Italy / Monument
Binario 21, the most important centre on the remembrance of the Shoah in Milan, is located at the back of Milan's Central Station, in premises below the platform level. Binario 21 is a deportation memorial opened in 2013, and since 2022 houses the Centre for Contemporary Documentation.
In the early decades of the 20th century, this site was used for unloading and loading mail and had direct access to Via Ferrante Aporti (today Piazza Edmond J. Safra, 1), on the right-hand side of the station. Here there is a large opening suitable for the entrance of trucks, with a very deep compartment inside.
In the period between 1943 and 1945, during the Nazi occupation and the Italian Social Republic, numerous convoys of Jewish people departed from here, destined for the Nazi concentration and extermination camps, mainly Auschwitz-Birkenau. The camp was also the departure point for some convoys of political prisoners destined for Mauthausen or, together with Jewish deportees, to Fossoli transit camp.
The 'loading' of the deportees took place in a large dark area, away from prying eyes. The transfer from the Milanese prison of San Vittore to the Central Station was carried out at dawn. The prisoners, crammed into lorries that were closed off by large tarpaulins, arrived at the underground level of Via Ferrante Aporti, and were loaded with force amidst whistles, screams and barking dogs, onto cattle wagons which stopped on the tracks in the deepest part. The wagon was then placed on a traversing bogie, which moved along the tracks of a long underground tunnel, was placed on a car lift and lifted up to an open-air shunting track, where it departed from after being coupled to the rest of the convoy.
About eighty deportees per wagon, squeezed into a very small space, were forced to travel for days in inhuman conditions. This site, where the Memorial now stands, has high historical and witness value, due to the physical integrity of these spaces, which have been restored to their original appearance as much as possible through archaeological excavation work, preserving the signs of time on the reinforced concrete and iron structures.
The route inside the Memorial unfolds along vast rooms shrouded in a spectral gloom. It is an experience that provides meaningful information and evokes strong emotions, recalling the past events that the environment portrays in a stark and realistic light. Interspersed with stony silence, a thunderous noise and loud rumbling can be heard coming from the ceiling, which shakes the entire basement floor, triggered by trains moving on the tracks above.
The Memorial comprises two essential parts. The place of Remembrance, consisting of the area of the tracks, where the trenches can be seen in depth and where the Wall of Names is located. On this wall the 774 names of the Jewish people deported in the first two convoys (6 December 1943 and 30 January 1944), are engraved. These convoys went directly from the Central Station to Auschwitz-Birkenau and only twenty-seven of the deportees survived. The panels of the permanent exhibition, entitled 'Journey of Remembrance', are located along the pillars of the span. The Remembrance Workshop, i.e. the learning and study section, is then located in the street-facing area. There is also an auditorium in the basement, assigned to lectures and debates.
A wall at the entrance to the Memorial bears a large inscription 'indifference', which, according to Liliana Segre who was deported here as a 13-year-old and fortunately survived, was one of the key reasons that made the tragedy of the Shoah possible.