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

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Course Information
Discipline(s): 
History
Terms offered: 
Spring
Credits: 
3
Language of instruction: 
English
Contact Hours: 
45
Prerequisites: 

Introduction to modern European history

Description: 

The aim of this class is to provide 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 Two (1943-45). This event plays a primary role in Italian modern history, since the so-called ‘Resistance’ is the political narrative that supported and legitimated the rise of the Italian Republic in 1946. Milan played a crucial part in this history, as Fascism was born in this city in 1919 and the Resistance movement had its headquarters here. It is not by chance, then, that the liberation of Milan on April, 25th 1945 is still celebrated as the most important national commemoration in Italy.

To understand the Resistance it is necessary to have a knowledge of the Fascist ideology (whose core was nationalism) and the major events which leaded Mussolini to take the 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 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 on the persecution and the rescue of the Jews. In Italy this persecution took a peculiar form: rather than being based on racial doctrines as for the Nazis, it had a ‘spiritual’ character, closer to the old Medieval anti-Judaism. Also the rescue of the Jews is something almost unique in Europe: about the 65% of Jews in Italy could survive 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’.

Attendance policy: 

Regular class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to attend classes each day, including course-related excursions.

IES Abroad Milano allows a maximum of TWO excused absences per semester. Each further absence will automatically result in a penalty of two points off (2/100) on the final grade. SEVEN absences per course (including 2 excused absences) will result in a failing grade for that course. Furthermore, an absence on the date of scheduled tests, presentations or quizzes does not entitle you to recover/reschedule such tests. Failure to attend your midterm and/or final exam will result in an F grade on that paper/exam.

Method of presentation: 

Lectures, discussions, case studies, guest-speakers, student in-class oral presentations, field studies, movies. All the assignments and the power-point presentations will be posted to the Moodle’s website.

Required work and form of assessment: 

Active class participation - 25%
Mid-term test - 25%
In- class oral presentation of research work - 25%
Final paper - 25% - not less than 20,000 characters spaces included
(The topics of the research works will be assigned by the instructor by agreement with each student.)

  • Class participation will be evaluated according to the interaction of each student with their classmates, with the instructor and the with the guest-speaker during the sessions of discussion.
  • The evaluation of the mid-term tests will be made of multiple-choice questions and one essay-question in order to check how the students are able to connect the material causes and the human motivations to explain the events.
  • The evaluation of the in-class oral presentations of research works will be based on the clarity and force of the communication and the number and quality of the sources.
  • The evaluation of the final papers will be based on the correctness and the clarity of the written work and on the strength of the argument.
content: 

Two special guests will speak to the students: Liliana Segre, one of the last survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau; Gabriele Nissim, journalist and essayist, founder of the Garden of the Righteous in the World. Two field trips will be part of the course: the deportation camp of Fossoli and the ‘Central Station’ of Milan, from which the trains that took Jews to the extermination camps departed. Moreover, the students will be encouraged to attend the CDEC (Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center) in Milan for their research works.

Unit Study Readings
Unit 1
  1. The end of World War One and the rise of the Fascist movement
  • Chabod: 15-61.
  • In-class work on documentary videos.
Unit 2
  1. Fascist ideology and dictatorship
  • Chabod: 62-84.
  • Zimmerman: 19-54 (“The Double Bind of Italian Jews: Acceptance and Assimilation”; “Italian Jewish Identity from the Risorgimento to Fascism”).
  • Gillette: 35-49 (“Racial Theories and Fascism”).
Unit 3
  1. The persecution of the Jews and the racial laws.
  • Zimmerman: 71-80 (“Characteristics and Objectives of the Anti-Jewish Racial Laws in Fascist Italy”); 158-181 (“The Impact of Anti-Jewish Legislation on Everyday Life and the Response of Italian Jews”); 199-208 (“Anti-Jewish Persecution and Italian Society”).
  • Vision of the movie Il giardino dei Finzi Contini (The Garden of the Finzi Contini) by V. De Sica (1970). Guest-speaker: Liliana Segre.
Unit 4
  1. Italy in World War Two, the Nazi occupation, and the Italian Social Republic (RSI).
  • Chabod: 85-101.
  • Herzer: 109-140 (“The Jews during the German Occupation and the Italian Social Republic”). Field-trip: the concentration camp in Fossoli.
Unit 5
  1. The Civil war and the rise of the Resistant movement: political and military aspects
  • Chabod: 101-122.
  • Vision of the movie Roma città aperta (Rome: Open City) by R. Rossellini (1945).
Unit 6
  1. The Catholic Church during the Fascist rule and the moral Resistance
  • Davidson&Wright: 5-16
  • O'Reilly: 27-74
Unit 7
  1.  The persecution and the rescue of the Jews in Europe and Italy: an overview
  • Herzer: 95-108 (“Italy in the Overall Context of the Holocaust”).
  • Stille: 17-90
  • Guest-speaker: Gabriele Nissim.
  • Field-trip: the Central Station in Milan and the deportation of the Jews.
Unit 8
  1. The rescue of the Jews in Italy: case-studies
  • Student presentations.
  • Stille: 91-166.
Unit 9
  1. The rescue of the Jews in Italy: case-studies
  • Student presentations.
  • Stille: 167-222.
Unit 10
  1. The rescue of the Jews in Italy: case-studies.
  • Student presentations.
Unit 11
  1. The Resistance as the founding political narrative of the Republic
  • Davidson & Wright: 111-122

 

Required readings: 

As a guide through these issues we will use a classical work by Federico Chabod (A History of Italian Fascism, 1950). This book presented 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, such as the Resistance as a ‘civil war’.

  • Chabod, Federico. A History of Italian Fascism. Bath, Chivers, 1974.
  • Davidson, Alastair and Steve Wright (eds). Never Give In: The Italian Resistance and Politics. New York: P. Lang, 1998.
  • Gillette, Aaron. Racial Theories in Fascist Italy. London: Routledge, 2002.
  • Gregor, A. James. Interpretations of Fascism. London: Transaction Publishers, 1997.
  • Herzer, Ivo (ed.). The Italian refuge. Rescue of Jews During the Holocaust. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1989.
  • O’Reilly, Charles. The Jews of Italy, 1938-1945. London: McFarland & Co., 2007.
  • Stille, Alexander, Benevolence and Betrayal. Five Italian Jewish Families under Fascism, New York: Picador, 1991.
  • Zimmerman, Joshua (ed). Jews in Italy Under Fascist and Nazi Rule. 1922-1945. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005.