The Geno­cide of the Jews of Italy

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight University Press Nonfiction - JEFF FLEIS­CHER

Si­mon Le­vis Sul­lam, Oona Smyth (Trans­la­tor) Clau­dia Patane (Trans­la­tor), Prince­ton Univer­sity Press (AU­GUST) Hard­cover $26.95 (208pp) 978-0-691-17905-6

Early in The Ital­ian Executioners, Si­mon Le­vis Sul­lam points out that Italy’s role in the Holo­caust is of­ten ig­nored, thanks both to the worse ac­tions of its Axis coun­ter­part and to re­vi­sion­ist at­tempts to ab­solve the coun­try of guilt. That’s led to a rel­a­tive dearth of ma­te­rial about Ital­ian crimes of the era, and Sul­lam’s short and well-re­searched book is an im­por­tant piece of that puz­zle.

The book fo­cuses heav­ily on the era of the Repub­lic of Salò, the Ger­man-backed fas­cist state that ex­isted in Italy from 1943 un­til 1945, though of­fi­cial anti-semitism was ear­lier cod­i­fied in the coun­try’s 1938 racial laws. These laws banned Jews from cer­tain pro­fes­sions and, as Sul­lam notes, in­cluded a racial cen­sus that the fas­cists re­lied upon when per­se­cut­ing Ital­ian Jews in the fi­nal years of the war. While Italy didn’t ex­ter­mi­nate as large a per­cent­age of its Jewish pop­u­la­tion as did some other Eu­ro­pean coun­tries, Sul­lam de­tails how in­volved Ital­ian of­fi­cials were in ar­rest­ing, de­port­ing, and ex­e­cut­ing many in­no­cent peo­ple.

Part of what makes Sul­lam’s re­search so ef­fec­tive is his re­lay­ing of spe­cific anec­dotes. Sur­vivors of con­cen­tra­tion camps tell of pay­ing Ital­ian guides to help them flee to Switzer­land, only to have the guides pocket the money and turn them in to the fas­cists. Other sto­ries de­tail Ital­ian of­fi­cials search­ing for chil­dren in or­der to send the en­tire fam­ily to a camp, or op­por­tunis­tic cit­i­zens turn­ing in their neigh­bors in or­der to take their jobs or prop­erty.

Paint­ing an im­por­tant pic­ture of Ital­ian com­plic­ity in the Nazi-led geno­cide, The Ital­ian Executioners is a valu­able ad­di­tion to the lit­er­a­ture on the Holo­caust and a cru­cial re­minder that fas­cist Italy was no safe haven.

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