This lecture by Michele Sarfatti Introduced by David Kertzer, is sponsored by the Centro Primo Levi, the Italian Academy at Columbia University, and the Columbia University Seminar in Modern Italian Studies, and presented on the occasion of the upcoming publication of a special issue of the Journal of Modern Italian Studies focusing on the 80th anniversary of the implementation of the Racial Laws in Italy. The volume, edited and introduced by Annalisa Capristo and Ernest Ialongo, is in honor of Michele Sarfatti. It pays homage to Sarfatti’s contributions to the study of Italian Fascist antisemitism and highlights the new work done by scholars influenced by Sarfatti’s work.
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Sarfatti’s lecture will examine some aspects of the history of Jews in Italy during the Fascist period and of the history of Nazi and Fascist persecution that have not yet been sufficiently investigated by Italian and international historiography. It therefore functions as a platform for further research. These themes include, among other things, the demography and social status of Italian Jewry, the comparison of European anti-Jewish legislations in the 1930s, and the consequences of the knowledge of the extermination among high-ranking Italian authorities in the early months of 1943.
Michele Sarfatti is the author of seminal works on the Jews and the anti-Semitic persecution in Modern Italy. His groundbreaking study, The Jews in Mussolini’s Italy: From Equality to Persecution, Madison 2006, drastically changed the way in which historians consider Mussolini’s Racial Laws and the persecution of the Jews in Italy. Dr. Sarfatti has been Coordinator of the Activities (1982-2002) and Director (2002-2016) of the Fondazione Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea (CDEC), in Milan. He is one of the founding editors of the e-journal Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. He has been member of “Commissione Governativa di indagine sui beni degli ebrei in Italia nel periodo delle persecuzioni 1938–1945” (“Commissione Anselmi”), 1998-2001; and of “Commissione Governativa per il recupero del patrimonio bibliografico della comunità ebraica di Roma, razziato nel 1943”, 2003–2008. He is a member of the Scientific Committees of Fondazione Museo nazionale dell’Ebraismo italiano e della Shoah, Ferrara, and of Fondazione Museo della Shoah, Roma. See also http://www.michelesarfatti.it/.
David I. Kertzer has been the Dupee University Professor of Social Science since arriving at Brown University in 1992. He is also Professor of Anthropology and Italian Studies. Among his books are Comrades and Christians: Religion and Political Struggle in Communist Italy (Cambridge University Press, 1980); Ritual, Politics, and Power (Yale University Press, 1988); Sacrificed for Honor: Italian Infant Abandonment and the Politics of Reproductive Control (Beacon Press, 1993); Politics and Symbols: The Italian Communist Party and the Fall of Communism (Yale University Press, 1996); The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (Knopf, 1997) (finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction, published in 12 languages); The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican’s Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism (Knopf, 2001) (published in 9 languages); Prisoner of the Vatican(Houghton Mifflin, 2004); Amalia’s Tale (Houghton Mifflin, 2008); and The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (Random House, 2014) (published in 11 languages). In 2015, Kertzer was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Biography for The Pope and Mussolini. In 2005, Kertzer was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is past president of the Social Science History Association and of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe and served as provost of Brown University from 2006 to 2011.