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Plaques to Italy Holocaust victims stolen

January 13, 2012
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ROME—Italy's Jewish community and a Holocaust survivors group expressed outrage Friday at the removal by vandals of three cobblestone plaques honoring Italian victims.

German artist Gunter Demnig has laid thousands of such plaques around Europe in front of the homes of people later killed in the Holocaust. He calls them "Stolpersteine," or stumbling blocks.

Earlier this week, three such cobblestone plaques honoring the Spizzichino sisters were unveiled in Rome's Jewish ghetto, where in 1943, during the occupation of the city by German troops, many residents were seized and sent to Nazi-run death camps.

By Thursday the plaques were gone, but regular cobblestones remained.

Italy's Union of Jewish Communities has organized a protest for Saturday. Union president Renzo Gattegna said the vandalism was "a shameful attempt to cancel the memory of the pain suffered by victims of the Nazis and Fascists."

Holocaust survivors are "heart-sickened at this wanton act of vandalism, which is an offense against the memory and dignity owed the victims of the Nazis and the Fascists," said a statement from Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

He called the vandalism "not only an assault on the Jewish victims" but said it was "directed against the good name of Italy itself. We will not forget that despite its wartime Fascist leadership, everyday Italians of every stripe were instrumental in rescuing Jews from the clutches of the Nazi killing machine."

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