As I walk by Via di Sant`Ambrogio, a little alley in the heart of the Roman Ghetto, I see the morning sun hitting the brick walls of Lello Di Segni old’s house and my mind starts to wonder back in time.
As Lello told me, he used to play soccer with a paper ball with his friends in that same alley where the Nazi came to arrest them at dawn of October 16, 1943 and took them to Auschwitz.
Of the 1,022 Roman Jews captured that morning, only 100 came back. Lello was one of them (one of the only two still alive). During the next months, until the war was over, a total of 3,000 Italian Jews were taken to the concentration camps. Of the 45 thousands Jews that lived in Italy in the 1930s, today we can count only 15 thousand left.
Lello and other 13 are the only holocaust survivors still alive in Rome.
When they came back, they never played soccer in those streets again, but every Sundays after lunch a Piazza Cinque Scole kids from the Jewish school take care of that.
Like old times, there is a goalie and a bunch of bombers attacking. Same enthusiasm, same smiles, same traditions, same adrenaline rush for a goal.
The screams of the children when they score a victory fill the Ghetto’s air like an old melody some 68 years ago…
The only difference: No paper ball, but a plastic ball today. No hidden SS to seek out Jews from non-Jews and take them away. No trains to catch, no scary places to go.
Just few kids enjoying the old game of soccer.