1971: III B. Facciamo l’appello

‘III B. Facciamo l’appello’ . Aired on June 8, 1971, at 10.20 p.m., on Programma Nazionale, the first national channel. (Clip ID: C13710). By Enzo Biagi

The former director of the Telegiornale (TV news program) gathers the few students and teachers of the Jewish school of Ferrara who survived the persecutions and deportations. One of them is Giorgio Bassani, the writer (see above). For over an hour Enzo Biagi prods their memories, asking several times, among other things, whether the behavior of their non-Jewish acquaintances had been helpful or hostile. He obtains diverse answers because, as the anti-Fascist Matilde Finzi Bassani states, “not everyone is alike”. But, she herself then concludes, “if we are here, it is because someone has helped us, otherwise we would not be here; (...) there was a basic solidarity". Enzo Biagi too, in introducing the program, had already spoken of "this country, which has humanity as its main merit". Overall, therefore, the program did not abandon the interpretative framework of the time despite having the merit of talking about the issue and giving voice to the survivors.

Enzo Biagi himself, at the age of 21 in 1941, had not been immune from a racist slip-up when he gave a favorable review of a Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda film, Jud Süß ("Süss the Jew"). This is further proof of the not inconsiderable presence of anti-Semitism among Italians, even among those brilliant youths who were subsequently convinced by the Resistance and democratic values.

1977: Italia anni Trenta

‘Italia anni Trenta. Regime, cattolici, chiesa'. Aired on April 1, 1977, on Rete2 (second national channel) at 9.45 p.m. (Clip ID: C23172). By Pietro Scoppola and Sergio Valentini, in cooperation with the historian Renato Moro.

The issue is addressed again but without major interpretative variations. It happens in the final part of a 85 minutes-long documentary on the relations between the Regime, Catholics and the Church. The author is Pietro Scoppola, a well-known Catholic historian. While he cites an anti-Semitic paper written by Father Agostino Gemelli as a negative example of "adhering to the norm", he immediately adds, "but racism arouses a widespread movement of rejection in the Catholic world, as, indeed, in all public opinion, and many antagonistic pronouncements by the Church”. Scoppola himself appears on video highlighting the protests of Pius XI and the increase in the number of anti-Fascist priests. The central idea therefore remains of the "widespread movement of rejection". Once again, the documentary's audience ratings (4.9 million viewers) and approval ratings (68%) are excellent.

1979: Olocausto italiano, perché?

'Olocausto italiano, perchè?' by Arrigo Levi, aired on Friday June 8, 1979, at 8.40 p.m. on Rete1, the first national channel (ID Teca: A72714)

In the wake of the enormously successful American miniseries 'Holocaust', broadcast in Italy in those same weeks, Rai Tv airs, again on prime time and on its first channel, an in-depth study in two episodes, titled 'Olocausto italiano' (“The Italian Holocaust”) and 'Olocausto italiano, perché?' (“The Italian Holocaust, Why?”) respectively. The first episode presented filmed testimonies of the massacre of the Jews in Italy, on the departures of trains from Fossoli, and of the extermination camp of Risiera, San Sabba, in Trieste. In this second episode, Arrigo Levi, a respected journalist and also a Jew, moderates a long debate in which he asked his guests, chief rabbi Elio Toaff, the historians Giuseppe Mayda and Luigi Firpo, and Tullia Zevi, and the vice president of U.C.I.I. (the Union of the Italian Israelite Communities) to reflect on the reasons for these events. The title of the program itself clearly indicates that the issue of Italy's role in the Holocaust was to finally be addressed. The conductor insists for about an hour that the guests discuss Italy’s role without wandering off topic. This results in a very interesting debate. However, although acknowledging some Italian complicity, eventually the traditional self-absolution emerges once again. Reconfirming this idea that “Italians are good people” is Vittorio Giuntella, historian and deportee, (in the first extract), followed by Arrigo Levi and British writer Stuart Hood, at the time a resistant foreigner courageously hosted by Italian peasants (in the following extract). Among other things, Giuntella, despite the refutations already provided by De Felice's book, continues to affirm that at the basis of the Italian adoption of the Racial Laws there were "probably also precise requests from the Nazis and Hitler himself".

Historiography and Memorials

L'antisemitismo italiano sotto il fascismo

1975: Ugo Caffaz, a politician and cultural operator, member of the Jewish comunity of Florence, publishes L’antisemitismo italiano sotto il fascismo (Italian anti-Semitism under Fascism), a brief anthology of antisemitic essays of the Fascist period. In the introduction he underlines the Italian cultural roots of antisemitism and from a Marxist point of view puts into question some of De Felice's arguments, but remains in agreement with him regarding the reactions of the Italians to the racial laws (pp.7, 28).



Ugo Caffaz

Ebrei sotto Salò: la persecuzione antisemita 1943-1945

1978: Giuseppe Mayda, Italian journalist ('La Stampa'), publishes Ebrei sotto Salò: la persecuzione antisemita 1943-1945 (“Jews under Salò: the anti-Semitic persecution 1943-1945”). He shows the direct involvement of Fascists, not only of Nazis, in the Jews' deportations and persecutions. He underlines the silence of Pope Pio XII on the massacres ("a neutrality that is disturbing, to say the least", p. 56). However he reiterates the traditional interpretation on a contrariety to the antisemitism by the "overwhelming majority of the people" (p. 33), so that the help received by Jews arrived "from the people, the ordinary men, from simple priests" (back cover).



Giuseppe Mayda

Culture and Politics

1970: Vittorio De Sica directs The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, based on the novel written by Bassani. It wins the 'Oscar' for best Foreign Film.

1978: The television miniseries 'Holocaust', about the parallel lives of a Nazi family and a Jewish family in Germany in the 1930s, is broadcast in the USA. It is a worldwide success of enormous impact. As a result, the term “Holocaust” enters contemporary language. Rai broadcast it the following year, in 8 episodes, advertising it heavily and scoring record-breaking results: 20 million viewers and an approval rating of 80% (data from the Rai Opinion Service).

1979: The socialist magazine 'Critica sociale' publishes a special issue titled Le colpe degli italiani (The Italians’ Fault - No.5, 1979). It says: "Nobody talks about the fault of the Italians in the past half-century, as if the anti-Fascist resistance, made after all by a minority, had the power to redeem the past”. However, the impact on the general public is negligible.

1979: The newly elected pope, the Polish, John Paul II visits Auschwitz. He calls it "the Golgotha of the contemporary world".

The concentration camps in Italy with Jewish prisoners

The extermination camp in Italy (Risiera San Sabba, in Trieste)

The Milan Central Station platform from which the cattle trains containing Jews destined for the concentration camps departed