Passages from “Ricordi della casa dei morti”

On 26 February, Saturday evening, towards 10:30 pm, the train stops. Before the wagons are opened by the German soldiers, I peep out of a small slit in our wagon: it is night, late at night, but I can see lots of lamps and floodlights lighting up a huge open space full of huts and surrounded by barbed wire – is this the camp? A few metres away there is a long line of lorries waiting. Our courage comes back to us: there is a camp and they have come to get us with motor vehicles. Perhaps it will not be too hard. Finally they make us get out; we take down our luggage, but we have to leave it next to the train – they tell us they will bring it to us. I am with Franco, Vanda, Primo; we have decided to say that we are related, to try to stay together in the camp too... but an SS soldier immediately comes up and brutally drags Franco and Primo away, shoving them where they are cramming all the men together. We have no time to say anything to each other; from their group Franco and Primo turn to look at us with infinitely sad eyes; I know that they are thinking that now if anyone does us any harm, they will not be beside us to help us. [...] Vanda has her injured arm in a sling; I suggest to her that she should go in the lorry, while I on the contrary will gladly walk after so many days travelling. She replies that I am now all she has left in the world and that we must stay together, and she holds on tight to my arm. Another SS soldier approaches us: he looks hard at us, choosing between us women; one to the right, one to the left. He puts Vanda and myself in the group on the left which is much smaller than the other. We are to go on foot; we are strong and healthy, aren’t we? The others, with all the children, will go in the lorry. They put us in rows of five, and we count ourselves: there are twenty-nine of us. The same choice has been made amongst the men; Franco and Primo have already disappeared, we cannot see them any more. Where are you, dear friends? What will happen to us all?

(Luciana Nissim, Ricordi della casa dei morti, Ramella, Turin, 1946, p. 22 -23, translated from Italian by Joan Clayton for this website)


Multimedia interactive exhibition
Turin • 27 January | 20 March 2010
Fossoli • 25 April | 11 July 2010
5-20 September 2010
Roma • 12 October | 27 November 2010