Italian woman who survived Auschwitz as a child is given top honour

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A woman who was one of the few Italian children to survive deportation to a Nazi death camp has been made a senator-for-life in Italy.

President Sergio Mattarella’s office said on Friday that he chose Liliana Segre for the honour because she had made the nation proud with her social commitment.

Italy is marking 80 years since Fascist-era laws discriminating against Jews came into effect.

Segre and her family went into hiding after the 1938 law was introduced.

They were arrested in 1943 and put on to trains departing from Milan’s central station toward Nazi-run deportation camps.

Only 25 of 775 Italian children survived the Nazi death camps.

For decades, Segre, 87, appeared reluctant to discuss her experiences in Auschwitz, Corriere della Sera newspaper said.

But in the 1990s, she began speaking to schoolchildren throughout Italy about the Holocaust.

Segre said she was just an ordinary woman, and being chosen for the honour caught her by complete surprise.

“I cannot assign myself other importance, other than that of being a herald, a person who recounts what she has witnessed,” the Ansa news agency quoted her as saying.

“I feel like any other woman, a grandmother, and I never thought about this. Knowing I’ll be among senators-for-life is an honour and a great responsibility,” she added.

“Liliana Segre’s life is testimony to freedom,” prime minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a tweet.

“As a senator she will point out the value of memory. A precious decision 80 years after the racial laws.”

Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime introduced the laws targeting Italy’s tiny Jewish minority, forcing them out of institutions such as schools and discriminating against them economically.

When German troops occupied Italy during the Second World War, many of Italy’s Jews were rounded up in Rome and elsewhere for deportation to Nazi-run death camps.

Senators-for-life vote in Parliament’s upper chamber along with ordinary senators.

Considered role models because of their achievements, they have included figures from politics, business, the arts and science.

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