ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s soccer authorities, reacting to an anti-Semitic outburst by Lazio fans, ordered stadiums on Tuesday to hold a minute’s silence at their next matches while a passage from the diary of Holocaust victim Anne Frank is read out.
Stickers of Anne Frank wearing the jersey of Lazio’s city rivals 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 incident was sharply criticized by 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.
The passage reads: “I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquillity will return once more.”
On Monday, Lazio president Claudio Lotito and other team officials laid a wreath of flowers at Rome’s synagogue in an effort to made amends with the Jewish community.
Rome Jewish community leader Ruth Dureghello welcomed the gesture but said it was not enough. She said “collective awareness” was needed to bring an end to such anti-Semitic acts.
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 Nazi takeover. 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.
Reporting by Gavin Jones; editing by Mark Heinrich