Marta is seventeen, “an age when everything satisfied and made us smile.” Those smiles are brutally ripped off on the evening of March 29, when two SS men break into the house to pick up the Ascoli family, who are half Jewish. It is the beginning of an endless ordeal. The first stage is the rice mill of San Sabba, the unique Nazi internment in Italy. Then the departure from her mother and the nightmare train journey to Auschwitz, alone in a convoy of men so as to not leave her father. Then to Birkenau, and Bergen-Belsen—the snow, the forced labor, starvation, disease, torture. And the words that sound like a death sentence, only just postponed: “You will only get out of here through the chimney.”
Tough, Marta is still attached to life with all her might, but finally, exhausted, she decides to kill herself by jumping against the barbed wire—but the guard who discovers her does not shoot.
Through her testimony, Ascoli reminds us of the tragedy experienced by one family, by all Jewish people, by all mankind—and, with the force of a shout, explains that Auschwitz belongs to all, a symbol of the larger open wound in the history of the twentieth century.