Hundreds run through Rome past sites related to persecution or deportation of Jews

Ruth Ellen Gruber

ROME (JTA) – Hundreds of people ran through the streets of downtown Rome over the weekend to commemorate the Holocaust and look to the future.

Dubbed “Run for Mem”, Sunday’s marathon-like race was part of a wide range of events on and around International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which takes place on January 27, the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp.

The race was organized by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, or UCEI, the Rome Marathon, and the Maccabi Italia Association, under the auspices of the government and with the backing of a wide range of civic, Jewish, sports, and other bodies.

Organizers said around 1,500 participants took part in the race, with many more on the sidelines.

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“There was no winner,” a UCEI spokesperson said. “They all arrived back together.”

Ranging in age from young people to grandparents, the runners wore white T-shirts emblazoned with the race’s slogan, “Race for Remembrance, Looking Ahead.”

The race followed two itineraries starting and ending near the city’s main synagogue in Rome’s old Jewish ghetto and taking runners past sites related to the World War II persecution or deportation of Jews. On hand was Shaul Ladany, an Israeli athlete who survived the Holocaust and also survived the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

“Today we are here for something important,” he told the media. “To defend memory, and to make it a value that is ever more alive.”

Organizers said the Run for Mem was the first time in Europe that a sporting event like this had been used to commemorate the Shoah.

UCEI President Noemi Di Segni said they had chosen this “new, perhaps courageous, way to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day” in order to “unleash the energy of running together” as a means of reaffirming life.