Anti-Semitism in Italy, 1922-1945

Open Access
Gillen, Leah Ann
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Tobias Heinrich Albert Brinkmann, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael James Milligan, Honors Advisor
  • Willa Zahava Silverman, Faculty Reader
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Italy
  • Mussolini
  • Jews
  • Unification
This thesis is a study of the emergence and development of anti-Semitism in Italy, from its roots in pre-Unification, Catholic prejudice to the political, Fascist form of anti-Jewish discrimination of the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Italian Jews, from their 1848 emancipation to the establishment of the race laws in 1938, achieved a degree of assimilation into the surrounding Italian society unparalleled in other European countries. The high level of Jewish influence and involvement in the Unification effort coupled with the continued, successful integration of the Italian Jews into society well into the 20th century lead to the creation of the concept of the italianita`, or Italian-ness, of the Jewish community in Italy. As the Fascist party began to cultivate a modern, political form of anti-Semitism in Italy, culminating in the establishment of the discriminatory race laws in the late 1930’s, Italian Jews failed to successfully respond to the growing dangers facing the Jewish community. Jews in Italy believed themselves inseparable from their non-Jewish Italian counterparts, and thus safe from the genocide in other parts of Europe. With the fall of Fascism and the initiation of the German occupation in Italy, however, Italian Jews were subject to increasing violence. In the final years of the war, they were forced to go into hiding in Italy or escape over the border to Switzerland. The dual development of modern anti-Semitism and italianita` led to a rapid increase in violence against Italian Jews in the early 1940’s.