Italian Fascism and racism

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Fascist Italy was not officially racist, unlike its World War II Axis partner of Nazi Germany. Its leader Benito Mussolini had contrasting views on the importance of race throughout his lifetime, at times speaking of alarm towards a possible extinction of White people, while at other times denying the theory of race. Consolidation of gained territory in the northeast of Italy led to state-sanctioned persecution and ethnic cleansing of Slovenes, while closer ties with Hitler caused Mussolini to collaborate in sending Italian Jews to die in the Holocaust.

Slavs[edit]

Male inmate at the Rab concentration camp.

Although Fascism was officially not racist, racism against native minority populations was encouraged by Italian Fascism, first of all against Slovenes, who became the first victims of Fascism.

In September 1920, Benito Mussolini stated:

When dealing with such a race as Slavic - inferior and barbarian - we must not pursue the carrot, but the stick policy.... We should not be afraid of new victims.... The Italian border should run across the Brenner Pass, Monte Nevoso and the Dinaric Alps.... I would say we can easily sacrifice 500,000 barbaric Slavs for 50,000 Italians....

—Benito Mussolini, speech held in Pula, 20 September 1920[1][2]

As noted by Minister of Foreign Affairs in Mussolini government, Galeazzo Ciano, when describing a meeting with secretary general of the Fascist party who wanted Italian army to kill all the Slovenes:

(...) I took the liberty of saying they (the Slovenes) totaled one million. It doesn't matter - he replied firmly - we should model ourselves upon ascari (auxiliary Eritrean troops infamous for their cruelty) and wipe them out".[3]

The Province of Ljubljana saw the deportation of 25,000 people, which equaled 7.5% of the total population. The operation, one of the most drastic in the Europe, filled up Italian concentration camps on the island Rab, in Gonars, Monigo (Treviso), Renicci d'Anghiari, Chiesanuova and elsewhere.

Child inmates at the Rab concentration camp.

Mario Roatta's "Circular 3C" (Circolare 3C), tantamount to a declaration of war on the Slovene civil population, involved him in war crimes while he was the commander of the 2nd Italian Army in Province of Ljubljana.[4]

Italians put the barbed wire fence (which is now the Path of Remembrance and Comradeship) around Ljubljana in order to prevent communication between the Liberation Front in the city and the partisans in the surrounding countryside.

On February 25, 1942, only two days after the Italian Fascist regime established Gonars concentration camp the first transport of 5,343 internees (1,643 of whom were children) arrived from - at the time already overpopulated - Rab concentration camp, from the Province of Ljubljana itself and from another Italian concentration camp in Monigo (near Treviso).

The violence against the Slovene civil population easily matched the German.[5] For every major military operation, General M. Roatta issued additional special instructions, including one that the orders must be "carried out most energetically and without any false compassion".[6]

One of Roatta's soldiers wrote home on July 1, 1942: "We have destroyed everything from top to bottom without sparing the innocent. We kill entire families every night, beating them to death or shooting them."[7]

After the war Roatta was on the list of the most sought after Italian war criminals indicted by Yugoslavia and other countries, but never saw anything like Nurnberg trial because the British government with the beginning of cold war saw in the Pietro Badoglio, also on the list, a guarantee of an anti-communist post-war Italy.[8][9]

Jews[edit]

At the 1934 Fascist International Congress, the issue of anti-Semitism was debated amongst various fascist parties, with some more favourable to it, and others less favourable. Two final compromises were adopted, creating the official stance of the Fascist International:

"[T]he Jewish question cannot be converted into a universal campaign of hatred against the Jews [...] Considering that in many places certain groups of Jews are installed in conquered countries, exercising in an open and occult manner an influence injurious to the material and moral interests of the country which harbors them, constituting a sort of state within a state, profiting by all benefits and refusing all duties, considering that they have furnished and are inclined to furnish, elements conducive to international revolution which would be destructive to the idea of patriotism and Christian civilization, the Conference denounces the nefarious action of these elements and is ready to combat them."[10]

Non-white races[edit]

In a 1921 speech in Bologna (Italy), Mussolini stated, "Fascism was born... out of a profound, perennial need of this our Aryan and Mediterranean race".[11] Mussolini was concerned with the low birth rates of the white race in contrast to the African and Asian races. In 1928 he noted the high birth-rate of blacks in the United States, and that they had surpassed the population of whites in certain areas, such as Harlem in New York City. He described their greater racial consciousness in comparison with American whites as contributing to their growing strength.[12]

He also, in a 1919 speech denouncing Soviet Russia, claimed that Jewish bankers in London and New York City were bound by the chains of race to Moscow and that 80% of the Soviet Union leaders were Jews.[11]

On the issue of the low birth rate of whites, Mussolini said in 1928: "[When the] city dies, the nation – deprived of the young life-blood of new generations – is now made up of people who are old and degenerate and cannot defend itself against a younger people which launches an attack on the now unguarded frontiers [...] This will happen, and not just to cities and nations, but on an infinitely greater scale: the whole White race, the Western race can be submerged by other coloured races which are multiplying at a rate unknown in our race."[13]

During the Great Depression Mussolini again expressed his alarm at the low birth rate among whites, saying "The singular, enormous problem is the destiny of the white race. Europe is truly towards the end of its destiny as the leader of civilization."[12] He went on to say that under the circumstances, "the white race is sickly", "morally and physically in ruin", and that, in combination with the "progress in numbers and in expansion of yellow and black races, the civilization of the white man is destined to perish."[12] According to Mussolini, only through promoting natality and eugenics could this be reversed.[12]

In 1933, Mussolini contradicted his earlier statements on race, saying, "Race! It is a feeling, not a reality: ninety-five percent, at least, is a feeling. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today. ... National pride has no need of the delirium of race."[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sestani, Armando, ed. (10 February 2012). "Il confine orientale: una terra, molti esodi" [The Eastern Border: One Land, Multiple Exoduses]. I profugi istriani, dalmati e fiumani a Lucca [The Istrian, Dalmatian and Rijeka Refugees in Lucca] (PDF) (in Italian). Instituto storico della Resistenca e dell'Età Contemporanea in Provincia di Lucca. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ Pirjevec, Jože (2008). "The Strategy of the Occupiers". Resistance, Suffering, Hope: The Slovene Partisan Movement 1941–1945 (PDF). p. 27. ISBN 978-961-6681-02-5. 
  3. ^ The Ciano Diaries 1939–1943: The Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1936–1943 (2000) ISBN 1-931313-74-1
  4. ^ James H. Burgwyn: "General Roatta's war against the partisans in Yugoslavia: 1942", Journal of Modern Italian Studies, Volume 9, Number 3, September 2004, pp. 314-329(16), link by IngentaConnect
  5. ^ Ballinger, P. (2002). History in exile: memory and identity at the borders of the Balkans. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691086974
  6. ^ Giuseppe Piemontese (1946): Twenty-nine months of Italian occupation of the Province of Ljubljana. Page 10.
  7. ^ James Walston, a historian at the American University of Rome. Quoted in Rory, Carroll. Italy's bloody secret. The Guardian. (Archived by WebCite®), The Guardian, London, UK, June 25, 2003
  8. ^ Effie G. H. Pedaliu (2004) Britain and the 'Hand-over' of Italian War Criminals to Yugoslavia, 1945-48. Journal of Contemporary History. Vol. 39, No. 4, Special Issue: Collective Memory, pp. 503-529 (JStor.org preview)
  9. ^ Rory, Carroll. Italy's bloody secret. The Guardian. (Archived by WebCite®), The Guardian, London, UK, June 25, 2003
  10. ^ "Pax Romanizing". TIME Magazine, 31 December 1934.
  11. ^ a b Neocleous, Mark. Fascism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. p. 35.
  12. ^ a b c d Aaron Gillette. Racial theories in fascist Italy. London; New York. p. 43.
  13. ^ Griffin, Roger (ed.). Fascism. Oxford University Press. September 1995. p. 59. ISBN 0192892495. ISBN 978-0192892492 0.
  14. ^ Montagu, Ashley (1997). Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. Rowman Altamira. ISBN 0-8039-4648-1.