Anne Frank diary to be read at Italian matches to condemn anti-Semitism

Reuters
Episodes of racism are commonplace in Italian soccer and Lazio supporters, who have a reputation for right-wing extremism, have often run into trouble with the authorities.
Reuters
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Lazio Chairman Claudio Lotito places a wreath at the synagogue in Rome, Italy, on October 24, 2017. Lotito led a delegation, including players Wallace and Felipe Anderson, to lay flowers at Rome's synagogue after some of the club's ultra fans used Anne Frank's image to insult followers of city rival AS Roma.

Italy's soccer authorities ruled on Tuesday that stadiums will hold a minute's silence at their next matches while a passage from Anne Frank's diary is read out, in response to anti-Semitic stickers posted by Lazio fans.

The stickers of the Holocaust victim wearing the jersey of Lazio's city rival AS Roma were found on walls and bathrooms in a section of Rome's Olympic Stadium used by Lazio supporters during their Serie A match against Cagliari on Sunday.

The episode drew widespread criticism from Italian politicians and media, with President Sergio Mattarella calling it "inhuman and alarming for our country".

At the next match in all Italy's soccer divisions a minute's silence will be held "to condemn the recent episodes of anti-Semitism and to continue to remember the Holocaust", the soccer federation said in a statement.

While the players line up in the center of the pitch a poignant passage from Anne Frank's diary will be read out over the loudspeakers.

Episodes of racism are commonplace in Italian soccer and Lazio supporters, who have a reputation for right-wing extremism, have often run into trouble with the authorities.

The team's hard-core fans, known as "ultras," left the stickers and anti-Semitic slogans such as "Roma fans are Jews" in a section of the stadium where Roma supporters usually sit when their team is playing.

The two sides share the same stadium.

Anne Frank was born in Germany but her family fled to the Netherlands to escape the Nazis. They lived in hidden rooms in Amsterdam before they were discovered by German occupiers and deported to concentration camps.

She died in the Bergen-Belsen camp aged 15 and her diary recounting the family's time in hiding became a centerpiece of Holocaust literature.

"The anti-Semitic squalor that prompted some Lazio fans to make fun of even Anne Frank's memory is a shameful gesture," said ex-Italian Premier Matteo Renzi. "Obviously we're talking about a small minority but not shedding light on this news would be a mistake.

"Because when things like this happen it's important that children know and learn how to deal with a complete lack of dignity," Renzi added.

With a long stadium ban likely and police having opened a criminal inquiry, Lazio President Claudio Lotito sought on Tuesday to disassociate the club from its "ultra" fans.

In a visit to Rome's main synagogue, Lotito said the club would intensify its efforts to combat racism and anti-Semitism and organize an annual trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp with some 200 young Lazio fans to "educate them not to forget."

Racist chanting

The northern curva (end) of the stadium where Lazio's "ultra" fans usually sit was closed on Sunday for the match with Cagliari, due to racist chanting during a match against Sassuolo earlier this month.

As a result, Lazio decided to open the southern end and let the ultras in where Roma's hard-core fans sit for their home matches in the stadium both sides share.

"Unfortunately it's something that affects a lot of clubs, a lot of fan groups and a lot of cities. But you can't generalize," Italian Players Association president Damiano Tommasi said in an interview with The Associated Press last week looking ahead to the Lazio-Cagliari match.

"You've got to educate as much as possible those who go to the stadium for these reasons," Tommasi added. "And leave them out. Certainly the best solution isn't letting them in to another area of the stadium."

Lazio beat Cagliari 3-0 for its fourth straight win and is fourth in the standings, level on points with six-time defending champion Juventus. Stadium cleaners found the anti-Semitic stickers on Monday.

Antonio Tajani, the head of the European Parliament, denounced those responsible during a session in Brussels on Tuesday, saying that anti-Semitism has no place.

"Using the image of Anne Frank as an insult against others is a very grave matter," Tajani said.

Tajani, who is Italian, said the EU must remain a place of religious tolerance.

Lazio's ultra group, the "Irriducibili" (diehards), expressed surprise at the widespread outrage.

"There are other cases that we feel should lead the newscasts and fill newspaper pages," the group said in a statement on Facebook.

The latest partial stadium ban stemmed from derogatory chants directed at visiting Sassuolo players Claud Adjapong and Alfred Duncan.

Adjapong was born in Italy to Ghanaian parents and has represented Italy Under-19s. Duncan is from Ghana.

Lazio will also be without fans in the northern end when Udinese visits on November 5, as it was also decided to apply a sanction that had been conditionally suspended for racist chanting during the Rome derby in April.

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