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Italy's Jews from Emancipation to Fascism


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  • Date Published: January 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108424103

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About the Authors
  • How did Italy treat Jews during World War II? Historians have shown beyond doubt that many Italians were complicit in the Holocaust, yet Italy is still known as the Axis state that helped Jews. Shira Klein uncovers how Italian Jews, though victims of Italian persecution, promoted the view that Fascist Italy was categorically good to them. She shows how the Jews' experience in the decades before World War II - during which they became fervent Italian patriots while maintaining their distinctive Jewish culture - led them later to bolster the myth of Italy's wartime innocence in the Fascist racial campaign. Italy's Jews experienced a century of dramatic changes, from emancipation in 1848, to the 1938 Racial Laws, wartime refuge in America and Palestine, and the rehabilitation of Holocaust survivors. This cultural and social history draws on a wealth of unexplored sources, including original interviews and unpublished memoirs.

    • Draws on previously unstudied sources on Italian Jewry, giving voice to the stories of women and children so often lost in historical accounts
    • Offers a new perspective on one of modern Italy's most enduring myths - Italian benevolence towards Jews during World War II
    • Expands the traditional boundaries of European Jewish history to appeal to anyone interested in both the prewar and postwar periods
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    • Finalist, 2018 Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award, Jewish Book Council

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Most Italian Jews were pro-Fascist (until anti-Semitic legislation in 1938) and the Italian dictatorship's major killing afflicted the Arabs and Berbers of Libya and the peoples of Ethiopia. Shira Klein, with skilled and vivid use of ordinary voices, explores the complex story of Italian Jewry's dealing with Fascism and its often gilded memory of it.' R. J. B. Bosworth, Jesus College, Oxford

    'Shira Klein makes a valuable contribution to the debate about Italy's role in the Holocaust, the nature and extent of anti-Semitism in Italy, and the creation of the national narrative of the fundamentally benign nature of Italian Fascism's part in the program of racial discrimination and extermination.' Alexander Stille, Columbia University, New York

    'Shira Klein's new book will be an important contribution to the literature on Italian Jews. By taking the story from Emancipation through today, Klein adds a perspective on the Fascist era that is difficult to find in other English-language works. While refuting the Good Italian myth, she demonstrates its continuing hold on many inside and outside of Italy, and the implications of the myth for the postwar Jewish community.' Michael A. Livingston, Rutgers University, New Jersey

    'Klein's scholarly study is an impressive introduction to the history of Italy's Jews in the modern period. It also offers new perspectives on the myth of the Good Italian, and addresses the little- explored subject of Jewish support of Fascism. Written with fluency and clarity, this book is essential reading for Jewish studies.' Elizabeth Schächter, University of Kent

    'Well-written, with an eye for the compelling anecdote and a skill in bringing the stories of ordinary people to life, this is an important and welcome book and announces the arrival of a strong new voice in the fields of Italian and Jewish studies.' Stanislao G. Pugliese, Hofstra University, New York

    'Historian Klein (Chapman Univ.) nicely supplements her narrative, which is based on a mastery of the secondary literature, with a variety of primary sources, including interviews conducted by the author and deftly woven throughout. Recommended.' R. T. Ingoglia, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108424103
    • length: 378 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.75kg
    • contains: 13 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The making of Italian Jewish patriots: emancipation, World War I, and Fascism
    2. A thriving Jewish life: Jewish culture in the Kingdom of Italy
    3. Five long years of Italian racism: anti-Jewish laws, 1938–43
    4. Hunting for Jews: the Italian and German manhunt in the Republic of Salò, 1943–5
    5. Imagining Italy: Italian Jewish refugees in the United States
    6. Fur coats in the desert: Italian Jewish refugees in Palestine
    7. Recovery and revival: postwar Italian Jewry and the JDC
    8. The myth of the good Italian: making peace with postwar Italy

  • Author

    Shira Klein, Chapman University, California
    Shira Klein is an Assistant Professor of History at Chapman University, California. She has won awards from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Yad Hanadiv/Beracha Foundation, and the USC Shoah Foundation.


    • Finalist, 2018 Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award, Jewish Book Council
    • Finalist, 2018 JDC-Herbert Katzki Award, Jewish Book Council

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