Mr. President of the Federal Republic of Germany,
Mr. President of the Region of Tuscany Rossi,
Mr. Mayor Giannetti and citizens of Fivizzano,
we are here to pay our respects to the victims, communities, places, which were subjected to Nazi-fascist inhumanity, in all its savagery, during the Second World War.
Mr. President Steinmeier,
Italy thanks you for wanting to speak here today at the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the massacres perpetrated in the Municipality of Fivizzano.
Your awareness of the value of memory is well-known Mr President.
You have consistently demonstrated this, ever since your first visit to Rome, as newly elected President of our friend the Federal Republic of Germany, in May 2017, with your visit to the Mausoleum of the Fosse Ardeatine massacre.
Memory and truth are the basis of democracies.
In the years between the two world wars, the Italian and German peoples endured tragic and parallel experiences.
The progressive loss of confidence in the values at the heart of European history - respect for life, for the dignity of every person, for individual and collective freedom - together with the distortion of the idea of nation, allowed regimes that scorned democracy to achieve absolute power, leading our two peoples to fight inauspicious wars of aggression, with the ultimate aim of creating a perverse system based on force and arbitrariness, on the oppression of man over man.
The night of conscience led to dreadful tragedies, such as those that took place in the town of Fivizzano, whose victims we solemnly remember today. Victims, killed to quench a savage desire for death.
In fact, the "war on civilians" characterized the painful wake of mourning that, at the end of the Second World War, brought Tuscany - together with Emilia Romagna - the sad record of Italian regions with the highest number of deaths due to slaughter and massacres, far beyond any logic of war confrontation.
The total war of annihilation, which the Nazi regime reserved for the submissive peoples, did not spare Lunigiana.
The inhumanity, the unscrupulous terrorism practiced by the SS and the black republican brigades, has cruelly marked the life of this part of Italy, of its people.
Postwar, in the tranquillity of daily life, Fivizzano once again manifested the serenity of an industrious and creative people, of an important centre of culture, linked to its printing tradition.
The rediscovered beauty and quietness of these places cannot, however, distract us from that "exercise of memory" for which we are gathered here today.
It would be misleading to think that those episodes happened because it was another, very different era. That the guilty belong to a distant time and place, which are not those of today.
The presumption that, after all, those deaths, those destructions, are not current and that, therefore, they do not concern us, as if other communities were affected, extraneous to the conditions, is unfounded. Those events are not a painful past but to be archived, rather, to be forgotten!
On the contrary, those deaths force us to look with unmitigated awareness at those facts.
If we were to yield to the thesis of oblivion, we would also risk forgetting that the roots and the reasons for the long journey that, through the struggle in Europe against Nazi-fascism, through the Resistance, with the recovery of democratic values and freedom, has led us to our Constitutions and, in the subsequent journey of European integration, to our common historical perspective, lie in those tragedies.
If all this was not always brought to remembrance, we would be turning our backs on ourselves, on our history, it would be a triumph of the unawareness of who we are, with the prevalence of indifference, of unfamiliarity with what authentically constitutes our Republic.
This is a serious risk, which would despoil us of our history of suffering and ransom.
It would offend the sacrifice of our fellow citizens whose life has been taken.
It would presume to undo the bereavement of family members and the pain of an entire community.
This cannot happen.
The great German intellectual, Hannah Arendt, warned us: "It is in the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past.”
During the official visit to Berlin last January, I found the same message at the entrance to the memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe, expressed by Primo Levi's words:
“It happened, therefore it can happen again”.
A sentence that, in its crude simplicity, permeates the meaning of today's ceremony because, continues Levi in another passage: "consciences can again be seduced and obscured: even our own".
Our future cannot be the return to a past of destruction, of oppression of peoples, of massacres.
It is our duty to prevent the creation of conditions in which this can happen again.
Our democracy, our values of freedom, the ideal impetus that has enabled Europe to rise again and to reconcile with itself, were founded and developed precisely on the basis of the blood shed by innocent people, as happened here, and the consequent emotional cry of the founding fathers of Europe: "no more wars, no more mourning".
An appeal - both a warning and an entreaty - that was deeply echoed in the consciences of those who - survivors of the abyss of barbarism - set themselves the objective of building a new Europe, at peace at last, where hostility and oppression were banned.
Mr. President Steinmeier,
the meaning of today's ceremony, as well as those attended by our predecessors in Marzabotto and Sant'Anna di Stazzema, is a reminder, a call to repentance and reconciliation.
Together, Italians and Germans unleashed homicidal madness against a defenceless population, made up of the elderly, children and women, some of them even pregnant.
We are here today, side by side, Germans and Italians, faced with those crimes, bowing our heads to the victims, pleading for forgiveness.
In addition to the overwhelming and unparalleled personal faults of those who were guilty of those crimes, the historical and political faults, and sins of omission are not negligible.
These tragic events place a heavy responsibility on all of us.
History teaches us that, faced with barbarism, entire centuries of civilization can be annihilated in a moment.
Thus "never again" is not only the legacy of our recent history, but it is the order that must accompany every day our being citizens, the climate and the daily behavior of everyday life.
With determination, the peoples of the Federal Republic of Germany and of the Italian Republic have been able to overcome pain and adversity, to take their destinies into their own hands and to rise up from the abysses into which Nazism and Fascism had dragged them, contributing to the construction of the European Union, one of the largest spaces of freedom in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
the commitment to which we are called is both individual and collective: that "never again" also belongs to the challenges of today.
May a world at peace be the legacy we leave to future generations, where hatred and aversion between peoples are banned and the values of dialogue and mutual respect prevail.
Both civilization and the victims of Fivizzano demand it.