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PostMussolini's Racial Laws, 1938 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 09/01/17 3:26 am)
I will try to clarify the questions raised by Salvatore Bizzarro, 15 August.
It is very complicated for someone who knows the many good things accomplished by Mussolini, to speak about the Italian Racist Laws of 1938. It is like sipping bleach and while smiling and saying it is delicious.
Let's start with Mussolini. He was never anti-Semitic. It is enough to see his humanist socialist education, his Jewish lovers and his political actions. Many Jews joined the Fascist Movement from the beginning, and he placed many of them in his governments.
The relations of the Jewish Community with Mussolini were excellent. See the Gold Commemorative Medal on the occasion of the law of 30 October 1930 that abolished the last discrimination against Jews from reaching the highest ranks in Italy. For some high-level appointments it had been necessary to be Catholic.
Mussolini did not act in favor just of the Italian Jews, but also opened Nautical and Agricultural schools for foreign Jews.
Mussolini maintained very good relations with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann (and Vladimir Zabotinskij), and in 1935 he asked for his help against the Sanctions, but Weizmann refused and sided with the UK. Who knows if a different action could have changed history?
Just a short time earlier, Mussolini had granted him thousands of visas for Jews escaping from Germany.
The racist law was not anti-Semitic. In reality it was pushed forward following also the fact that in East Africa too many children were born from Italian fathers and local women. The problem was that many of these Italians were already married and that created big problems.
Anyway, Italian racism had nothing to do with the Nazis. Himmler in 1943 stated: "Fascism and Nazism are two fundamentally different things. No comparison is possible between Fascism and Nazism." In fact the so-called Fascist racism was born in view of the possible war and the antagonism of World Zionism.
Anyway the painful Italian Law "In Difesa della Razza" was not attacking all Jews. In fact the following groups remained untouched:
1) Families of soldiers killed or wounded in previous wars.
2) Families of soldiers who received decorations or who went voluntarily to wars.
3) Families of Fascists killed or injured for the Fascist cause.
4) Families of Fascists enrolled in the party in 1919-25.
5) Families who had specific merits.
Theoretically no Jewish doctor could take care of a non-Jewish Italian, but (in the typical Italian style) in case of an emergency it was permitted to call a Jewish doctor and so on. So in a population of 47,252 Italian Jews, about ten or eleven thousand could escape the law.
Special schools were formed for the others, but the students generally could finish their studies. Many Jews lost their jobs and were placed in paid retirement. The order was to discriminate but not persecute.
Fermi did not escape but was regularly sent to Columbia University in New York with regular paid leave from the University of Rome.
The law was discussed by the Representatives and the Senators. None voted against it and the lousy king approved.
But the Jewish fascist Colonel Giorgio Mopurgo, in protest, advanced alone against the Republican lines in Spain until he was killed. He was awarded the gold medal. The Jewish fascist editor Fortunato Formiggini, a good friend of Mussolini, jumped from a window and killed himself in protest.
There was no protest from the Vatican, and the future PM of postwar Italy, De Gasperi, said: "Italian racism shall develop in concrete actions of defense and enhance the values of the nation."
We could go on at length to show the anti-Semitism of many who after WWII became antifascists. See the historian Bocca, the ministers Spadolini and Fanfani. PM Andreotti ordered the burning of all the favorable declarations made by the post-WWII democrats.
During the period of Italian neutrality, as I have written earlier on WAIS, Italy opened its borders (funny, Jews escaping to Italy in spite of the law), and helping both Jewish and non-Jewish Poles. When Italy entered the war, Italian troops received the order from Mussolini (in one way or another) to protect all Jewish Communities.
During the war, at least while Mussolini remained in power, the Germans never dared to do anything against the Jews in Italy or in the Italian-occupied zones.
About the protection of the Jews in the Italian-occupied zones, the General Prosecutor Husner in his speech against Adolf Eichman stated: "The Nation most dear to Israel is Italy for what its civilians, diplomats, and military have done to help masses of Jews in France, Greece and Croatia; moving into the Italian zone meant safety." There are plenty of reports on this matter that show the protection of the Jews by Fascists and by Mussolini himself.
A dear friend of mine, when he was in the San Marco Division of the RSI had a Jewish mate loyal until the end.
In such a policy there was also, perhaps, the willingness of Mussolini to show that Italy was much better than Germany and after a possible victorious war the European nations (perhaps excluding Croatia) would have sided with Italy in case of a possible showdown.
JE comments: Eugenio Battaglia's "drinking bleach" analogy is priceless! (Ever been to a faculty meeting? A round of Clorox for everyone!)
Eugenio, what do you mean by this: "During the war, at least while Mussolini remained in power, the Germans never dared to do anything against the Jews in Italy or in the Italian-occupied zones"? If this is accurate, then why were any of the Jewish Italians deported to the camps?
To my mind the question boils down to this: is there any way to sugarcoat racial laws? Let us not forget that at the same time, the US had Jim Crow and many unwritten exclusions against Jews. Gulp...bleach.