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January 09, 1987 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-01-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



S
O
co *

UP FRONT

Scholars Say WWII Italy
Was Not Hard On Jews

A

lthough Italy was an
ally of Germany dur-
ing the Second World
War, its policies toward Jews
were far better than is usual-
ly assumed, according to
scholars at a recent three-day
conference at Brooklyn
College.
The symposium was spon-
sored by Brooklyn College's
Humanities Institute and the
• - Italian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs.
Italian and American
scholars agreed that the
Italian record of its relations
toward Jews generally com-
pared favorably with the
Danes, Finns and Bulgarians
who resisted the Nazis'
systematic efforts to deport
and murder Jews.
"Italy was one of the
sparks which illuminated
human goodness, compassion
and tolerance," said Paul
Bookbinder, an associate pro-
fessor of history at the
University of Massachusetts.
Anti-Jewish laws, passed
under Mussolini to placate
Hitler, were never "fanatical-
ly" pursued, said Bookbinder.
Bookbinder noted the de-
bate over Pope Pious XII's in-
attention to the plight of the
Jews. But he added that there
was substantial evidence that
Italian priests and bishops
I "made valiant efforts to help
Jews." This contrasted sharp-
ly with the German and Aus-
trian clergies' stance toward
\- Jews in their countries.
Italy's policy toward Jews
during the war was confirmed
for the BALTIMORE JEWISH
TIMES by Raul Hilberg, a
Holocaust scholar at the Uni-
versity of Vermont. "I would
rank the Italian record pret-
ty high," he said, placing it
"higher than France, but not
as high as Denmark.
I
"There was little Italian
participation in the round-ups

for Jews," he said. "Certainly

not as much participation as
in France. About 5,000 to

6,000 Italian Jews were able
to escape to Switzerland dur-
ing the war, many of these
with the assistance of gentile
Italians. When anti-Semitic
laws were enacted in late
1943, they were publicized in
advance to give a warning to
the Jews."
And in The War Against
I
the Jews: 1933-1945, historian
Lucy Dawidowicz wrote,
"Whatever hardships the
Italian Jews had to undergo
from the end of 1938 on, their
situation was enviable in con-
trast to those Jews who lived
under direct German occupa-
tion."
Italy was considered such a

safe haven from the Nazi ex-
termination policies that
some Jews from France and
Yugoslavia fled there. When
policies became more repres-

sive toward Jews under the
puppet regime of the Nazis
that succeeded Mussolini,
many Italians harbored Jews
or helped them escape
abroad.
Less than 20 percent of Ita-
ly's 40,000 Jews were de-
ported to extermination
camps in Eastern Europe, a
smaller percentage than all
but two or three countries.
In a paper read to the con-
ference by an Italian consular
official, the Italian Foreign
Minister Giulio Andreotti
stated that the anti-Jewish
laws passed under Mussolini
in 1938 "make it inappro-
priate to claim a moral
superiority or an innocence
that history does not grant
us.
"Nonetheless," continued
Andreotti, "when the threat
of genocide became real,
many Italians, perhaps the
majority of Italians, became
fully aware of the gravity of
the situation and behaved in
a generous and courageous
manner. . .The Church op-
ened its buildings to the
persecuted and the diplo-
matic service by boycotting
the deportation laws."
Andreotti recalled that he
and nuns in a convent in
Rome had helped save Jews.
The convent's printing press
produced identity papers that
provided new citizenships for
Jews, he said.
Speakers at the symposium
offered several reasons for
Italy's moderate anti-
Semitism as compared to
other European nations dur-
ing the war. Among these
were the traditional Italian
mistrust of government and
the fact that Jews had main-
tained a community in Italy
since the second century
B.O.E. In general, it had not
experienced massive anti-
Jewish outbreaks over these
centuries.
Another reason was that
beginning in 1870, Jews were
more completely integrated
into Italian life than
elsewhere in Europe. For in-
stance, Sidney Sonnino, a
Jew, was twice elected Italy's
prime minister and a Jewish
economist, Luigi Luzzati, was
chosen prime minister once
and minister of finance five
times.

Human Rights
Investigation

Washington — Anatoly
Shcharansky and Yuri Orlov
will testify at a Commission of
Inquiry in Washington, Jan.
23 to investigate charges of
massive Soviet human rights
violations. The commission is
sponsored by the Union of
Councils for Soviet Jews. The
Commission will investigate
Soviet compliance with the
Helsinki Accords and with
other international treaties.

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