How did Italy treat Jews during World War II? Historians have shown beyond doubt that many Italians were complicit in the Holocaust, yet Italy is still known as the Axis state that helped Jews. Shira Klein uncovers how Italian Jews, though victims of Italian persecution, promoted the view that Fascist Italy was categorically good to them. She shows how the Jews' experience in the decades before World War II - during which they became fervent Italian patriots while maintaining their distinctive Jewish culture - led them later to bolster the myth of Italy's wartime innocence in the Fascist racial campaign. Italy's Jews experienced a century of dramatic changes, from emancipation in 1848, to the 1938 Racial Laws, wartime refuge in America and Palestine, and the rehabilitation of Holocaust survivors. This cultural and social history draws on a wealth of unexplored sources, including original interviews and unpublished memoirs.
Shira Klein is an Assistant Professor of History at Chapman University, California. She has won awards from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Yad Hanadiv/Beracha Foundation, and the USC Shoah Foundation.
Introduction; 1. The making of Italian Jewish patriots: emancipation, World War I, and Fascism; 2. A thriving Jewish life: Jewish culture in the Kingdom of Italy; 3. Five long years of Italian racism: anti-Jewish laws, 1938-43; 4. Hunting for Jews: the Italian and German manhunt in the Republic of Salo, 1943-5; 5. Imagining Italy: Italian Jewish refugees in the United States; 6. Fur coats in the desert: Italian Jewish refugees in Palestine; 7. Recovery and revival: postwar Italian Jewry and the JDC; 8. The myth of the good Italian: making peace with postwar Italy; Conclusion.