I was moved to discover this comment made by one of my Facebook (and real-life too!) friends, Silvana Bracci, (sister of the great wine expert and Bagni di Lucca Enoteca – wine shop – owner, Guido Bracci), to whom I give sincerest thanks. I felt her comment should be also translated into English so that it could reach a wider public. The note deals with the story of Liliana Bracci. Those of you who have read my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/from-bagni-di-lucca-to-auschwitz/ will understand more about Liliana’s situation. Indeed, I thank Silvana again for allowing me to share this tragic story on my blog and for being the first to appreciate my post for yesterday which included a section on the same subject:
I found a note written in 2011. I was telling the story of Liliana Urbach (1942-1944), the only citizen from Bagni di Lucca who died in Auschwitz. I wrote it because many seemed to have forgotten about her. I myself knew about her only at the end of the nineties thanks to a journalist from the ‘Tirreno’ newspaper and from a report by Lucca’s Resistance Institute, when Bagni di Lucca dedicated a Peace Park to the little girl. However, little was said about the incident. An expert in history even said to me that it was an exaggeration to define the Bagni di Lucca Cardinali villa as a concentration camp (the old Terme hotel) as if it were somewhat exaggerated by a particular ‘political’ viewpoint. Not so, there are documents to prove it.
I’m again publishing the note because I’m satisfied with it: in recent days some primary school classes have gone to the park to remember Liliana. Teachers, thanks so much!
26 January 2011 19:54 Article
Tomorrow is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I want to remember a story from Bagni di Lucca. It’s the story of Liliana Urbach and her family.
The Urbach were Jews who’d fled from Vienna to avoid racial persecution. Leo Urbach, and his wife Alice and his son Kurt 4 years old, arrived in my country in 1942, and took lodgings in Via Vittorio Emanuele, Ponte a Serraglio, Liliana was born here on October 19th 1942 and was registered as a citizen of Bagni di Lucca.
The family felt tranquil. They were “free internees” with many personal limitations, but were not prevented from working, and Leo was a watchmaker. Other Jews sheltering in the municipality had the same conditions: no radio, monitoring of correspondence, no political activities, minimal relations with the rest of the population, twice daily reporting to the police. But they were alive…
In late 1943, after an order of November 30, Jews in the Lucchesia began to be rounded up, and a provincial concentration camp was opened at Villa Cardinali at the Terme Calde of Bagni di Lucca. It was a transit camp for inmates and aimed at their deportation to the death camps.
The Urbachs were arrested and taken to the concentration camp at Villa Cardinali. In January, a convoy set off with about ninety Jews, including Leo, Alice, Kurt and Liliana Urbach. They were taken to Florence, then Milan. From here on January 30th of 1944 they left by truck for Germany. Leo, pushed by his wife (who told him “get out, they won’t do anything to me and the children!”) jumped from the truck and fled. He was later recaptured and interned in a prison camp, from which he was freed at the end of the war.
Alice, Kurt and Liliana, arrived at 6 am on February 6th at Auschwitz. By noon they had already been murdered in the gas chambers.
Liliana was 15 months old. When I remember her, I think of the fact that she never managed to attend school, never kissed the boy of her dreams, never got her driving license, never was awed before a flag …… she didn’t die in her bed while the children knocked back their tears so as not to scare her. Maybe she didn’t even die with her mum, because the Nazis often divided their prisoners by age. I hope she wasn’t frightened and that her brother Kurt took her by the hand.
Thank you so much Silvana for sharing!
I would like to know what happened to Liliana’s father Leo. And was there ever a photograph taken of Liliana? It must have been quite unendurable for Leo to realise that he’d lost his wife and children contrary to their last words to him. Anne Frank’s father was also in a similar position after the war. When one of us survives a terrible situation and our loved ones perish we clearly must feel unimaginably devastated. Primo Levi, another survivor, found his situation unbearable as anyone realises who has read his poignant book about his experience in ‘Se questo è un uomo…’ (If this is a man). Indeed, I’m quite sure that this fine author’s – we’d met him when he came to England to attend an opera based on his libretto which had been translated into English – suicide in 1987 was to be explained by another survivor, Elie Wiesel’s words: “Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years later”.
The truth is we all die a little bit more when we hear about atrocities perpetrated by humans on humans for ‘whoever kills a person unjustly it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind’. (Quran 5:32)