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Manifesto of Race

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Front page of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on 11 November 1938: "Le leggi per la difesa della razza approvate dal Consiglio dei ministri" (English: "The laws for the defense of race approved by the Council of Ministers").

The "Manifesto of Race" (Italian: Manifesto della razza), otherwise referred to as the Charter of Race or the Racial Manifesto, was an Italian manifesto promulgated by the government of Benito Mussolini on 14 July 1938. Its promulgation was followed by the enactment, in October 1938, of the Racial Laws in Fascist Italy and the Italian Empire.[1][2]

The anti-Semitic laws stripped the Italian Jews of their Italian citizenship, and they also stripped them of their governmental and professional positions.[1] The manifesto demonstrated the substantial influence of Adolf Hitler over Benito Mussolini since Fascist Italy's growing relations with Nazi Germany, following the Second Italo-Ethiopian War.[3] Mussolini had earlier issued statements ridiculing especially the racial policies and theories of the Nazi Party (NSDAP), and highly contradictory statements regarding antisemitism and Italian Jews, many of which had supported the National Fascist Party (PNF) earlier throughout the dictatorship.[1] Starting with the manifesto, the National Fascist Party took a course considerably more in line with the ideology of German Nazism.[4][5][6]


Prior to 1938 there had not been any race laws promulgated in the Kingdom of Italy during the previous years of Benito Mussolini's dictatorship (1922 onwards). Mussolini had held the view that a small contingent of Italian Jews had lived in Italy "since the days of the Kings of Rome" (a reference to the Benè Romi, or Italian-rite Jews) and should "remain undisturbed".[3] There were even some Jews in the National Fascist Party, such as Ettore Ovazza who in 1935 founded the Jewish Fascist paper La Nostra Bandiera.[7] Among the 180 signers of the "Manifesto of Race" were two medical doctors (S. Visco and N. Fende), an anthropologist (L. Cipriani), a zoologist (E. Zavattari), and a statistician (F. Savorgnan).[8]

In recognition of both their past and future contributions and for their service as subjects of the Italian Empire since the 1880s, Rome passed a decree in 1937 distinguishing Eritreans from Ethiopians and other subjects of the newly-founded colonial empire in a divide-and-conquer fashion.[1][2] In the Kingdom of Italy, Eritreans were to be addressed as "Africans" and not as "natives", as was the case with Ethiopian peoples subjected to the colonial rule of the Italian Empire[2] from 1936 onwards. The "Manifesto of Race", published in July 1938, declared the Italians to be descendants of the Aryan race.[1] It targeted races that were seen as inferior (i.e. not of Aryan descent). In particular, Jews were banned from many professions.[1] Under the Racial Laws of 1938-1943, sexual relations and marriages between Italians, Jews, and Africans were forbidden.[1] Jews were banned from positions in banking, government, and education, as well as having their properties confiscated.[9][10]

On 13 July 1938 the Kingdom of Italy promulgated a publication mistitled "Manifesto of the Racial Scientists"[11] which mixed biological racism with history; it declared that Italy was a country populated by people of Aryan origin, that Italians belonged to the Aryan race, that Jews did not belong to the Italian race, and that it was necessary to distinguish between Europeans and Semites, Hamites, black Africans, and other non-Europeans.[12] The manifesto encouraged Italians to be racist.[13] The press and periodicals in Fascist Italy often published material that showed caricatures of Jews and Africans.[14] However, even after the promulgation of the Racial Laws, Mussolini continued to make contradictory statements about race.[15] After the fall of Mussolini and the Fascist regime on 25 July 1943, the Badoglio government suppressed the Racial Laws. They remained enforced and were made more severe in the territories ruled by the Italian Social Republic (1943–1945) until the end of the Second World War.


Antisemitic cartoon published in the Fascist periodical La Difesa della Razza, after the promulgation of the Racial Laws (15 November 1938).

The Italo-German alliance was greatly bound by the two countries' shared political philosophy of fascism as a form of "progressive reaction" against the modern world—both Mussolini and Hitler despised modern-style humanistic liberal democracy, but lauded their own ideas of fascism as the fulfillment of modern politics and the embodiment of the popular will. Hitler was captivated and personally inspired by the 1922 March on Rome and envisioned himself at the head of a similar march on Berlin.[16] Thus, Mussolini increasingly decided to harmonize Italian Fascism with German Nazism by introducing anti-Semitic laws in Italy as evidence of his good faith towards Hitler. He conceived it, at least partially and tactically, as an offering calculated to solidify the Italo-German alliance. In Italian Fascist literature and periodicals, a shift toward a less refined racism, accentuating the biological, Indo-European element occurred, emphasizing the ancient Latins and Romans as a nucleus of warlike Aryans closely related to the Celts and other Indo-European ethnic groups; therefore, Italian Fascist nationalism merged with the doctrine of Aryan racism.

After considerable resistance, Nazi influence began to penetrate some intellectual circles in the Kingdom of Italy. In general, however, there was a concerted effort to distinguish Fascist "racism", allegedly of "culturalist" variety, from that emanating from the Germanic realm. Giovanni Gentile, for example, despised the introduction of biological racism into Italian Fascism, and the same can be said of the majority of the early theoreticians of intellectual Fascism. Yet the concern for a corporate national identity, as opposed to what Gentile called the "solipsist ego" enshrined by demo-liberal politics, was always part of the Italian Fascist worldview. In any case, it was not unusual for Fascist intellectuals to oppose themselves to the more excessive and irrational components of Ariosophy, before the outbreak of World War II.[17][full citation needed]

Criticism and unpopularity[edit]

For the most part, the Racial Laws were met with disapproval from not just ordinary Italian citizens but also members of the National Fascist Party themselves. On one occasion, an Italian Fascist scholar questioned Mussolini over the treatment his Jewish friends were receiving after the promulgation of the Racial Laws, which prompted Mussolini to say: "I agree with you entirely. I don't believe a bit in the stupid anti-Semitic theory. I am carrying out my policy entirely for political reasons."[18] William Shirer in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich suggests that Mussolini enacted the Racial Laws in order to appease his German allies, rather than to satisfy any genuine anti-Semitic sentiment among the Italian people.

Indeed, prior to 1938 and the Pact of Steel alliance, Mussolini and many notable Italian Fascists had been highly critical of Nordicism, biological racism, and anti-Semitism, especially the virulent and violent anti-Semitism and biological racism that could be found in the ideology of Nazi Germany. Many early supporters of Italian fascism, including Mussolini's mistress, the writer and socialite Margherita Sarfatti, were in fact middle-class or upper middle-class Italian Jews. Nordicism and biological racism were often considered incompatible with the early ideology of Italian fascism; Nordicism inherently subordinated the Italians themselves and other Mediterranean peoples beneath the Germans and Northwestern Europeans in its proposed racial hierarchy, and early Italian Fascists, including Mussolini, viewed race as a cultural and political invention rather than a biological reality.

In 1929, Mussolini noted that Italian Jews had been a demographically small yet culturally integral part of Italian society since Ancient Rome. His views on Italian Jews were consistent with his early Mediterraneanist perspective, which suggested that all Mediterranean cultures, including the Jewish culture, shared a common bond. He further argued that Italian Jews had truly become "Italians" or natives to Italy after living for such a long period in the Italian Peninsula.[19][20] However, Mussolini's views on race were often contradictory and quick to change when necessary, and as Fascist Italy became increasingly subordinate to Nazi Germany's interests, Mussolini began adopting openly racial theories borrowed from or based on Nazi racial policies, leading to the introduction of the anti-Semitic Racial Laws.[20] Historian Federico Chabod argued that the introduction of the Nordicist-influenced Racial Laws was a large factor in the decrease of public support among Italians for Fascist Italy, and many Italians viewed the Racial Laws as an obvious imposition or intrusion of German values into Italian culture, and a sign that Mussolini's power and the Fascist regime were collapsing under Nazi German influence.[19][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Shinn, Christopher A. (2019) [2016]. "Inside the Italian Empire: Colonial Africa, Race Wars, and the 'Southern Question'". In Kirkland, Ewan (ed.). Shades of Whiteness. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers. pp. 35–51. doi:10.1163/9781848883833_005. ISBN 978-1-84888-383-3. S2CID 201401541.
  2. ^ a b c Negash, Tekeste (1997). "Introduction: The legacy of Italian colonialism". Eritrea and Ethiopia: The Federal Experience. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet. pp. 13–17. ISBN 978-91-7106-406-6. OCLC 1122565258.
  3. ^ a b Hollander, Ethan J. (1997). Italian Fascism and the Jews (PDF). San Diego: University of California Press. ISBN 0-8039-4648-1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 May 2008.
  4. ^ Montagu, Ashley (1997). Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780803946484.
  5. ^ "INTERNATIONAL: Pax Romanizing - TIME". www.time.com. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2022.
  6. ^ "Thirty centuries of history allow us to look with supreme pity on certain doctrines which are preached beyond the Alps by the descendants of those who were illiterate when Rome had Caesar, Virgil, and Augustus".
  7. ^ "The Italian Holocaust: The Story of an Assimilated Jewish Community". ACJNA.org. 8 January 2008.
  8. ^ Giovanni Sale (2009). Le leggi razziali in Italia e il Vaticano. Editoriale Jaca Book. p. 72. ISBN 9788816409071.
  9. ^ Philip Morgan (10 November 2003). Italian Fascism, 1915-1945. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-230-80267-4.
  10. ^ Davide Rodogno (3 August 2006). Fascism's European Empire: Italian Occupation During the Second World War. Cambridge University Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-521-84515-1.
  11. ^ Duranti, Simone (24 May 2005). "Manifesto of the Racial Scientists (1938)". In Levy, Richard S. (ed.). Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution. Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 442. ISBN 9781851094394. Retrieved 6 August 2023. Promulgated on July 13, 1938, in Italy and published in all the national papers on the following day, the ten proposals enunciated in the Manifesto degli scienziati razzisti (Manifesto of the Racial Scientists) represented the Fascist Party's official theoretical position on race. [...] Purportedly written by a group of Fascist intellectuals, lecturers within the Italian universities and coordinated by the Ministry of Popular Culture, the Manifesto was, in fact, put together by Guido Landra, a lowly teaching assistant in the Anthropology Department of Rome University [...].
  12. ^ Joshua D. Zimmerman, Jews in Italy Under Fascist and Nazi Rule, 1922-1945, pp. 119-120
  13. ^ Livingston, p. 17.
  14. ^ Livingston, p. 67.
  15. ^ Joshua D. Zimmerman (27 June 2005). Jews in Italy Under Fascist and Nazi Rule, 1922-1945. Cambridge University Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-521-84101-6.
  16. ^ Axelrod, Alan; Benito Mussolini, Indianapolis, Alpha Books (2002). p. 8. ISBN 0-02-864214-7
  17. ^ Gregor, 56
  18. ^ Christopher Hibbert, Benito Mussolini, p. 110.
  19. ^ a b Baum, David (2011). Hebraic Aspects of the Renaissance: Sources and Encounters. Brill. ISBN 978-9004212558. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  20. ^ a b Neocleous, Mark. Fascism. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. p. 35
  21. ^ Noble, Thomas F.X. (2007). Western Civilization: Beyond Boundaries, Volume II: Since 1560. Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-0618794263.


  • Livingston, Michael A. The Fascists and the Jews of Italy: Mussolini's Race Laws, 1938-1943.
  • Gregor, A. James; The Search for Neofascism, New York, Cambridge University Press (2006). ISBN 978-0-521-85920-2
  • Gregor, A. James; Mussolini's Intellectuals: Fascist Social and Political Thought, Princeton, Princeton University Press (2005).
  • Wiskemann, Elizabeth; Fascism in Italy: Its Development and Influence, New York, St. Martins Press (1969).
  • Renzo De Felice: The Jews in Fascist Italy. Enigma Books 2001, ISBN 1-929631-01-4.

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