The Memoriale della Shoah commemorates the deportation of jews and political prisoners from the basement of the Stazione Centrale.
The Memoriale della Shoah today is located in the area under the platforms of the Stazione Centrale, an area of around 7000 sqm.
The project of the Memoriale was started in 2007 and inaugurated on 27th January 2013. In the first decades of the 20th century, this place was dedicated to the loading and unloading all the mail and had a direct access on via Ferrante Aporti (today Piazza Edmond J. Safra, 1) on the right side of the station, with a big entrance for trucks and a large internal space. From 1943 to 1945, during the nazi occupation and the years of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (R.S.I.), this was the place from which several trains departed to transport jews to nazi concentration and extermination camps, mainly Auschwitz-Birkenau.
This is where many trains full of political prisoners were also heading to Mauthausen or, when full of jewish deportees, to the transit campo of Fossoli. The “loading” of the deportees occurred in a large and dark area, far away from prying eyes. The transfer from the prison of San Vittore to the Stazione Centrale was carried out at dawn: the prisoners, crammed into trucks covered with big sheets and brought to the underground area in via Ferrante Aporti, were forcefully loaded on the cattle wagons waiting for them on the tracks, in the deepest area of the basement, surrounded by whistles, shouts and howling dogs. The wagon was later positioned on a side shifter moving on the tracks of a long underground tunnel, to be later positioned on a lift and taken on the sidings in open air, where it departed after being hooked to the rest of the train.
The deportees were around 80 a day, crammed in a very small space and forced to travel for days in inhuman conditions.
After the police order n. 5, that generalized the arrest and detainment of all jews, issued on 30th November 1943 by the Minister of the Interior of the R.S.I., whoever was identified as jewish, regardless of age and geographical provenance, had to be deported arrested, detained, and deported to a transit camp, and later moved to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where on average about 80% of the jewish prisoners arriving were immediately killed in the gas chambers without even being registered.
The space were the Memoriale della Shoah di Milano is located is a place of high historical and testimonial value for its physical integrity (it was restored to its original appearance) and because it still preserves the signs of time on its structure of concrete and iron.
The itinerary within the Memoriale consists of these large spaces enshrouded in a ghostly darkness located under platform n. 21. It is an experience that provides significant information and strong emotions, given that the events of that time are represented in a very realistic and brutal way. From the ceiling, you can hear the loud noise of the trains departing on the surface interrupted by a ghostly silence. This noise recreates the nightmarish atmosphere experienced by the deportees who, locked in the dark wagons of the train, were lifted to the surface before departing; it reproduces in the visitors a physical perception of closeness with the historical memory of this space.
The Memoriale is made up of two essential parts: the place of Memory, the area with the tracks, where you can see the tracks and the “Muro dei Nomi”, a wall engraved with the names of 774 jewish people deported with the first two trains, who departed from the Stazione Centrale on 6th December 1943 and 30th January 1944 respectively, and reached Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 27 of them survived.
A dark and gray light enters the space from the opening above, from which the lift reached the platforms on the surface.
On the pillars of the aisle you can find the panels of the exhibition dedicated to people and events linked to this place entitled “Viaggio nella Memoria”. The Laboratorio della Memoria, the section dedicated to in-depth study and analysis, is in the area overlooking the road. The project involves a library with around 45,000 books and a reading room on three floors. The Auditorium with 200 seats has been recently completed and is located in the basement. It is a room dedicated to debates and conferences.
At the entrance of the Memoriale there is a wall with the word “indifference” written on it. According to Liliana Segre, who was deported from here when she was 13 years old and survived, indifference is the cause that lead to the Shoah.
The ramp welcoming the visitors runs around the wall, making the visitors “disappear” from the area. The Memoriale della Shoah, whose entrance is in piazza Edmond J. Safra, in the past called via Ferrante Aporti 3, is a center to meet and discuss upon the topic of Memory as a “civil duty” and “moral obligation”.