Event Date: Sunday 26 September 2010
Imperial War Museum, London
Racism, war, atrocity, and its aftermath in Italy, 1938-2010
The economic aspects of the Fascist anti–Jewish campaign have been largely underrated and neglected, when not denied, for many years.
In the late forties a veil was quickly drawn over the manifold legislative and administrative measures undertaken by Mussolini’s government against Jewish properties throughout seven years, their concrete enforcement and their consequences on Jews, both Italian and foreigner.
This peculiar chapter of the anti–Jewish persecution has been interpreted within the general framework with which the whole Fascist anti–Semitic persecution was read for decades by the Italian and international historiography: a mere bowing to the Nazi will, exclusively motivated by reasons of foreign policy. The anti–Semitic legislation issued by the Fascism was considered without a real ideological and political background and, accordingly — it was said — scarcely and blandly applied by the fascist apparatus, especially in its economic aspects. Moreover, a classic anti-Jewish stereotype has further influenced this erroneous reading: Mussolini’s government was aware of the (alleged) economic dominance and supremacy of the Jewish community; hence, fearing of damaging the whole national economy he did not act with rigor and severity against Jewish properties.
Only recently, triggered by the survey led by the “Italian Government Commission for reconstruction of the events characterizing the acquisition of Jewish assets by public and private bodies”, which was operative between 1999 and 2000, new studies have clearly demonstrated the fallacy and lack of foundation of these well–rooted interpretations.
Starting from the analysis of the economic situation of the Italian Jewry on the eve of the racial campaign, my talk will illustrate the detailed and pervading economic persecution, its key features, its heavy consequences on Jews’ everyday life, as well as the autonomy of the Fascist government and bureaucracy in the conceiving and implementation of the Jewish spoliation, even during the period of the Nazi occupation of the Italian territory.