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Lega anti-Semitism. Turin, August 2019.

Before Fascism, no anti-Semitic parties or organisations existed in Italy.

The most flagrantly anti-Semitic paper was La Vita Italians (Milan and Rome) which had few readers and little influence. Its editor was Giovanni Preziosi, a former Catholic priest, who first published the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Italian in 1921, and issued a mimeo¬ graphed copy of the book.

Later, in 1937, government funds helped Preziosi to establish La Nuovlssima, a publishing house interested chiefly in propagating the Protocols. He also issued a Spanish version for distribution in South America.

The popularity of the fabrication grew overnight when the Italian anti-Jewish laws adopted after Italy joined the Axis put Preziosi and his magazine into the limelight.

Even before that, anti-Semitic trends had been in evidence among leading Fascists.  After 1938, several Italian papers published anti-Semitic articles under government order or suggestion.

A new magazine, La Difesa Della Razza, preaching racism, was founded in Rome in 1938 by Telesio Interlandi, a newspaperman, who became Hitler’s mouthpiece in racial questions in Italy.

Interlandi is said to have received 14,000,000 lire from the Nazis to organize his campaign and his magazine. He was later made chief of the racial division of the Italian Ministry of Interior.

Other publications which propagated anti-Jewish doctrines after 1938, and in many cases, even before, were: II Legionario (Rome), the organ of fascists abroad; II Glomalissimo (Rome); II Tevere (Rome); II Regime Fascista (Cremona); and Popolo d’Italia (Milan).

The acknowledged leader of the Italian anti-Semitic politics was Roberto Farinacci, a former secretary of the Fascist party. Farinacci was surrounded by a group of political profiteers who grabbed the spoils and occupied the positions formerly held by Italian Jews.

In the United States, the best known Italian anti-Semite was Domenico Trombetta, owner and editor of II Grldo Della Stirpe; he was interned and deprived of his American citizenship.

The Catholic clergy did not commit itself openly or clandestinely to any anti-Jewish policies in Italy. After 1938, Catholic priests were in several instances known to have helped Italian Jews.

The Vatican itself set a precedent by admitting to the Pontifical Academy several Italian Jewish scientists dismissed from Italian universities. Obviously, this support of the Catholic clergy was intended to encourage the conversion of the Jews.

The process of “Aryanization” of converted Jews was often abetted by Catholic priests, who seem to have supplied ante-dated baptismal certificates to be used as evidence of “Aryan” descent.

Before 1938, Italy did not have extra-legal or de facto anti- Semitic discrimination. With the exception of a few clubs frequented by the old aristocracy, Italian Jews were welcome in practically all social strata.

Official discrimination against Italian Jews, as legalized by the laws of 1938-39, followed the Nazi pattern. Laws excluding Jews from every phase of public life were vigorously applied in Italy.

The laws depriving the Jews of their real estate property (Royal Decree, November 17, 1938, #1738), were not actually enforced until much later. The extent of the confiscations was not known.

Frequently, Italian Jews were protected by the intervention of Italian non-Jewish friends, in whose favour the title was changed. Sometimes, customary bribery helped.

It is hard, however, to judge how far this sort of protection could be carried on under the new conditions created by the war.

As a consequence of the anti-Semitic laws, the Italian Jews were practically segregated from the rest of the population.

However, judging from the attacks printed in the fascist papers against fair Italians, one is inclined to conclude that the segregation had its exceptions

Before 1938, the attitude of Italy toward stateless Jews was friendly. After 1938, those who did not succeed in leaving within a time limit of six months were either confined to concentration camps or made civil internees (in small localities).

From the occupational point of view, anti-Jewish legislation “brought a real revolution in the composition of Italian Jewry. Jews were practically excluded from professions

After 1938 only minor clerical jobs were left open to Italian Jews, no matter how high their training, skill or previous experience.

Until the introduction of racial legislation, the Italian Civil Service had been open to Jews without discrimination, and Jews were found in small number in the mail, telegraph, railway and other departments.

No important banking institutions under direct Jewish control ever existed in Italy. There were a few small private banks in several Italian cities owned by Jews. The most important of these, however, had disappeared long before 1938.

Generally speaking, the financial situation oi the Italian Jews was not outstanding enough to make it conspicuous before the Italian public.

Adapted from The Jews of Italy (1944). Published under a Creative Commons license. Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit. All rights reserved.