The first of fascist racial laws

On 5 September, eighty years ago, in 1938, the Royal Decree 1340 was published, the first of the Italian racial laws signed by King Vittorio Emanuele III and commissioned by Benito Mussolini: he ordered the exclusion of Jewish people from the schools. In the months that followed, other decrees followed that some citizens and Italian citizens were first denied political and then civil rights.

The first of the racial laws wanted "the defense of the race in the fascist school", and for this reason excluded from the schools, practically with immediate effect, the students and teachers described as "of a Jewish race"; defining in Article 6 of the Hebrew race "he who was born of both Jewish parents, even though he claims a religion other than the Jewish one". Two other decisions were signed the same day: the first for the transformation of the central demographic office in the Directorate-General for Demography and Race, the second for the establishment, at the Ministry of the Interior, of a High Council for Demography. and the race. They were signed at ten o'clock in the morning, after the king had finished walking in his San Rossore estate in Pisa.

The racial laws were expected and prepared by the publication on the Magazine of Italy – July 15, 1938 – of the so-called "manifesto of race" or "manifesto of racist scientists". The article, published on the first page and not signed, was entitled "Fascism and the problems of the race". It was divided into ten points and introduced by a short summary explaining that a group of fascist scientists, professors and intellectuals, together with the Ministry for Popular Culture (the "Minculpop"), had drafted that text to determine the position of fascism. clarify. to the racial issue. The first of the ten points stated that "human races exist". It was then said that "the population of present-day Italy is in the majority of Aryan origin". Later it was held against mixed marriages and in point 7 it was said: "It is time for the Italians to be frankly declared racist". Point 9 instead stated that "Jews do not belong to the Italian race".

A store closed after the promulgation of racial laws in Italy (ANSA)

Two years before the publication of the manifesto, on 5 May 1936, the Italians had occupied Addis Abeba by putting an end to the Ethiopian war initiated by the regime to gain international prestige and to strengthen the regime itself internally. Mussolini noticed that he had to manage a large area populated by millions of inhabitants of a different ethnic group than Italian. Some were in favor of an open attitude towards the Ethiopian people and the involvement of the local aristocracy in the colony's rule, others had a different attitude: the Ethiopian population had to be treated in a totally different way than the Italian and between the two " races "" It was necessary to maintain a strict separation. "The colonial war of Mussolini was the first to have the partial isolation of Italy in the international community represented at the time by the League of Nations, an ancestor of the United Nations.

This isolation helped Italy to close closer relations with Germany: in 1936 the Rome-Berlin axis was determined, in 1937 Italy joined the Anticomintern pact against the Soviet Union, in 1938 Mussolini promised Adolf Hitler during the annexation. not to intervene in favor of Austria and in 1939 the offensive pact of steel was signed. The alliance was not only military and political: Italy decided to take racial measures similar to those of the Third Reich.

All legislation on race was accompanied by a strong propaganda campaign based on the definition of "& jews & # 39 ;, based in turn on the alleged biological property of the Italian people and people. After the first decree at the school were the professors of the university who were identified as Jews and were dismissed 96. In reality, the number of purges was much higher, taking into account the researchers and scholars who practiced the doctrine: in total we speak more of Three hundred people and among them there were important intellectuals such as Emilio Segrè, Bruno Pontecorvo, Franco Modigliani, Arnaldo Momigliano and Carlo Foà. Enzo Levi, a Jew who escaped from Modena to Argentina, told in his book "Memories of a Life" the consequences of the first of the racial laws on his family:

"Of my seven children, the oldest, graduated and married, had won a teaching contest, but the law excluded him (…) My other children were still studying and were expelled from public schools, and they were allowed to take exams at the end of the year. and they were allowed to write the exam subjects that they had written together with the others, but dictated the themes, it was necessary for the Jewish students to stand up and go out, because they could not be in class stay with the others and had to go, to perform the theme, in a separate classroom.In oral exams they had to appear after all others.This form of degrading treatment was unpleasant for the boys, but I would say that this was more pained with the exception of the teachers, who did not know how to make the provision less cumbersome.In the case of my children, the companions behaved with the most affectionate brotherhood, since my j were always exceptionally prepared, so much so that they regularly confiscated the first places in the voting lists, the comrades said, jokingly, that they were the ones affected by the racial provisions because they could not be helped by the examinations of my children.

(…) I remember the despair that I read in the face of my wife, of which I reflected like a mirror, every time a phone call or the shouting of the "Aryan" boys who came out of the schools at our house, reminded us that the return of our children was no longer in sight and our pride was deemed unworthy to live in public schools with others "

Even before the implementation decrees of the racial law Pope Pius XI – which years earlier had said about Mussolini: "Perhaps we needed a man as Providence brought us together" – spoke two speeches that criticized the "manifesto" from scientists "racists" and the approach of Italy to Nazi Germany, but his most famous speech was that of a general public on September 6, 1938, the day after the release of the "Provision for the defense of the race at the Italian school" Pius XI said: "It is not allowed for Christians to participate in anti-Semitism. (…) Anti-Semitism is inadmissible. We are spiritually Semitic ». Some historians, however, claim that the Church strongly condemned racism, but not anti-Semitism.

An image from the magazine "La difesa della Razza" about the Jews in Italy in 1938. (ANSA)

The racial laws were abolished only after the announcement of the armistice between Italy and the Allies on 8 September 1943. The first edition came from an Allied prescription in a cease-fire clause: "All laws Italians implying discrimination of race, color, creed or political opinion will, if not yet done, be withdrawn, and the persons detained for such reasons shall, according to the orders of the United Nations, be released and freed from any legal impediment to which they are subordinate. »The Italian government However, the progress of the racist and anti-Semitic legislation was only delayed between 1944 and 1947. The first provision was adopted by the Badoglio government on January 20, 1944, was number 25 and was called: "Provisions for the reintegration of civil and political rights of Italian nationals. and foreigners who were already declared of the Jewish race or of the Jewish race were considered ".

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