“Italians hid behind Nazi crimes to make their own people forget, and failed to solidly anchor democracy in their society”

Es the granddaughter of a Nazi, I projected the German experience of memory work to other countries for a long time. It seemed obvious to me that Italy, a country which had witnessed the birth of fascism and had allied itself from the first hour with Nazi Germany, had necessarily had to meditate on its past.

But in reality, the Italians hid behind the monstrosity of the Nazi crimes to make people forget their own, and thus failed to learn from the past to solidly anchor democracy in their society. The consequences have been visible for a long time, but their gravity is now coming to light with the electoral victory of Fratelli d’Italia, an openly neo-fascist party.

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In the 1970s, the writer Primo Levi (1919-1987), an Italian Jew who survived Auschwitz and author of the moving autobiographical testimony If it’s a man (1947), was already worried about the absence of memory work in his country. In interview on Italian television Raihe said : “As the massacre was initiated in Germany and not in Italy, it allowed most Italians to find an easy alibi: we didn’t do it, they did it. » When in reality, he continued, “it was really us who started it: Nazism in Germany was the metastasis of a tumor located in Italy”.

Even if the “Jewish question” was not a priority for fascist Italy, it undoubtedly collaborated in the Holocaust. On his own initiative, in 1938, Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) copied the Nazi anti-Jewish laws of Nuremberg, which came as a shock to Italian Jews, who were particularly well integrated.

Camps of Gonars, Renicci, Monigo

After entering the war in June 1940, Italy interned foreign Jews in camps and expelled some of them from the country, where the worst awaited them. The situation worsened after the German occupation of northern Italy in September 1943. With the collaboration of the fascists, eight thousand Jews were deported to death camps.

But the crimes of fascist Italy go well beyond the framework of the Holocaust. Its extremely brutal foreign policy is at the origin of massacres of civilians and atrocious bloodbaths in Libya, in Ethiopia, in Greece, in Yugoslavia. In addition, the fascists erected hundreds of concentration camps, in Libya, in the Balkans, as well as in Italy where they sent tens of thousands of victims, especially Slavs whom the Duce hated.

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