The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010

The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010

The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010

The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010

Synopsis

The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944- 2010 is the first major study of how postwar Italy confronted, or failed to confront, the Holocaust. Fascist Italy was the model for Nazi Germany, and Mussolini was Hitler's prime ally in the Second World War. But Italy also became a theater of war and a victim of Nazi persecution after 1943, as resistance, collaboration, and civil war raged. Many thousands of Italians- Jews and others- were deported to concentration camps throughout Europe. After the war, Italian culture produced a vast array of stories, images, and debate through which it came to terms with the Holocaust's difficult legacy. Gordon probes a rich range of cultural material as he paints a picture of this shared encounter with the darkest moment of twentieth-century history. His book explores aspects of Italian national identity and memory, offering a new model for analyzing the interactions between national and international images of the Holocaust.

Excerpt

The ancient Roman arterial road, the via Nomentana, heads out northeast from the centre of Rome starting at Porta Pia, one of the monumental gates in Rome’s third-century a.d. Aurelian Walls. in 1870, the army of the young Italian state, less than a decade after its formation in 1861, stormed the gates of the city at Porta Pia, overwhelming the forces of the Papal State, leading to the enclosure of the Church as a secular power within the minuscule confines of the Vatican, and to the declaration of Rome as modern Italy’s rightful capital. Porta Pia is one of the highest symbols and sites of Italy’s Risorgimento patriotic redemption.

Less than a kilometre along the via Nomentana from Porta Pia is an elegant 19th-century estate, the Villa Torlonia, whose neoclassical palace is surrounded by extensive, shady grounds. in 1918, archaeologists discovered here some rare remains of ancient Jewish catacombs from the 2nd and 3rd centuries a.d. From 1925 until 1943, the aristocratic palace at Villa Torlonia served as the Roman residence of Italy’s Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, and his family. He paid Prince Torlonia a symbolic rent of 1 lira a month. If Palazzo Venezia, beside the Capitoline Hill in central Rome, was the site of Mussolini’s official power, containing his grandiose office in the Sala del Mappamondo and his most famous public stage (the small balcony overlooking Piazza Venezia below), then Villa Torlonia was Mussolini’s image of home, family, and his role as ‘father’ of the nation for nearly 20 years.

The Villa was abandoned when Mussolini was deposed in July 1943, with the war going catastrophically wrong for Fascist Italy and with Allied forces already on the ground in Sicily. From September 1943 until June 1944, Rome became an ‘Open City’, in theory protected and uncontested, but in reality overrun by a Nazi command every bit as fierce . . .

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