OUT OF PRINT
Length 334 pages
The Italians and the Holocaust
One of the most extraordinary, but until now little known, stories of World War II is the survival of more than 85 per cent of Italy’s Jews. This account of how and why they survived combines moving personal accounts with rich historical analysis.
Italian Jews survived partly because their period of extreme danger – the German occupation – was relatively brief and came late in the War. They were also few in number compared with most other European countries (45,200 in September 1943) so it was possible for sympathetic Christians to cope with their need for food, shelter and documents. Italian Jews were generally well-off and thoroughly assimilated and they shared with their Catholic countrymen a supreme individualism and an amiable tendency – hardened to steel by the occupation – to bend the law, including the racial laws passed by Mussolini in 1938.
Italy’s lack of a modern anti-Semitic tradition was an important factor in the survival of thousands of Jews but so too was the attitude of those Italians whose disgust with the War, Fascism, and the Germans often led to acts of heroic altruism.
Still, Zuccotti does not let us forget more than 6,800 Jews who did perish, victims of bad luck, betrayal or of the many Italians who toed the Fascist line. Italy’s heritage from the Holocaust is mixed, but overall it is an uncommonly admirable one.