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Seminars: Beyond the Racial Laws. Racism in Fascist Italy Reconsidered

28Nov4:00 pm6:00 pmSeminars: Beyond the Racial Laws. Racism in Fascist Italy Reconsidered4:00 pm - 6:00 pm(GMT+00:00) MemoriaMemoria

Event Details

Giorno della Memoria | Seminars

Michele Sarfatti (CDEC, Milan), Annalisa Capristo (Center for American Studies, Rome), Guri Schwarz (University of Pisa) and Ilaria Pavan (University of Pisa). Moderated by Alessandro Cassin (Centro Primo Levi)

Post-war Italian and international historiography had a tendency to downplay the racist components of Fascism. Starting in the 1980’s some historians began to challenge this view. They undertook an examination of the intellectual and political landscape that shaped this prevalent opinion, while engaging in a new and thorough assessment of historical documents and data.

The scope and ideological foundation of the Fascist anti-Semitic legislation has recently emerged in its true dimensions through the findings of the “Italian Government Commission for reconstruction of the events characterizing the acquisition of Jewish assets by public and private bodies”, active between 1999 and 2000.

Overturning the claim that the Racial Laws were a byproduct of diplomatic relations with Germany and were left largely unenforced, new studies demonstrate that racial prejudice and policies -not only toward the Jews – were an integral part of the Fascist mindset.

For instance, an in depth analysis of Razza e Civiltà – the official review of Demorazza (the department of the Ministry of Interior dedicated to racial policies) provides new insight into Fascist racism, both as a cultural and political phenomenon and its role in shaping Fascist society.

As a result, a new picture of the Fascist era emerges, not only in terms of domestic policies, but also within the larger contexts of Italy’s role in European colonialism and the cold-war era.


This program is held in cooperation with the Center for Jewish History, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and the Italian Cultural Institute in New York and is part of a series entitled Purely Italian.


YIVO Constantine Gallery, 15 West 16th Street

The Persecution of Jews in Italy. A Documentary History.

Curated by the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan.

In the past 20 years, Italian historians have brought to light new and significant facts that challenge the common perception of a “lighter” version of the Holocaust in Italy. What needs to be completely reconsidered is the old notion that only as late as 1938 Mussolini’s regime adopted harsh anti-semitic policies, mostly as a result of  pressure from Nazi Germany. Instead, what emerges is a different and more nuanced perspective on the complex relationship between Italians and Jews under Fascism and the nature of Fascist anti-semitism. This new assessment is crucial for a deeper understanding of the  specific characteristics  of the Shoah in Italy, including the contradictory circumstances that allowed a high percentage of Jews to survive.

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