Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Italian Ceremony Marks Racial Laws


Italians and the Catholic Church, not only fascism, bear responsibility for Jewish persecution during World War II, Italy’s leading right-wing politician said.

Gianfranco Fini, the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, made his remarks Tuesday at a ceremony in Parliament marking the 70th anniversary of the imposition of anti-Semitic Racial Laws, imposed by the fascist regime in November 1938. Fini got his political start in the neo-fascist movement.

Fini called the laws a “shameful page” in Italian history.

“The fascist ideology alone does not explain the infamy of the Racial Laws,” he said. “One must wonder why Italian society as a whole adjusted to the anti-Jewish legislation and why, except for some shining exceptions, particular demonstrations of resistance were not recorded. Not even, I have to say, on the part of the Catholic Church.”

Fini warned of contemporary forms of anti-Semitism that threaten democracy today. These, he said, include “explicit anti-Semitism of the far right and neo-Nazis,” as well as anti-Semitism “disguised as anti-Zionism and the no-global extremism of the far left” and fueled by “pseudo-religious pretexts of radical Islam.”

The former head of a neo-fascist party, Fini formally broke with neo-fascism in the 1990s and has since repeatedly condemned racism and anti-Semitism.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, a memorial plaque was unveiled. Other speakers included Jewish leaders and an Italian survivor of Auschwitz.

Recommended from JTA