Italian police and soccer authorities on Monday opened investigations after Lazio fans posted anti-Semitic stickers of Holocaust victim Anne Frank wearing the jersey of their top-flight city rivals AS Roma.
The stickers and anti-Semitic slurs were found on glass barriers, walls and bathrooms in a section of Rome’s Olympic Stadium that was used by Lazio supporters on Sunday in their Serie A match against Cagliari.
The hard-core and often violent Lazio fans, known as “ultras,” left the stickers and anti-Semitic slogans such as “Roma fans are Jews” in a section of the stadium where Roma supporters usually sit when their team is playing.
Lazio fans have a history of racist and anti-Semitic behavior, including a Lazio banner in the intra-city derby nearly 20 years ago aimed at Roma supporters that read: "Auschwitz Is Your Homeland; The Ovens Are Your Homes."
“This is not soccer, this is not sport. Anti-Semites out of the stadiums,” Ruth Dureghello, the head of Rome’s Jewish community, said in a Tweet in which she posted a picture of the stickers.
Local rivals Lazio and Roma share the stadium.
Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Lazio region, of which Rome is the capital, was leading a group of historians at the Nazi death camp of Treblinka in Poland when he heard of the incident. He said it had provoked “added indignation”.
The head of the European Parliament also strongly denounced the use of Frank's image to offend the fans of an opposing team, saying that anti-Semitism has no place in Europe today.
Antonio Tajani, himself Italian, told the European Parliament on Tuesday that "using the image of Anne Frank as an insult against others is a very grave matter."
He said the EU must remain a place of religious tolerance, with anti-Semitism a phenomenon confined to the past.
It additionally reported later on Tuesday that the president of Lazio soccer club visited Rome's main synagogue and promised a new anti-Semitism education campaign after fans plastered Rome's stadium with stickers of Anne Frank wearing crosstown rival Roma's jersey.
Seeking to disassociate the club from the hard-core ultra fans who plastered the stickers around the Stadio Olimpico during Sunday's game, Lazio President Claudio Lotito said the club would be intensifying its efforts to combat racism and anti-Semitism and announced Lazio would organize an annual trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp with some 200 young fans to "educate them not to forget."
Anne Frank was born in Germany but her family fled to the Netherlands to escape the Nazis. They lived in hidden rooms in Amsterdam before they were discovered by German occupiers and deported to concentration camps.
She died in the Bergen-Belsen camp aged 15 and her diary recounting the family’s time in hiding became a centerpiece of Holocaust literature.