HS 330 - Never Give In! Fascism, Anti-Semitism and Resistance in Italy, 1922-1948

The aim of this class is to provide the students with a basic knowledge about the military, political and moral resistance of the Italians to the Nazi occupation and the Fascist rule during the last stage of World War II (1943-45). This event plays a primary role in Italian modern history, as the so-called ‘Resistance’ is the political narrative that supported and legitimated the rise of the Italian Republic in 1946. Milan played a crucial role as Fascism rose in Milan in 1919 and the Resistance movement had its headquarter here. It is not by chance that the liberation of Milan on April 25th 1945 is still celebrated as the most important national holiday in Italy.

To understand the Resistance it is necessary to have knowledge of the Fascist ideology (whose core was nationalism) and the major events that led Mussolini to take power, as well as of the roots of anti-Semitism in Italy and Europe. As a guide through these issues we will use a classical work by Federico Chabod (A History of Italian Fascism, 1950), which presents a liberal interpretation of modern Italian history that was very influential after World War II for the understanding of Fascism in Italy and the rise of the Resistance as the conventional political narrative of the new Republic. At the same time, Chabod’s traditional view will be challenged by recent historical approaches to the topic that shed light on controversial topics excluded from his narrative (i.e. the Resistance as a ‘civil war’).

A major emphasis will be placed on the persecution and rescue of the Jews. In Italy the rescue of the Jews is something almost unique in Europe: about 65% of Jews in Italy survived the war. To understand this, it is necessary to introduce the category of ‘moral resistance’ and place it close to the traditional categories of ‘political’ and ‘military resistance’.

Among the course-related included in the course: the deportation camp of Fossoli and the ‘Central Station’ of Milan, from where the trains to the extermination camps for the Jews used to leave unobserved by way of a secret underground tunnel. Moreover, the students will be encouraged to attend the CDEC (Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center) in Milan for their research papers and projects.

This course will be taught in a “seminar” style.

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