Within the framework of Holocaust Studies, Italy did not always receive the attention it deserves. One of the unique aspects of the fascist anti-Semitic campaign that influenced the scope and harshness of the actions against the Jews is its length; it went on for seven years, making it second in duration only to that in Nazi Germany. From the late summer of 1938, while the country was still at peace, to the fall of 1943, the fascist authorities alone ordered and oversaw discriminatory regulations—excluding Jews from the economic life of the country, expelling them from the workplace, restricting their property, and generally limiting their political and civil rights.
In this important study, Ilaria Pavan carefully analyzes the economic aspects of Jewish persecution and the community’s struggle before, during, and after World War II. She exposes the persecutory intentions and mechanisms of the Italian regime and discusses the long series of provisions, decrees, and laws that severely afflicted the Jewish community. The diligent and rigorous application of the rules by officials and bureaucrats, including the expropriation of houses, businesses, and land, as well as their exclusion from workplaces and professions, and then, during the period of 1943–1945, the confiscation and looting of personal possessions, left the Jews shattered.
Moreover, even the conclusion of the war did not provide the anticipated relief. For Italian Jews, the road to reintegration and the return of seized properties was long and difficult, characterized by contradictory and insufficient laws, lack of empathy by clerks, and general indifference to the violations suffered in the long years of persecution. Based on many sources—government documentation, letters, and survivors’ memoirs—Pavan depicts in detail both the persecution and the reintegration stages, and devotes ample space to the voices of the victims.