictures of the young Jewish girl wearing their own teams’ jerseys, along with passages of her diary.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)