All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943

By Jonathan Steinberg | Go to book overview

1

THE MATRIX OF VIRTUE AND VICE

Roberto Ducci took the precious files on the Jews from Palazzo Chigi because he wanted the story to be told. It was a matter of life and death. The Gestapo were furiously searching Rome for evidence of Italian treachery. Had Ducci been caught with those files, he, Pietromarchi, Vidau, Vitetti, Lanza d'Ajeta, Castellani and many others would have been shot. For Ducci the secret files bore witness to his humanity and that of his fellow plotters. As Pietromarchi observed, the evidence would redeem them 'from many acts of baseness'. Does it?

Each of us will answer that question in his or her own way. Does a 'saving act' redeem members of a class who had co-operated in (and benefited from) twenty years of fascism? When Mussolini plunged Italy into war in 1940, who had dared to act then? Who resigned in protest? The German opponents of Hitler behaved better. General Beck resigned in 1938. Ulrich von Hassell, Carl Goerdeler, Adam von Trott, Helmuth von Moltke, Claus Count von Stauffenberg conspired against Hitler and died for their convictions after 20 July 1944. The Italian conspirators to save Jews lived to serve the post-war Republic of Italy, frequently in the highest of posts. Only Galeazzo Ciano, the good-for-nothing playboy, the son-in-law of Mussolini, the matinée idol, died for his part in opposing the Germans and betraying the Duce. He did so with great courage and composure. 1 A martyr, but to what?

That, in turn, depends on what the story of the Italian resistance to German brutality 'means', and. of course, it 'means' those contradictory and conflicting things that make human acts, even virtuous ones, so hard to interpret. Certainly there was an element of calculation. Ducci saved those files because, after all, as a high official of a discredited regime, he might find them handy witnesses for the defence. Indeed, in the summer of 1944, under the pseudonym 'Verax', he published an account of the way the Italian Foreign Ministry had excelled itself in saving Jews. 2 That was a useful thing to do when the air was filled with cries of revenge and when fascism

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All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Maps and Documents x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • Introduction xvii
  • The Problem 1
  • Part I - The Events 13
  • Phase One - Unsystematic Murder: War in the Balkans 15
  • Phase Two - Systematic Murder: the Italians Obstruct the Final Solution 50
  • Phase Three - The Net Widens: the Italians Defend Jews in Greece and France 85
  • The Last Act - The Fall of Fascism to the Armistice 135
  • Part II - Explanations 165
  • 1 - The Matrix of Virtue and Vice 168
  • 2 - Two Types of Charisma 181
  • 3 - The Two Armies 206
  • 4 - Germans, Italians and Jews 220
  • Conclusion 242
  • Bibliography of Works Since 1990 245
  • Sources and Bibliography 251
  • Notes 274
  • Index 307
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