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December 08, 1961 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1961-12-08

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS — Fr iday, December 8, 1961 —

Laura Fermi's Biography of Mussolini
Exposes Duce's Imitations of Hitler

Benito Mussolini. died inglori-
ously. There were great mo-
ments in his life when his peo-
ple followed him blindly. but
the over-all portrait of the
Italian dicta- .,...
tor, as painted
by Laura Fer-
mi, her bio-
graphy, "Mus-
solini," pub-
lished by Chi-
c a g o Univer-
sity Press
(5750 Ellis
Ave., Chicago
37); is that of
a shallow man
who had no
scruples, who
took advan-
tage of situa-
tions w hi c h
often played
into his hands
to gain con-
trol of his people and his
During the precipitating crisis
of World War II, Mussolini is
depicted as having had "a mod-
erating influence in the rapidly
deteriorating political scene,"
but Hitler was getting the
upper hand and Mussolini was
becoming ill, it having been re-
ported that he was "taking
morphine to relieve pain." Mrs.
Fermi views him in that tragic
period of "criminal madness"
as follows:
"It was an incredibly tragic
fate that, through the event-
ful months leading to Italy's
participation in , World War
II, an entire country should
be guided and dominated by
the will of a man ill in mind
and body; by one whose
thinking was founded less
and less on reason; one to
whom action, however un-
planned, however vicariously
experienced, held the great-
est attraction; one who closed -
his eyes to reality, the appal-
ling state of military pre-
paredness and national 7i-
flange, the opposition of the
population and of even his
collaborators, rather than out
to the test his alleged ascend-
ancy over Hitler and risk
the loss of Hitler's esteem; a
man who changed his mind
from hour to hour, whose de-
cisions, affecting a whole
hemisphere, hinged on such
irrelevant factors as who had
had the last word with hiin
or how incensed he was .about
the laziness and lack of fight-
ing spirit of the people he
himself had molded during
the Fascist revolution; a man
who was so' firmly established
in power, so completely (if
resignedly) accepted, that no
one dared to contradict him,
let alone to attempt to over-
throw him."
Was Mussolini a hypocrite, in
view of his many inconsistencies
in his early life? Mrs. Fermi
believes:_ "Mussolini was not so
much a hypocrite as a person
with an almost unbelievable
sense of what was 'befitting' at
any particular moment, of the
attitude, or impression he would
give that would put him in the
best lighf."
"The first seed of anti-Semit-
ism was sown in Mussolini's
receptive mind as early as
1908," and Mrs. Fermi explains
how the dictator, who was in
his early years anti - clerical,
anti-Vatican, later coming to an
accord with the Pope, was in-
fluenced by the Nietzschean
conception of the superman.
She writes about Mussolini's
first evidence of anti-Semitism:
"To Nietzsche, Christianity
was the result of a spiritual
revenge of the Jews over the
Romans who had enslaved them
and an inversion of values that
the Jewish people achieved
through Jesus. Jesus, Mussolini
wrote in paraphrase of Nietz-

sche, was a visionary tempera-
ment endowed with 'an extra-
ordinary nervous energy' with
which he could inspire the
crowds. Thus the rabble, the
slaves, had triumphed. This is
the feat of the Jew, in whom
Rome, which produced the last
society of dominators, saw its
very `counternature, its anti-
thetic monster.' " Such was the
view that first brought to light
Mussolini's anti-Semitism.
Later, in 1933, Emil Lud-
wig interviewed Mussolini
and recorded his sentiments
in the book "Talks with Mus-
solini." In it Mussolini is
quoted to have said to Lud-
wig: "Anti-Semitism does not
exist in Italy. Italians of
Jewish birth 'have shown
themselves good citizens, and
they fought bravely in the
war. Many of them occupy
leading positions, in the uni-
versities, in the army, in the
banks. Quote a number of
them are generals . . ." At
this_- point Mrs. Fermi com-
ments: "The Italian Jews, who
interpreted this assertion as
a pledge, were stunned when,
suddenly and without warn-
ing, the anti-Semitic laws
were promulgated in 1938—
and 'Talks with Mussolini'
was withdrawn for good from
Launching the anti-Semitic
camnaign officially with the
publication of the "Manifesto
della Razza," signed by five
university professors, race
theories were advanced and it
was asserted that "Jews do
not belong to the Italian race_"
After World War II it easily ,
revealed that Mussolini himself
"compiled the larger part of
the manifesto," and Mrs. Fermi
"Only Mussolini could have

so shamelessly put together
so many absurdities and tried
to drown them in rhetoric
and verbosity."
After the manifesto's appear-
ance; the Italian press "ham-
mered at the faults of Italian
Jews and the crimes of 'inter-
national Jewry.' " Italian Jews
believed that the cause of this
anti-Semitic camnaign was Mus-
solini's pact with Hitler.
Mrs. Fermi asserts that: -
"The tragedy of the Italian
Jews was due to little more
than a whim of the Italian dic-
taor, to his spirit of emulation
which drove him to imitate
his great friend Hit!er, and to
his - consequent desire to
Prussianize Italy. There is
reason to believe that Mus-
solini himself did not attri-
bute any greater importance
to the anti-Semitic campaign
than to other measures di-
rected at reforming 'the Ital-
ian style.' "
Did Mussolini nurse personal
feelings against Jews? In spite
of Nietzsche's influence upon
him. Mrs. Fermi states that he
had not met anti-Semitism in
family and at school and he
associated with many Jews,
among them Angelica Balaban-
off and Margheritta Sarfatti,
but he soon "evinced those
vague apprehensions and mis-
apprehensions about the Jews
which are a sign of ignorance
and on which anti-Semitism is
often built.' said more than
once that the Jews themselves
created anti-Semitism by being
too conspicuous and invasive,
a't(nether too-Jewish, and he
condemned those Ttalian Jews
who participated in the Zionist
Mussolini issued a dirgctive
against Einstein and gradually
became more aggressive in his

an i emi ism. a was emu a
ing his friend Hitler "in the
tenacity of his hatred, and he
told von Ribbentrop on Nov. 6,
1937: "We are conducting a
very determined and increas-
ingly intensive anti-Semitic
Jewish writers and newspa-
permen were banned and his
son-in- ► aw, Ciano, at the time
that the programs were con-
ducted against Jews in Ger-
many, said that

has now been injected in the Ital-
ians' blood." Ciano found him
"more and more aroused against
Jews." and the "reactionary
measures taken- by -the Nazis"
not only were approved by the
duce, but he said he would go
further under similar circum-
Mrs. Fermi writes that "the
duce appeared indignant be-
cause the king had indicated
that he felt 'infinite sympathy
for the Jews.' "
In January 1939, Presi
Roosevelt appealed to Mu
to sponsor the settle
t of
European Jews in
Mussolini replied tha only the
United States, Braz and Rus-
sia were able to s port such
an undertaking. " ew months
nreviously," Mrs. rmi writes,
"Mussolini himse had hinted
at the nossibilit of opening
some regions o Ethiopia to
Jewish immigrat . and his
ren ► y to Rooseve must have
br.Pri dictated by
e fear, on
second thought, t
the people whom
r pe
secuted would displeas
fuehrer. Thus, out of loyalty to
a friend who was the incarna-
tion of cruelty and perversion,
Mussolini missed a unique op-
portunity to win the sympathy
of the world."
Mrs. Fermi states j that the
Italian people reviled Hitler.
Coming to the defense of the
Italians, she shows how, towards
the end, even his own collabor-

a o s
an • is son
torio participated in the sur-
render of the Fascist hierarchy. ,
She believes that the Italian
people had learned the lesson
of Mussolini's betrayals:
"Today," she declare s,
"Mussolini is the skeleton in
the cupboard, a shameful in-
cident in the history of a
Mrs. Fermi, in a very great
hiogranhy,' throws light on the
mot 4 vations for Mussolini's anti-
Sernitism and Te,Teals the ugli-
neqs of his character. Her story
of the dictator- exposes the
machinations of a man who
roc ,-, to great heights but who
dirt not Possess the humane
n „ -)ut;es of remaining great and
bac instead emerged as one of
the most repulsive figures in
the history of mankind.

tions fo
cation -r in
dude le g i t i m
theat , numerous special m
cal vents such as conce
op a and ballet; greyho
ra ing, jai-alai, the night c
and weekly boxing and
rig ex b• ons.

or 's
orat y
afness re=
e ing and
t at the Uni-
h being
.:ty of IV •



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