Most of the non-Jewish Italian population, now defined as of ‘Aryan race’, approved of or adjusted to State anti-Semitism, showing an opportunistic indifference towards the tragic fate of their fellow ‘next-door’ citizens (‘Aryan’ MPs passed the persecution laws unanimously; ‘Aryan’ senators voted 154 ‘aye’ and 10 ‘no’).
Many took advantage of the disappearance of the Jews from universities, from public administration, liberal professions, and from the vast trade sector. Students and young intellectuals were among the main supporters and disseminators of racism and anti-Semitism, and the regime’s press praised persecution.
In December 1938, a ‘boycott’ action against Jewish economic activities took place in the whole country, with the support of the national press. Bills were posted with anti-Semitic phrases such as ‘Jews are not welcome’, ‘Aryan store’, etc.
In September and October 1941, a radical minority of the Fascist party launched violent attacks against the synagogues in Ferrara, Turin, Casale Monferrato, and Trieste, when they were not directed against individuals. In June 1942, the synagogue of Split (which was part of the Italian State) was brutally attacked by Fascists.
The hateful denunciation practice also spread consistently.
Only a few people, such as philosopher Benedetto Croce, director Arturo Toscanini, and Ernesta Bittanti, widow of irredentist Cesare Battisti, publicly staged their protest, subtly or in private, against State anti-Semitism (as in the then consolidated fascist dictatorship, this entailed serious risks).
The church itself merely protested against the prohibition of ‘racially mixed’ marriages and the persecution of baptized Jews.
Jews, who had been entirely excluded from Italian society, were then progressively abandoned to their tragic fate of persecution.
Padua, 19 December 1938. The Prefecture of the city reports to the Directorate General of Public Security ‘signs of pietism’ towards Jews. However, anti-Jewish legislation is strictly abided by. Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Roma
7 October 1938. The Italian Embassy at the Vatican reports the position of the Holy See regarding the ‘Declaration on race’. The only criticism is a ‘concern’ about the provisions concerning mixed marriages and Jews who had converted to Catholicism. Archivio Centrale...
Rome, September 1938. A ‘group of Roman Protestants’ declares its solidarity with the ‘Italian Israelite brothers’. Centro bibliografico dell’Unione delle Comunità Ebraiche Italiane, Roma
Milan, February 1939. Ernesta Bittanti (1871-1957), wife of the irredentist Cesare Battisti, performs a courageous gesture by publishing in the Corriere della Sera an announcement – partly censored – of the death of the Engineer Augusto Morpurgo. She reports this in...
Ernesta Bittanti Battisti at her desk, 1938. Museo storico in Trentino, Trento
Trieste, September 1938. An anonymous individual denounces an employee of the municipal tramways, Ignazio Isidoro Baroncelli (previously Grünhut), because he is allegedly a ‘Jew’. The Prefecture investigates and highlights that the denunciation is targeting a fervent...
Rome, January 1941. ‘Aryan’ street vendors do not want to stand near their ‘Jewish colleagues’. Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Roma
Rome, November 1941. In an anonymous letter to Mussolini anti-Jewish measures are proposed similar to those in force in Nazi Germany. Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Roma
Turin, November 1939. An unknown individual suspects that some Jews in the city, including former socialist publisher Arrigo Bonfiglioli (born in Ferrara in 1887), are involved in Georg Elser’s attack against Adolf Hitler, on 8 November 1939. Archivio Centrale dello...
Photo of Arrigo Bonfiglioli, from the Central Political Records Office. Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Roma
Trieste, November 1938. Mameli Castiglioni, non-Jewish owner of some shops, publishes an announcement in the main daily newspaper of the city to express his ‘Aryanism’ publicly. Il Piccolo, 20 November 1938. Archivio di Stato, Trieste
Milan, December 1938. Typical anti-Semitic poster. Il Regime Fascista, 18 December 1938. Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica Giovanni Spadolini, Roma
Milan, December 1938. Il Messaggero publishes the picture of the same ‘Aryan store’ as Il Regime Fascista. Il Messaggero, 16 December 1938. Biblioteca di storia moderna e contemporanea, Roma
Milan, December 1938. Putting up an anti-Semitic poster. Corriere della Sera, 17 December 1938. Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica Giovanni Spadolini, Roma
Milan, centre, December 1938. Poster with anti-Semitic text. Il Popolo d’Italia, 14 December 1938. Biblioteca di storia moderna e contemporanea, Roma
Florence, December 1938. Store with the inscription: ‘Entry forbidden for Jews’. La Nazione, December 1938. Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica Giovanni Spadolini, Roma
Rome, December 1938. Posting of anti-Semitic writings. Il Resto del Carlino, 17 December 1938. Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica Giovanni Spadolini, Roma
Bologna, December 1938. Posting of anti-Semitic writings. Il Resto del Carlino, 28 December 1938. Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica Giovanni Spadolini, Roma
Trieste, December 1938. News of anti-Semitic writings, which had appeared in the city. Il Popolo di Trieste, 17 December 1938. Biblioteca Civica ‘A. Hortis’, Trieste
Trieste, Volti di Chiozza 1, December 1938. Jews are invited not to enter the ‘Portici’ Coffee house. Le ultime notizie. Il Piccolo delle ore diciotto, 21 December 1938. Fondazione Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea, Milano
Rome, December 1938. Store with the inscription: ‘Attention. Entry forbidden to Jews’. Il Popolo di Roma, 15 December 1938. Biblioteca Civica ‘A. Hortis’, Trieste
Turin, December 1938. A library advertises the alleged ‘Aryanness’ of its employees. La Stampa, 18 December 1938. Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica Giovanni Spadolini, Roma
Turin, circa 1938, Anti-Semitic writing in a pub. Istituto piemontese per la storia della Resistenza e della società contemporanea ‘Giorgio Agosti’ (Istoreto), Torino
Venice, March 1940. The Prefecture reports the posting of anti-Semitic bills in town. Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Roma
Bergamo, Sacerdote clothing stores. ‘Leprous Jew’ and other anti-Semitic writings. Sacerdote Family Collection, Bergamo / Fondazione Bergamo nella storia
Trieste, 1942. ‘Jewish store closed forever’. Graffiti on a shop window in Corso Vittorio Emanuele III, 24 (nowadays Corso Italia). It is Giacomo Zitrin’s fabric and clothes store, with adjacent tailor’s workshop. The store was closed in 1940. Fondazione Centro di...
Rome, July 1941. Anti-Semitic flier, entitled ‘Down with Jews’, distributed in the capital. Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Roma
Rome, 1940s. Painter Aldo Gay draws the aggressions he suffered by anti-Semitic gangs at the Portico d’Ottavia (1940) and in via Appia (19 July 1943). Gai Family Collection, Roma
Trieste, October 19, 1941. The Legione territoriale carabinieri reali describes the anti-Jewish devastation performed by approximately 80 Fascists in a report for the Ministry of the Interior. Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Roma
Trieste, October 1941. The Synagogue soiled by fascist squads. Istituto regionale per la storia del movimento di liberazione nel Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trieste
Trieste, July 1942. The interiors of the Synagogue devastated by the fascists. Archivio fotografico dell’Istituto regionale per la storia del movimento di liberazione nel Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trieste
Ferrara, September 1941. The Temple of Spanish rite devastated by Fascists. Fondazione Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea, Milano
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