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The Italian Executioners: The Genocide of the Jews of Italy

03Oct6:00 pm8:00 pmThe Italian Executioners: The Genocide of the Jews of Italy6:00 pm - 8:00 pm(GMT+00:00) Italian Jewish Studies SeminarItalian Jewish Studies Seminar

Event Details

Book talk with Simon Levis Sullam (University of Venice Ca’ Foscari)

“The Italian Executioners: The Genocide of the Jews of Italy” (Princeton University Press, 2018)

In conversation with Alexander Stille (Columbia) and Federico Finchelstein (The New School for Social Research)

Sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies at The Graduate Center in collaboration with the History PhD Program and Centro Primo Levi NY. Free admission. Reserve your seat at this link.

Simon Levis Sullam examines the political and social context as well as case studies in which Italians took active part in the persecution of the Jews.

«The evening of Saturday, December 5, 1943, a few hours before the raid that led to the arrest of over 170 Jewish men, women and children, the young pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli held a concert at the La Fenice Theater. The following day, a few hours after the Jews were provisionally handed over to local prisons, the city’s soccer team held a match. The arrests had occurred overnight, in a city shrouded in a cold winter darkness. While the genocide of the Jews began in Venice, days flowed as always, in an indissoluble interweaving of life and death: the prefect who had given the order to arrest the Jews had perhaps then attended the concert of Benedetti Michelangeli. And those among the policemen or the fascist volunteers who had participated in the arrests, a few hours later had gone to the stadium to watch the Sunday soccer match at the St. Elena stadium.»  

In his conclusions, Levis Sullam notes that «No one [of the Italian executioners] was tried in the post-war period for participation in the anti-Jewish politics of fascism: neither the one dating back to 1938 nor the persecution of Italian Social Republic […]. Generally, the persecution of the Jews was not considered a crime or a specific fault, nor an aggravating factor of other crimes, in the broader context of an overall underestimation of the responsibilities of Italian fascism of the Monarchic period and of Salò”

As well explained – among others – by historian Claudio Pavone, the continuity between monarchic and fascist state on one side and republican-democratic post-fascist state on the other, prevailed over discontinuity. Examples are the so-called Togliatti amnesty of June 1946 or the behavior in post-war trials of the Italian judiciary which “remained largely exempt from judgment [and] therefore in absolute continuity with its fascist past.

“Even if we only look at the racist policies of fascism,” Levis Sullam observes, “it is clear that members of the justice system who was directly involved in the application of racial laws, in the post-war period continued their careers with honors […]”. Among various cases the author examines, is “Gaetano Azzariti who, former president of the Court of the race from 1938 to 1943, was Minister of Justice in the Badoglio government, head of the Legislative Office in the Togliatti government, and happily concluded his career as president of the Constitutional Court in the 1950s.

Simon Levis Sullam is associate professor of Modern History at the University of Venice Ca’ Foscari. He has been research fellow of the Fondazione Einaudi in Turin, at the Italian Academy, Columbia University, New York, at UC Berkeley, and at Oxford where he also taught modern European history. He was an adjunct professor at the University of Siena. In 2016-17 Levis Sullam was Polonsky Fellow as co-chair of the Seminar in Advanced Jewish Studies at the Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies of the University of Oxford. Levis Sullam’s areas of specialization include: Italian history between the Nineteenth and the Twentieth century; Jewish history; the history of anti-Semitism and of the Holocaust. His interests also include the history of historiography and questions of historical method.

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