Deputy Prime Minister for the Italian government, Gianfranco Fini, partook in an interview with an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, and gave a statement about the Fascists acts that the country participated in during the Second World War. It is known that Fini is part of a neo-fascist party that was founded by the followers of Mussolini, which caused a political backlash and much controversy around this interview.
One of the main aspects of the controversy surrounding Fini’s statement is the way that he tries to deflect the atrocities of the Holocaust in Italy from the past governments officials, to that of the Italian people as a whole. Fini was trying to avoid future criticism for the past actions of the country by Italy’s partners in the European Union by “apologizing” to Jews for the anti-Semitic laws that were enacted in the country after the second World War; But instead created a political backlash allowing politicians and groups of researchers to question the moral standing of Fini’s interview. Because of this Robert S. Wistrich, a scholar that specializes in the role of Italians in the Holocaust, stated, “The casualties of Jews would have certainly been far higher without the humanity shown by many ordinary Italians… Jews found hiding places in the cities and the countryside, in the hills and on farms… and a few were even concealed in the Vatican. They were received and spontaneously assisted, despite the risks involved, because they were seen as human beings with an equal right to live” (Luconi, pg.4). Wistrich Chose to focus on the demonstration by Italians that the persecution of Jews was not caused by a national pressure placed on the government by the nation.
Luconi also investigates the fascist ties that Mussolini had prior coming to power in during World War II. Mussolini’s efforts to enforce Catholicism as Italy’s dominant religion began as early as 1922. It was because of this that the equality and sanctity of Judaism began to become damaged to the fact that government officials began to view their religious beliefs as inadequate and inferior to theirs. In 1932, Mussolini used Jewish archaeologist Alessandro Della Seta as “indisputable proof” that Fascism did not exist in Italy, but instead created more doubt among people who believed that the persecution of Jews was instilled by Italy’s German allies. Della Seta was one of “Italy’s most celebrated archaeologists” and was denied entrance to the Accademia d’Italia, not once but twice. In this excerpt from Luconi’s text, he pointed out that, “the president of the body, Nobel prizewinner Guglielmo Marconi, following Mussolini’s orders, made a point of identifying those scholars among the candidates who were Jewish; none was ever accepted for membership” (pg. 9). This is evidence that Mussolini started to discriminate again the Jewish population before their German counterparts began to pressure them to do so.
So the question still stands, was Gianfranco’s interview with La Repubblica a political attempt to diffuse the tension between Italy’s government and the Jewish population by placing the “blame” on the Italian population as a whole, or was it actually an attempt to apologize for the atrocities that the Jews faced?