Paper Lives. The Little Known
Paper Lives. The Little Known Story of Foreign Jews Interned in Italy
Presentation: Anna Pizzuti, curator of the database and historical portal on foreign Jews in Italy during World War II, presents her work.
Film screening: E42 by Cynthia Madansky, produced during her fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. The film is centered on the story of Katja Tenenbaum, who was born in a town South of Rome where her parents were interned as foreign Jews. Casting Tenenbaum’s reflection against those of Hannah Arendt, — whose work is Tenenbaum’s focus as a scholar— the film poses questions on displacement, memory and oblivion.
In 1938 the Racial Laws stripped of their Italian citizenship Jews who had acquired it after 1919 and ordered all “foreign” and “stateless” Jews to leave the country by March 12, 1939. Approximately 9,000 Jews managed to leave with the assistance of Delasem and the Joint Distribution Committee. Another 4,000 had no means and place to go and remained in Italy in a precarious situation. When Italy entered the war in 1940, Mussolini ordered the immediate arrest of all foreign Jews who had remained in the country.
The wave of arrests was brutal and lead to a substantial expansion of Italy’s already significant civilian internment system: with concentration camps and internment locations for Jews.
During the course of the war, some 6,000 Jews— coming from war territories through military deportation or as refugees who managed to pass the tightly controlled Italian border— were interned.
By the end of the war roughly 10,000 Jews were interned in Italian concentration camps and confinement locations. Of the approximately 7,000 who found themselves in the Italian Social Republic, 2,400 were deported to death camps. The others emigrated for the most part to the US and some to Palestine.
What remains of their lives are thousands of letters, petitions, and request buried in the archives of the police and the censorship agency. With a patient, compassionate and highly critical eye, Anna Pizzuti tried to conjure, from these records of oppression fragments of lives, personalities, beliefs and hopes of people who were trapped in a limbo of abuse, which, upon learning about the horrors of the extermination, those who survived, called refuge.
Printed matter, Brief Accounts of Life and Death of Foreign Jews in Italy
Anna Pizzuti was born in Alvito in 1949. She graduated from the University of Rome La sapienza in 1970 with a thesis on the origins of fascism in Italy. She has taught Italian and History in various high schools, always including the teaching of fascist and nazi anti-semitism and the Shoah well before the establishment of Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2000. Her inspiration in this effort has always been the teaching of Primo Levi with his emphasis on knowledge above beliefs and emotions.
Since 2006 she devoted herself to historical research, concentrating on the vicissitudes of Jews who, from various European countries arrived in Italy before or during World War II. In 2010 she published the book Paper Lives, Stories of Foreign Jews Interned by Fascism (Donzelli). Her research lead to the creation of a comprehensive resource on the Fascist internment of the Jews.
In order to share her material with scholars and the public, Pizzuti developed a website (www.annapizzuti.it) containing a data-base of the foreign Jews interned in Italy, detailed information on Italian concentration camps and confinement locations organized by region, an extensive survey of the laws, decrees, practices and amendments governing Jewish civilians’ internment, an anthology of essays on the main themes concerning the refugee policies of various countries and how they intersected, information on methodology and archives, case-studies, and statistics that are continuously updated. The database is also featured on the online resource of the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan in conjunction with one initiated by Francesca Cappelli of the Scuola Normale di Pisa who passed away prematurely during the project. Pizzuti collaborates with a network of local scholars conducting research on World War II refugees and in Italy, Croatia, Germany and Switzerland.
Cynthia Madansky’s films integrate hybrid forms including autobiography, experimental tropes, cinema verité, literature, anthropological observation and dance, engaging with cultural and political themes, such as identity, nationalism, displacement and war and foregrounding the human experience and personal testimony. The most recent works include 1+8, a video installation on the borders of Turkey co-directed with Angelika Brudniak and two films produced as fellow at the American Academy in Rome, Anna Pina
Teresa, exploring one of Anna Magnani’s legendary gestures in Roma Città Aperta and E42 a cinematic exploration of Fascism’s urban space.