The Fascist Burden.The Italian Jews in the 20th Century: Identities, Debates, Interpretations. Piotr Podemski
The Fascist Burden. The Italian Jews in the 20th Century: Identities, Debates, Interpretations Piotr Podemski An Italian writer, Luigi Barzini, has once remarked: “All Italians look like Jews and all Jews look like Italians” (Frank 1996: 159). This statement, superficial, frivolous and provoking as it might seem, actually sheds some more light on the question of the contemporary – but historically determined – identity of Italian Jews as it refers to far more than just its physical aspect. This paper aims at a general analysis of the complex, and thus still controversial, burden born by Ital- ian Jewry as a result of their historical fate: a story of the gradual and greatly voluntary assimilation and the Jewish identity being abandoned on the one hand, and the dramatic, yet in a number of ways ambiguous, experience of the Fascist Era, on the other, with debates and conflicting interpretations growing in both numbers and zeal up to this day. 1. Jewish Life in Italy before the Fascist Era Historically, the Jewish community in Italy has always been in many ways “unique and exceptional” (Stille 2005: 20), the oldest one in Europe, with its direct continuity since the era of ancient Rome. As their representatives claim nowadays, “the Italian Jewish Communities have never sought isolation, as they have never confined themselves to celebrating their extraordinary past. Instead, they have always proved their vitality, by participating in the general progress of the country, to which they have developed a profound sense of integration and a strong...
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