Antisemitism in Fascist Italy, 1922-1945
There are differing interpretations of fascist antisemitism in Italy. A widespread view depicts Mussolini’s antisemitic policies as decrees enforced on Italy by Nazi Germany. For Gianfranco Fini, a member of the first Berlusconi Government in 1994, Mussolini was the “greatest statesman of our century.” Referring to the antisemitic laws of 1938, Fini declared nine years later that Italian fascism was “absolute evil.” Historians disagree about the nature of Fascist antisemitism. Some consider Mussolini a “reluctant antisemite”,citing, for example, his Jewish mistress; whilst others claim that the fascist dictator was a fierce antisemite from his early years in power.
Did fascism implement antisemitic legislation from its own convictions or were these policies imposed on it by Nazi Germany? Were the Italians willing perpetrators like their German allies, or did the “good” Italian rescue Jews despite the Nazi extermination policy? Based on a close reading of the historical evidence this paper will seek to provide answers to these challenging questions.
Lutz Klinkhammer is Senior Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute
Rome, and heads the contemporary history department . His recent publications include: ‘Die ‘Achse’ im Krieg: Politik, Kriegführung, Ideologie’ (Paderborn, 2010, co-edited with
Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi and Thomas Schlemmer); ‘Was there a fascist revolution? The function of penal law in fascist Italy and Nazi Germany,’ Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 15 (2010): 390-409.
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