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Rome Remembers Nazi Deportations

October 16, 1999

ROME (AP) _ Rome’s Jewish community on Saturday remembered the night in 1943 when Nazi Germans sent 1,060 men, women and children to die in concentration camps.

Looking back 56 years, thousands of Rome’s Jews and Catholics marched silently by candlelight to the heart of the old ghetto, the longest-surviving Jewish community of the Western world.

On Oct. 16, 1943, open army trucks carrying SS officers with submachine guns rolled into the narrow cobblestone streets of the ghetto and began rounding up people on orders from Gestapo chief Adolf Eichmann.

Mario Limentani, 76, is one of only three known remaining survivors of the 1943 deportation. ``I was very lucky,″ Limentani said, holding a banner listing the camps in which Italian Jews died.

The deportation, which was followed by waves of arrests, sent 2,000 of Rome’s 7,000 Jews to Nazi extermination camps.

When the roundup began, Catholics hid Jews in their homes, churches and convents. Survivors recalled Rome’s tram drivers speeding away that night with fleeing Jews as their only passengers.

But historians differ on how much _ if at all _ then-Pope Pius XII helped in saving Rome’s Jews. The pope’s predecessors had protected and persecuted Jews over the centuries, confining them within the ghetto from the 16th century to the 19th century.

Rome’s Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio sponsored Saturday’s march and vigil.

``The challenge is this: To transmit to everybody, especially the young generation, a heritage of harmony and peace,″ Sandro Zuccari of Sant’Egidio told the marchers.

``This is why we’re here _ to not forget.″

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