Italy approves Holocaust museum for Rome after 20-year wait

Italy's government has approved funding for a long-awaited Holocaust museum in Rome, where nearly 2,000 Jewish people were rounded up during World War II and sent to concentration camps.

Italy approves Holocaust museum for Rome after 20-year wait
The former Jewish ghetto on the banks of the Tiber in central Rome. (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP)

A national museum in the capital would “contribute to keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive,” read a statement from the government after ministers agreed to fund the project late on Thursday.

The announcement came on the heels of an official visit to Rome last week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said 10 million euros had been allocated to begin construction of the museum, a long-delayed project first proposed in the 1990s.

Ruth Dureghello, head of Rome’s Jewish community, welcomed the news but called for “definite timeframes and choices that can be made quickly to guarantee the capital of Italy a museum like all the great European capitals”.

READ ALSO: Stumble stones: How Rome’s smallest monuments honour Holocaust victims

The architect in charge of the project, Luca Zevi, told AFP the museum should be completed in three years.

Symbolically, the museum will be built on land adjacent to the park of Villa Torlonia, the residence of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who was in power from 1922 to 1943.

Mussolini introduced racial laws in 1938 that began stripping civil rights from Jews in Italy and culminating in their deportation. 

On October 16, 1943, German troops supported by Italian Fascist officials raided Rome’s ancient Ghetto, rounding up and deporting about 1,000 Jewish people.

READ ALSO: Four places to remember the Holocaust in Italy

Subsequent roundups captured another 800 people, and nearly all were killed in the concentration camp of Auschwitz.

The Holocaust saw the genocide of six million European Jews between 1939 and 1945 by the Nazis and their supporters.

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Why are flight prices higher in Italy than the rest of Europe this summer?

A recent analysis found that fares for flights between European countries have decreased on average this summer - but mysteriously, Italy is bucking the trend.

Why are flight prices higher in Italy than the rest of Europe this summer?

Italy may be at the start of a summer tourism boom, but that’s no thanks to the cost of its airline tickets, which are higher than ever this year.

According to a recent analysis in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, intra-Europe fares from June to September 2024 are down three percent on average compared to the same period last year – but Italy’s flight costs have risen.

The average price of a summer flight between Italy and the rest of Europe has increased by seven percent since 2023, data shows, while domestic flights cost as much as 21 percent more.

Corriere doesn’t offer much of an explanation for the hikes, though says industry sources say it could be down to demand being higher than anticipated.

READ ALSO: How Europe’s new EES border checks will impact flight passengers

It’s true that supply chain issues have reduced the available fleet of global aircraft at a time when the appetite for international travel is as high as ever – but this is an industry-wide problem that shouldn’t disproportionately affect Italy.

Carmelo Calì, the vice president of consumer rights watchdog Confconsumatori, suggested in a recent interview that the main culprit is a lack of healthy competition in the Italian market.

“Despite what is said to the contrary, in our country companies often find themselves operating at airports practically alone,” Calì told consumer publication Il Salvagente (The Lifejacket).

“Even when there is competition, prices remain high, because the race is upwards and not downwards.”

The high price of Italy’s domestic flights have been a point of contention for years, with consumer unions long complaining that fares for tickets between mainland Italy and the major islands are exorbitant.

Italy’s Price Surveillance Guarantor Benedetto Mineo, who officially goes by Mister Prezzi (‘Mr. Prices’), last summer called on the seven main airlines operating in Italy to account for a 40 percent annual increase in the cost of some key domestic routes.

READ ALSO: Why two Swiss to Italy flight routes are ‘the most turbulent’ in Europe

This was followed by the government announcing a price cap on flights connecting Sardinia and Sicily to the Italian mainland – that it promptly shelved just one month later, after budget carrier Ryanair led a furious pushback by low cost airlines.

“Here companies believe they have freedom that they don’t have elsewhere, convinced they can get away with it, while in the rest of Europe they fear being punished,” said Calì.

That may explain why the EU’s competition watchdog has been so slow to approve a proposed partial takeover of Italy’s national flag carrier ITA by Germany airline Lufthansa.

The Commission has repeatedly insisted that Lufthansa must give away a certain number of its slots at Milan’s Linate airport in compliance with EU competition rules in order for the deal to go ahead.