The Italian Executioners: The Genocide of the Jews of Italy

Simon Levis Sullam, trans. from the Italian by Oona Smyth and Claudia Patane. Princeton Univ, $26.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-691-17905-6
In this short, powerful book, Italian modern history professor Sullam (Giuseppe Mazzini and the Origins of Fascism) details an inconvenient truth about Italians’ role in the Holocaust: between 1943 and 1945, “thousands of Italians participated in the destruction of the Jews, delivering more than six thousand victims to their deaths.” That complicity with the Nazis followed logically from five years of government-sponsored persecution of Italy’s Jews. After anti-Semitic laws were introduced in 1938, “antisemitism had become a matter of ordinary governance,” including civil servants compiling lists of Jews that would eventually facilitate deportations to death camps. Ideologist-turned-legislator Giovanni Preziosi, who headed the General Inspectorate of Race, charged with looking after “the national character,” told Mussolini that “the total elimination of the Jews” should be their “first task.” Sullam makes extensive use of survivor testimony and primary source documents, such as Preziosi’s writings, to buttress his contentions. He explains that several factors contributed to the suppression of Italian culpability in the Nazi atrocities, including the 1946 amnesty that prevented prosecution for crimes committed by the Fascists and his country’s self-serving desire to view itself more positively, enabled by historians who “systematically offered a benevolent representation of the role of Italians in the ‘final solution.’ ” This is an illuminating addition to Holocaust history. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/27/2018
Release date: 08/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-691-20920-3
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-691-18410-4
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