Italian police have identified 16 people believed to have been involved in posting anti-Semitic pictures of Anne Frank in a Roma jersey during a soccer game, according to media reports on Wednesday.
Police examined video footage of Sunday night’s Serie A game between Lazio and Cagliari at the Stadio Olimpico, when home fans defaced glass barriers with anti-Semitic graffiti and images of Frank.
The Jewish teenager, who died in the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen in 1945, was depicted wearing a jersey of their hated city rivals.
Three of those identified are underage — two aged 16 to 17 and a third aged 13. They are being investigated for inciting racial hatred.
The images whipped up a storm in Italian soccer, with the Roman club announcing it also intends to take youngsters every year to visit the former Nazi camp at Auschwitz, in Poland.
— Andrew Dampf (AP) (@asdampf) October 23, 2017
Italian president Sergio Mattarella personally called Interior Minister Marco Minniti to assure him that those responsible would be identified and “permanently banned from stadiums.”
The Italian soccer federation announced that a minute’s silence would be held and a passage from Frank’s diary would be read before games in Italy this week.
On Tuesday night copies of “The Diary of Anne Frank” were handed out to child mascots accompanying Inter Milan and Sampdoria players onto the pitch at the San Siro.
Israel calls it ‘despicable’
Israel’s sports minister, Miri Regev, sent a letter to her Italian counterpart, Luca Lotti, calling on him to crack down on racism in soccer.
Regev’s office said the letter called the display “despicable” and accused thousands of Lazio fans of openly identifying with neo-Nazi symbols. She wrote that calling Roma players “Jews” implied they were a “scourge to be avoided.”
Lazio’s main fan group slammed the “media theater” on Wednesday and said it would not be traveling to Bologna later in the day for the teams’ Serie A match.
“The ‘Irriducibili Lazio’ are forced to renounce their trip to Bologna to avoid being complicit in this media theater of recent hours,” the group wrote on Facebook.
“Our usual way of being supporters could today be misinterpreted by those who would then attack Lazio and its supporters. At this particular time we invite all the Lazio fans to try not to leave themselves open to new manipulations and to remember that for us the success of Lazio is a priority.”
Meanwhile, Lazio president Claudio Lotito, who laid a floral wreath at the Rome Synagogue to remember victims of anti-Semitism, slammed the behavior of “idiots” but insisted a points deduction “would be wrong.”
Lazio had already been given a two-match closure of the north end of the Stadio Olimpico for racist chanting.
“It was the behavior of 15 idiots, who didn’t know what they did,” he told Radio Capital. “It would be wrong for the team to be docked points as we’d become hostage to these people going to the stadium just to create chaos. It’s necessary to suppress and sanction the perpetrators. I hope what’s happened doesn’t impact on the team psychologically.”
The only team to have beaten reigning champions Juventus in the league this season, Lazio are fourth in Serie A just ahead of Roma, whom they will meet in the Roman derby on November 18.