18:50 GMT +306 December 2019
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    A picture released in 1959 shows a portrait of Anne Frank who died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in May 1945 at the age of 15

    Kick It Out: Italian Soccer Fans in the Dock Over Racist Anne Frank Stunt

    © AFP 2019 / ANNE FRANK FONDS
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    Football has been brought into disrepute in Italy after fans posted stickers of Holocaust victim Anne Frank wearing the jersey of a leading soccer club alongside anti-Semitic slogans.

    An investigation has been launched by Italian police after stickers with the picture of Anne Frank, who famously wrote a diary of her life as a German Jew in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam during World War Two, wearing a football top, were found in a sports stadium in Rome.

    The material had earlier been left by hardcore Lazio fans, known as "ultras," who photoshopped the young girl wearing the jersey of arch-rivals Roma as well as anti-Semitic messages in the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, October 22, which they jointly share.

    Lazio soccer team president Claudio Lotito gives a statement to the press after laying a wreath outside Rome's Synagogue, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.
    © AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia
    Lazio soccer team president Claudio Lotito gives a statement to the press after laying a wreath outside Rome's Synagogue, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.

    Italian president Sergio Mattarella described the stunt as inhuman, alarming and an insult.

    "Anne Frank's face, the pages of her diary, her suffering and her death thanks to Nazi barbarism shocked the world," he said.

    Now players from Lazio will wear a picture of Anne Frank on their shirts in their next game, and a minute's silence will also be observed at all soccer matches at the weekend before a passage from Frank's diary is read out to fans.

    Claudio Lotito, the chairman of Lazio, has also promised to take 200 fans a year to the Auschwitz concentration camp, having placed a wreath at a synagogue in Rome.

    "I am here to express our total dissociation towards all xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism," he said.

    File photo of the sign Arbeit macht frei (Work Makes You Free) at the main gate of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim January 19, 2015.
    © REUTERS / Pawel Ulatowski
    File photo of the sign "Arbeit macht frei" (Work Makes You Free) at the main gate of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim January 19, 2015.

    Ruth Dureghello, the head of Rome's Jewish community, posted a picture of the stickers on Twitter, saying:

    [Twitter: "This is not soccer, this is not sport. Anti-Semites out of the stadium."]

    The post was then retweeted by Virginia Raggi, the Mayor of Rome, who demanded the Italian football association investigate the case.

    Luca Lotti, Italy's sports minister, said those responsible would be "identified and punished," insisting:

    "There is no justification. These are instances to be condemned unconditionally."

    Lazio's "ultra" fans have long been recognized for their fascist sympathies, hurling anti-Semetic insults at their arch rivals Roma, a club that had a Jewish fanbase having been founded by an Italian Jew.

    Previously they displayed a banner reading, "Auschwitz Is Your Homeland, the Ovens Are Your Homes" during a local derby match against Roma.

    A statement issued by Anne Frank House, one of Amsterdam's most visited tourist attractions, condemned the Lazio supporters' attitudes.

    ​Antonio Tajani, the head of the European Parliament, who is also Italian, denounced Lazio fans' behavior. He told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that "using the image of Anne Frank as an insult against others is a very grave matter."

    The stickers were described as being "unbelievable, unacceptable and not to be minimized," according to Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni.

    The passage to be read out will be a diary entry on 15 July, 1944, that reads:

    "I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that every will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."

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    Tags:
    Anti-Semitism, football fans, racism, soccer, football, xenophobia, Second World War, WWII, SS Lazio, Anne Frank, Europe, Italy
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