Primarosa Pia (1952-2021)


The sad news has reached us from Piedmont that Primarosa Pia died on 17 April 2021 at the Alessandria Hospital, a few days before her 69th birthday. We mourn this strong, humorous and energetic woman whose work as an educator was tireless in the struggle against forgetting and who was actively involved in the work of the Mauthausen Memorial.

Primarosa Pia (1952-2021)
(Photo: Primarosa and Natale Pia, 2021 (private))

Primarosa Pia was born in 1952 in Montegrosso d’Asti, the daughter of the concentration camp survivor Natale Pia. Her father just managed to survive the Gusen branch camp, her uncle having died there of hunger and exhaustion on his 18th birthday just a few weeks before the liberation. Two other uncles, Biagio and Giovanni Benzi, were survivors of the Flossenbürg and Bolzano camps.

Conversations about the concentration camps and deportation were part of everyday life for the family. But despite her father’s best efforts, for a long time Primarosa Pia did not want to deal with the topic. It took until 2000 for Primarosa Pia, at the age of 48, to overcome her fears and feel ready learn about this sad part of (her family’s) history. From that point onwards, she wholeheartedly made remembering of the terrors of the past her mission. At first she helped her father to transcribe, publish and then disseminate his handwritten memoir — since 2004 the book ‘La storia di Natale’ can be found in many Italian schools and it is now on its seventh edition. For two decades she was active in the field of memory work, at the outset together with her father Natale (1922-2013). She took part in countless events, initiated study tours to concentration camp memorials and was an indefatigable visitor to schools. Especially when working with young people, it was important to her to make the relevance of the past for the present tangible. Her foremost aim was to create an awareness of the mechanisms that allow fascism and National Socialism to flourish.

Primarosa Pia was also involved in the survivors’ association ANED Turin. There she developed and managed a mailbox that quickly grew into another large-scale project, becoming her new ‘baby’. In 2006 she started the lively discussion forum ‘Deportati mai più [R-esistiamo]’, a mailing list with tens of thousands of contacts, many of them abroad. Primarosa Pia moderated this forum with bravura, using it to bring together researchers with interested parties, journalists, relatives of victims of National Socialism, staff at memorial sites and many others. Today the forum continues to be used to share information, develop ideas, form friendships and carry on heated debates.

Primarosa Pia also supported the work of the Mauthausen Memorial. She translated texts into Italian, for example for the exhibition ‘the visible part’ (‘immagini da non dimenticare’), and transcribed countless oral history interviews.

We thank her for her commitment and support over the decades. Primarosa Pia will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with her family.