Italian players took time away
from their Euro 2012 preparations on Wednesday to listen with
"astonishment and fright" to the tragic stories of Auschwitz
survivors during their visit to the Nazi death camp.
The entire Italian team spent more than an hour at the
infamous extermination facility where 1.5 million, mostly
Jewish, victims perished during World War II.
Before departing on the one hour trip back to their team's
base, the Italians greeted at the camp gates their Dutch
counterparts, whose team had arrived for a brief tour of
The Italian players and coaches walked through two wooden
barracks that contain exhibits that include the hair shaved from
the heads of incoming prisoners and their belongings like
suitcases and glasses.
At the train stop where prisoners were unloaded from cattle
cars before an almost-certain death in the camp's gas chamber,
teary-eyed members of the Italian squad listened intently to
stories about the death factory by three Italian survivors.
"I came here because I know that these young people don't
know the history that took place here," said Piero Terracina,
83, whose prison number A5506 remains tattooed on the inside of
his forearm, a sad legacy for all Auschwitz prisoners.
"When I told them about the atrocities during our time in
the camp and that death was everywhere, they looked at me, but
did not understand completely. In their eyes I could see
astonishment and fright."
Many of the players later embraced and kissed the elderly
survivors before leaving the camp, which remains surrounded by
barbed wire, once electrified fence.
"It was an emotional experience, especially hearing the
direct testimony," Italy midfielder Riccardo Montolivo said in a
federation statement. "It made me reflect a lot."
Before the Italian and Dutch teams toured the Auschwitz
museum, several members of the German team led by coach Joachim
Low made a special trip there on Monday.
Unlike Italy, the Netherlands and England, whose team has
scheduled its Auschwitz trip for Friday, the Germans are based
in the port city of Gdansk, not the nearby city of Krakow.
Much of the Holocaust was perpetrated on Polish soil by its
war-time Nazi occupiers, nearly wiping out its entire Jewish
community of some 3.3 million people prior to 1939.
Poland has maintained some of the death camp facilities as a
reminder of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis on its soil.
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