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February 2 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
This program is organized through a partnership between Centro Primo Levi and the Columbia Seminar in Modern Italian Studies. It is held at the Italian Academy and is meant for students and faculty. Reservation is required. Visit the Seminar’s webpage for details.
Luca Fenoglio (Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Leicester). Respondent: Susan Zuccotti (author of Père Marie-Benoît and Jewish Rescue and Holocaust Odysseys: The Jews of Saint-Martin-Vésubie and Their Flight through France and Italy).
This paper will discuss the rationale behind the Fascist government’s controversial refusals to hand over to its Nazi ally foreign Jewish refugees in Italian-occupied territories and thereby to collaborate in their extermination before September 8, 1943. It will focus on the often-neglected ten departments of southeastern France that the Italian Army occupied as part of the Axis powers’ invasion of Vichy France in November 1942 until September 1943. In February 1943, there were some 15,000 Jews from all over Europe in the Italian-occupied region of Nice alone, thus making the Fascist government’s approach to the ‘Jewish problem’ a constant source of friction between the Axis partners. At the same time, it was in southern France that Fascist Italy came closer to hand over non-Italian Jews to the Nazis, when the Fascist chief of Police ordered the surrender – which, however, did not take place eventually – of German Jews in July 1943.
The paper will retrace the decision-making process concerning the treatment of foreign Jews in Italian-occupied southeastern France and thereby show that the refusal to hand them over and the partial reversal of that policy in July 1943 were only one portion of a larger Jewish policy that Fascist Italy implemented between November 1942 and September 1943. As a result, the paper will simultaneously build upon and move beyond the existing opposing arguments that interpret the Fascist government’s refusal to hand over foreign Jews either as a humanitarian rescue or as a self-interested ‘pragmatic’ choice, and offer a new interpretation that places emphasis on the distinct Italian-Fascist understanding of the ‘Jewish problem’. Further ramifications of the paper will concern the relationship between racism and violence in Fascist Italy’s quest for a Mediterranean Empire during World War Two.