2001: Senza confini. Il commissario Palatucci

Another television genre, the television drama series (in Italy a.k.a. 'fiction'), begins to deal with the topic. Here too, the initial emphasis is all on the solidarity given to Jews by the rest of the Italian population. Is this the case of the series Storie d’amore e d’amicizia (“Stories of Love and Friendship”), broadcast in 6 episodes on Rai channel 1 in 1982. The series narrates the wartime friendship between two young Romans, a Jew and an "aryan". Then, in the early 2000s, a number of RAI drama series portrayed heroic Italians saving Jews (or presumed as such, since the actual merits of some of them were successively queried).

An example is the miniseries Senza confini: Il commissario Palatucci (“Without Borders: Commissioner Palatucci”, Clip ID: F332461). Directed by Fabrizio Costa, it is broadcast during prime time on RaiUno on September 23 and 24, 2001 with 4.7 million viewers and 18% share. It is then replicated on RaiDue on the Holocaust Remebrance Day 2004. In 2006 an episode of the tv program 'La storia siamo noi' (“History is us”) was also dedicated to Palatucci (Giovanni Palatucci, il questore giusto, by Daniele Cini).

The news about racial lews

In this scene, taken from the first episode of the drama series, the representation of the good Italian is evident, opposed to the anti-Semitic turn of the regime and instinctively on the Jews’ side. While this traditional belief begins to waver both in historiography and in TV documentaries and in-depth programs, it finds expression in fictional TV series, the most popular kind of narrative.

The last summation of the Jewish lawyer

However, even in this television genre there are, in hindsight, sequences portraying a different perspective and, over the years, signs of continued evolution. In this scene, taken once again from the first episode, the Jewish lawyer Poras denounces the injustice of discrimination, amidst the general disapproval of the court, of fellow lawyers and bystanders, ordinary Italians present in the court.

The Tennis Club membership

Also this scene, drawn again from the first episode, shows the impact of the Racial Laws in terms of the exclusion of Jews from civil life.

2002: Perlasca. Un eroe italiano 

Perlasca. Un eroe italiano.
By Alberto Negrin, aired on January 28 and 29, 2002, during prime time, on RaiUno.
Played by the popular actor Luca Zingaretti, the television series narrates how Giorgio Perlasca, an Italian merchant with a fascist background saved about 5,000 Jews in Budapest by pretending to be the Spanish Consul. In the two evenings it is broadcast it receives very high audience ratings, with 11.4 million and almost 13 million viewers which represents a share of 38.9% and 43.8%, respectively. The subtitle ("an Italian hero") is emblematic of the underlying approach.

Of the same tenor, two other series are broadcast during prime time on RaiUno in those years. The first is La fuga degli innocenti (“The Flight of the Innocents”, 2004) based on the true story of a group of Jewish boys fleeing from Eastern Europe between 1941 and 1943 who were welcomed in a town in the Emilian Apennines. Thanks to the help of the local population, they manage to flee to Switzerland. The second series is Gino Bartali - L’intramontabile (“Gino Bartali – The everlasting”, 2006), in which a part of the story shows the contribution made by the cycling champion, Gino Bartali, to the rescue of about 800 Jews in Tuscany.



2007: Correva l’anno

Correva l’anno. Speciale fascismo. La difesa della razza. Il fascismo e gli ebrei. By Francesco Linguiti. Broadcast on May 23, 2007 on RaiTre at 11.35 p.m. (Clip ID: F471469/1).

The documentary alternates archival footage with interviews with the historians Michele Sarfatti and Emilio Gentile. Sarfatti highlights the intensive propaganda campaign carried out by the regime to "spread anti-Semitism in the population". Gentile, as can be seen from the extract chosen here, illustrates the reaction of the Italians to the Racial Laws, as being characterized by indifference or even by satisfaction and attempts at making personal gains from the persecutions launched against their fellow citizens. The historiographical turning point, therefore, begins to also show itself on television, although still contradicted at the end of the documentary by Paolo Mieli’s conclusions, who made the point that the lack of protests of 1938 was followed by the "extensive aid" given after September 8, 1943, so that “Italy (…) as a people came out quite unscathed”.



2008: La grande Storia

Dalle leggi razziali alla Shoah. By Daniela Padoan. Aired on October 12, 2008 on RaiTre, at 1.30 p.m. (Clip ID: F394280).

Segre: A black thread

The direct link between the Racial Laws and the Shoah is explicitly presented here. This connection is the documentary’s central argument, expressed straight from its title and from this statement by the survivor Liliana Segre that is placed as prologue.

Segre, D'Angeli, Finzi: the exclusion

This episode is built on the testimonies of Italian survivors. The recent, also international, emphasis on the collection of the memories of witnesses, to be interviewed "before it's too late", appears well justified by listening to the words of Liliana Segre, Ferruccio D'Angeli and Cesare Finzi, who vividly and concretely recounted what happened.

Bauer: the betrayal and the arrest

Goti Bauer recalls his arrest (as in 'Memoria', see above), highlighting here the criminal mechanism adopted by the profiteers to surrender the Jews to the authorities from whom they often pocketed an additional bounty, in addition to the compensation already extorted in deceiving the fugitives. It is a testimony that certainly does not speak in favor of positive or "edifying" assessments regarding the behavior of Italians at the time.

Segre: the Italian responsibilities

The ending of the episode is also entrusted to Liliana Segre, who summarizes how the responsibilities for the Shoah concern not only the Fascist regime but the whole country, due to the indifference shown towards the monstrosity of what was happening to their neighbors.

Historiography and Memorials

Gli ebrei nell'Italia fascista

2000: A new period begins that is particularly rich in studies on the subject. Noteworthy are Michele Sarfatti’s publications, Gli ebrei nell’Italia fascista (“The Jews in Fascist Italy”, 2000), Le leggi antiebraiche spiegate agli italiani di oggi (“The Anti-Jewish Laws explained to Italians Today”, 2002), La Shoah in Italia (“The Shoah in Italy”, 2005), and Schwarz’s Ritrovare se stessi. Gli ebrei nell’Italia postfascista (“Finding Oneself Again. Jews in Post-Fascist Italy”, 2004). These studies overturned the previous minimizing interpretation of Italian responsibilities.




Michele Sarfatti


2001: First study on the universe of informers and spies of the Fascist regime (hence the title Delatori, 'Informers'), it includes two dense chapters on the antisemitic denounciations. In the first of such chapters one reads: "Emphasizing a benign and altruistic Italy has weakened the perception of a treacherous Italy. (...) The capture of hundreds and hundreds of persons was possible thanks to a practice of whiste-blowing much more common than one may believe. And even before the Social Republic [there was] an active contribution of several hundreds informers (p. 136). The following chapter, under the title "5000 Lire for a Jew" investigates the cooperation to the extermination of Jews "by many, too many Italians" (p. 196).




Mimmo Franzinelli

Caino a Roma. I complici romani della Shoah

2005: Having presented the evidence on what happened in Rome in that tragic period, the historian Osti Guerrazzi writes in the Conclusion of Cain in Rome. The Roman accomplices of the Shoah: "The responsibility for all this cannot be given to Mussolini alone, nor to the Nazi ally which occupied the country. There were too many accomplices who participated without anyone forcing them, too many were the “everyday people” who stood out for the fury and ferocity with which they voluntarily lashed out at the Jews ". (p. 151)




Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi

Il fascismo e gli ebrei

2006: The historian Enzo Collotti publishes Il fascismo e gli ebrei. Le leggi razziali in Italia ('Fascism and the Jews. The racial laws in Italy'). He writes, "The indignation that struck many ordinary citizens (...) often did not generate concrete gestures of solidarity but a prudent taking care of one's own business". (p.84)




Enzo Collotti

L’Italia fascista e la persecuzione degli ebrei

2008: International historiography also adopted the new perspective. In Matard-Bonucci's Fascist Italy and the persecution of Jews, the Conclusion reads: "In Italy as in France, the men and women who saved Jews by putting their lives in danger were a minority", (p. 373); "anti-Semitism was the result of the needs of domestic policy"; and, "adherence to racial ideology was minimal, but (...) the almost absence of protests and the diligent execution of anti-Semitic provisions can be considered as the regime’s victory. (...) many Italians 'obeyed' even if perhaps they did not 'believe' and treated them [the Jews] as enemies of the nation. (pp. 376-377)




Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci

Il libro della Shoah italiana

2009: Marcello Pezzetti, historian of the CDEC (Centre of Contemporary Jewish Documentation) edits The book of the Italian Shoah, a vivid and precious anthology of testimonies by nothing less than 105 Italian Jews who survived the deportation. Their interviews, gathered and videotaped between 1995 and 2008, form the core of the volume and in part have also been included in the above-mentioned documentary Memoria. I sopravvissuti raccontano ('Memory. The survivors narrate'). The picture emerging indirectly from this chorus of memories is that of an appaling and pervasive persecution, one to which the population itself was no stranger at all.




Marcello Pezzetti

Culture and Politics

2000: A Memorial day ('Giorno della Memoria') is established in Italy for January 27 to commemorate the Shoah and the Racial Laws. The Parliament's vote is unanimous, but to obtain this broad consensus, the text of the law paradoxically avoid mentioning the perpetrator of the persecutions mentioned, namely, Nazi-Fascism.



2002: The first 'Remembrance Train' ('Treno della memoria') departs. This initiative, ideated by Ugo Caffaz (see above), over the years will bring tens of thousands of Italian children to visit Auschwitz.

2005: The Holocaust Remembrance Day becomes also an international event, by United Nations vote.

“A few months ago, the Racial Laws had been proclaimed, and I too was becoming ostracized”

Primo Levi
(from Il sistema periodico, p. 397)


The number of those expelled from the Fascist Party for acts of "compassion" ("pietismo") towards the Jews, out of 2.5 million members

The percentage of Jews arrested in Rome by Italian collaborators and not Germans between November 1943 and June 1944, when the city was liberated.

The percentage of Jews arrested in the years 1943-1945 by Italians (or perpetrated with their direct aid) on a national scale

Lire (Italian national currency of the time): the prize for reporting a Jewish man to his persecutors. (£ 3000 for a woman, £ 1000 for a child, tens of thousands lire for a rabbi)