Groundbreaking research project opens new
Groundbreaking research project opens new avenues to understand survival.
Welcoming remarks: Consul General of Italy Min. Francesco Genuardi
Introduction: Andrew Viterbi.
Liliana Picciotto (Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation), Susan Zuccotti (author of Père Marie-Benoît And Jewish Rescue How A French Priest Together With Jewish Friends Saved Thousands During The Holocaust), Mordechai Paldiel (Historian And Former Director Of The Institute Of The Righteous At Yad Vashem)
Presented by Centro Primo Levi, the Consulate General of Italy and the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan.
During the past ten years historian Liliana Picciotto has lead a groundbreaking research project at the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan: the development of a database of case-studies to analyze the ways in which Jews survived in Italy during the Fascist and Nazi persecution. The project, funded by a grant from Andrew Viterbi and Erna Finci Viterbi z”l, resulted in a database and a book Salvarsi, published by Einaudi in 2017.
Liliana Picciotto has previously lead to completion the research on the Jews deported from Italy and the Italian territories. Her work provides historians with essential information on the mechanism of arrest that lead to Auschwitz nearly 10,000 Jews who had remained under the control of the Italian Social Republic.
The new project challenges long-established canons in the understanding of rescue which, for the first time, is addressed as an integral aspect of the history of persecution and as the result of complex dynamics in which Jews and non-Jews were active participants.
Survival has mostly been considered by scholars and lay observers in an ethical and political frame which reduces it to rescue, an act of charity casted by heroes upon victims. The redefinition of survival as rescue facilitated a clear separation of the society that “persecuted” from the society that “saved” ultimately inscribing a history of religious, racial and political discrimination into a martyrological narrative and providing post-war Europe with a tool of secular redemption and and a new form of exemplary literature.
Reconstructing the historical context, logistic circumstances, decisions made by those who tried to escape and those who surrounded them, rethinking survival and demise as consequences of relations and interactions, opens a new chapter in the study of the anti-Jewish persecution.
It emancipates the evaluation of survival from politically-motivated efforts and helps better understand the nature of collaboration and indifference, the use and abuse of categories such gratitude, danger, protection, and rights.
Besides political motivations, the difficulty of fully grasping the conditions and perception of the individuals who went through these experiences facilitates the inclination to celebrate survival as mere result of heroism.
Celebration however, can significantly simplify the questions asked and ultimately limit our understanding of how totalitarian societies used the dispossessed seeking to have the same control over the means of persecution and survival.
This panel of experts will discuss the Italian database and its implication in offering new perspective in the field.
Historians Davide Rodogno (The Graduate
Historians Davide Rodogno (The Graduate Institute) and Sergio Luzzatto (University of Turin) will present and discuss their current research on cases in which, during the century that was theater to two world conflicts, the notion of humanitarian intervention took shape and and shaped the societies that received it as well as those that practiced it.
The program is introduced and moderated by Federico Finchelstein (The New School)
Davide Rodogno will present his research tentatively entitled: Night on Earth: Humanitarian Organisations’ Relief and Rehabilitation on Behalf of Civilian Populations (1918-1939). He will give some examples of the social engineering ambitions of a number of non-state actors, such as philanthropic foundations, international associations and organisations that operated in what they perceived to be “the faultlines of Western civilization” in between the two world wars. Some of their activities concerned agricultural, public health and educational programs, with a specific focus on refugees and children who, most of the time happened to be orphans.
Sergio Luzzatto will discuss his new book, Moshe’s Children (Einaudi 2018), the the story of a group of some 700 children who, after escaping the final solution, ended up at Selvino, near Bergamo in northern Italy, in what was then the largest refugees orphanage in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. It is also the story of Moshe Zeiri, who took responsibility for these orphans of the Holocaust, and created the conditions for them to have a second life in Eretz Israel. Moshe was trained as a carpenter and belonged to a small group of young Zionists from Eastern and Central Europe who had emigrated to Palestine in the 1930s, and returned to Europe between 1943 and 1945 to fight as volunteers with the British forces in the Italian peninsula. After a dramatic meeting with some young survivors, Moshe built a sort of republic of orphans at Selvino where a large number of Jewish refugees had gathered under the auspices of the Joint, Delasem and other local relief organizations.
The story of Moshe’s children is above all a tale of redemption, but it’s also a tale of illusions. After the war of independence of 1948, the Selvino kibbutz’s utopian ideals would come in conflict with new (and brutal) forces in the nascent state of Israel.
About the speakers:
Davide Rodogno is professor of history at the Graduate Institute and served as head of the International History Department until 2017. He is the author of Fascism’s European Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2006), Against Massacre: Humanitarian Interventions in the Ottoman Empire (1815-1914) (Princeton University Press 2011). During the summer of 2012 the Kofi Annan Foundation charged Rodogno with writing a report documenting the experience of the United Nations and League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria. He co-edited and authored a volume on the history of Humanitarian Photography, a volume on Transnational Networks of Experts in the Long Nineteenth century, and another on the League of Nations’ social work. He is currently working on two SNSF-funded projects, on the history of minorities in Western Europe (2017-2020) and the Rockefeller Foundation fellows around the world (2018-2022).
Sergio Luzzatto teaches Modern History at the University of Turin. He is the author of Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age (Metropolitan Books, 2010), which won the prestigious Cundill Prize in History; of e Body of Il Duce: Mussolini’s Corpse and the Fortunes of Italy (Metropolitan Books, 2005), and of Primo Levi’s Resistance. Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy (Metropolitan Books, 2016).
Federico Finchelstein is Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College. Professor Finchelstein is the author of five books on fascism, populism, Dirty Wars, the Holocaust and Jewish history in Latin America and Europe.
His new book is: From Fascism to Populism in History (University of California Press, September 2017). Professor Finchelstein has published extensively on Fascism, Latin American Populism, the relationship between history and political theory, the Cold War, Genocide and Antisemitism. He is contributor to major newspapers including The New York Times, The Guardian, Reuters, The Washington Post, Politico, Mediapart (France) El Diario (NYC) Clarin (Argentina) and Folha de S.Paulo (Brazil).