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January 07, 1994 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-01-07

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

THURS • FRI • SAT

Jan. 6, 7 eSt 8

Northwestern Hwy. Between 12 & 13 Mile Roads

Old Files Document
Italy's Fascist Laws

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Rome (JTA) — More than
2,600 files documenting how
fascist Italy's anti-Semitic
laws were applied to in-
dividual citizens before and
during World War II have
been recovered after lying
hidden for more than 50
years in an attic.
The discovery of the docu-
ments in the northern
Italian town of Merano was
made by Federico Steinhaus,
the president of the 50-
member Jewish community
of Merano, and was an-
nounced at the end of last
week in Rome.
At the same time, it was
announced that the files
would be turned over to
Italy's Central State Ar-
chives, which already houses
thousands of similar docu-
ments.
Several documents in the
newly discovered trove
reflected efforts by the fas-
cists to ascertain the,racial
status of Umberto Saba, one
of Italy's most important
20th century poets. Saba
was the pen name of Umber-
to Poli.
"The name Umberto Saba
does not appear in the local
birth registry," one docu-
ment stated. "From the in-
quiries carried out at the
local Jewish community, it
appears from the birth
register that a certain
Umberto Poli, born in
Trieste March 3, 1883, of
Ugo Abramo Poli and
Rachele Coen, could, accor-
ding to the rabbi of the
community, be identified
with the individual in ques-
tion."
Documents attempting to
ascertain whether an in-
dividual was to be con-
sidered Jewish were ad-
dressed personally to dic-
tator Benito Mussolini, so
that he himself could take
the decision.
These involved particular-
ly complicated cases involv-
ing generations of mixed
marriages and conversions
— both to Judaism and to
Christianity — and polit-
ically sensitive cases.
One of these cases involved
the sister of a former prime
minister who tried to be
declared non-Jewish.
"From the documents pro-
duced, it is revealed that the
individual is daughter of a
father of the Italian nation-
ality (Tuscan) belonging to
the Jewish race and of a

mother of English nation-
ality," the file stated.
The file also noted that the
woman had enrolled in the
membership lists of the
Rome Jewish community,
but that she had also con-
verted to Protestant Chris-
tianity.
Everything points to her
being of the "Jewish race,"
the file concluded.
"Bearing in mind,
however, the repercussions
that such a decision could
have, particularly regarding
her late brother, this case is
being brought to your atten-
tion, Duce (or Leader, as
Mussolini was known), for
the decisions you think
should be adopted," a letter
in the file stated.
"These documents are part
of the patrimony of
memory," said Tullia Zevi,
president of the Union of
Italian Jewish Com-
munities. "We must

41

The documents
included files on
2,600 individuals.

preserve the memory of such
realities. They are a warn-
ing for the youth of today."
Written in bureaucratic
language on official forms,
the documents include ap-
peals by people who hoped to
escape persecution because
they were children of mixed
marriages or had converted
to Christianity.
The documents also in-
cluded materials that track-
ed how the laws were ap-
plied against individuals,
requests to examine the
Jewish background of
specific people, and orders to
intern in concentration
camps foreign Jews who had
been found in Italy.
Material documenting how
Italian citizens were deter-
mined to be of the "Jewish
race" include detailed, in-
timate information about
individuals and their
families.
The documents came to
light when an elderly
Merano man who ran a mov-
ing company told Mr.
Steinhaus last year that he
had come across eight
wooden chests filled with
documents "relating' to
Jews" in the attic of his
firm's building. The docu-

4

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