The Shoah Memorial in Milan as a Shelter for the Refugees
A Story Worth Telling
Dr. Anna Chiara Cimoli, Free-lance museum educator, Milan
The Shoah Memorial is a very special place. Located inside the Central Train Station in Milan, it had been ‘silenced’ for many decades, before Holocaust survivors, the Jewish community and civil society transformed it into a place of memory, understanding and contemplation.
Since 2015, every summer it has become a shelter for hundreds of refugees fleeing from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Syria, sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, and other countries. A Memorial open to schools during the day, it becomes at night a place for compassion, hospitality and the defense of basic human rights. This is not without a price: not everybody agrees upon this double mission.
Politics, memory, history, all culture all come together here, sometimes conflicting, and sometimes suggesting new meanings and horizons. Museums, religion, beliefs: what role can our institutions play in complex times? What is the boundary of activism?
These, and other questions, are in the agenda of the Shoah Memorial now more than ever. My talk will sum up these open questions arising from this specific case study, putting them in the framework of a more general debate on cultural diversity in museums.