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Auschwitz museum boycotts Turin book fair

May 7, 2019

The memorial is the latest organization to pull out of the fair over the presence of publisher Altaforte. Altaforte publishes work supporting neo-fascist party CasaPound and the upcoming book of Deputy PM Matteo Salvini.

CasaPound neo-fascist rally in 2018
Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/A. Ronchini

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum said on Tuesday that it will boycott the upcoming Turin Book Fair in Italy after the fair refused to cut ties to a publisher with close links to Italy's neo-fascist CasaPound party.

Halina Birenbaum, an Auschwitz survivor and writer, was due to appear at the Salone Libro Torino event scheduled for May 9 to 13 in association with the museum.

"We cannot ask the survivors to share the space with those who question the historical facts that led to the Holocaust, with those who re-propose a fascist idea of society," the museum wrote on Twitter.

Publisher: 'Anti-fascism is the real ill'

The publisher in question is Altaforte, whose director Francesco Polacchi told Italian news agency ANSA: "I am a fascist. Anti-fascism is the real ill of this country."

ANSA reported that the city government of Turin and the regional government of Piedmont have asked prosecutors to charge Altaforete and Polacchi with promoting fascism, which is a crime in Italy.

The Auschwitz Museum joined several other writers and groups in boycotting the fair, including the popular Italian cartoonist Zerocalcare, essayist Carlo Ginzburg, and writers' collective Wu Ming.

Turin's local chapter of Italy's ruling Five Star Movement (M5S) has called on the Turin Book Fair to ban Altaforte.

Despite this, M5S' coalition partner, the far-right League party, supports the neo-fascist publisher. League leader andDeputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini recently selected Altaforte for his forthcoming collection of interviews called I Am Matteo Salvini.

In response, the fair wrote on Twitter that if the event "has become an opportunity to address this issue"  then it will have served an important purpose in Italian culture.

CasaPound is named for Ezra Pound, the American poet who lived for a long period of his life in Italy and was an avowed supporter of fascism.

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Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.