Identities in conflict : Italian Jewish partisans, 1943-1945
The entire history of the Jews of Italy has been extensively documented,
although virtually no research has explored the case of the Jews who participated in
the Italian antifascist Resistance during World War II.
This research investigates the possibility of singling out elements of
differentiation, of distinction in the behaviour, in the words and thoughts of the
Italian Jews who decided to join the Resistance, and of comparing them with the
behaviour of thousands of non-Jewish Italian partisans.
In Italy, unlike Eastern Europe and France, there were no partisan brigades
consisting only of Jews. Jews, as a rule, were fully assimilated into Italian society and
lacked any external features which identified them as Jews. Moreover, Italian Jews,
since the foundation of the modem Italian state, considered themselves an integral
part of the Italian people. Therefore, no distinction has ever been made between
'Jewish' and 'Italian' partisans. However, a number of factors had forced Italian Jews
to think of themselves as a separate category. The Italian Racial Laws of 1938 had
assigned a legally distinct, 'Jewish' identity to them. While this categorisation was not
widely accepted by Italian society, it did force Jews to consider, many for the first
time, a separate Jewish identity.
At a certain moment, victims of racial persecution and Italian partisans
found themselves spontaneous allies. The Jews forced to escape were ready to be
bonded with anyone with the same objectives, in a situation where there were no
racial differences and where, after years of humiliations, they could live like others.
Although many witnesses declared that they fought in the underground
movement as Italians, this thesis will argue that their 'Jewishness' often influenced
their decision to join the Resistance.
The thesis includes a database of Italian Jewish partisans.