The Good Italian, the Bad German, and the Survivor: Narratives and Counter-Narratives of the Shoah in Italy
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Michael R. Ebner
Antisemitism, Fascism, Holocaust, Italy, Jewish Life, Memory
Arts and Humanities
The study herein explores the history and memory of the Shoah in Italy through the eyes, primarily, of survivors themselves. Pairing witness testimonies (memoirs and oral interviews) with government records, I show how Italy’s Jewish survivors, for many decades after World War II and the Shoah, continued to invoke the national myths of the ‘good Italian’ and the ‘bad German’ in their recollections, despite their frequent persecution at Italian hands. This tendency, I argue, stems from their past experiences of acceptance and integration in Italy after national unification and emancipation, experiences which extended to foreign Jews residing in Italy, as well. Only recently, since the turn of the twenty-first century, has a collective counter-memory emerged from within the survivor community to challenge the predominant myths of Fascism, the war, and the Shoah that prevailed in postwar Italy. Receiving fullest expression at the Shoah Memorial of Milan, situated within Milan’s central railway station (Milano Centrale) on the site of a former deportation center, this counter-narrative alleges that ordinary Italians did not act with goodness and benevolence as the Jewish population was oppressed and persecuted, but rather, with indifference, resulting in the deportation and death of thousands of their members. The setting of the memorial at the station, I contend, which remains emblazoned with Fascist insignia, establishes Milano Centrale as a site of memory contestation in Italy, a battleground in the war over the politics of memory that has been raging in Italy with particular intensity ever since Silvio Berlusconi’s rise to power in the mid-1990s. However, nearly a decade after inauguration, the memorial remains incomplete, hampered by limited funding and low visitorship. The future of Milan’s Shoah Memorial, which for now looks, at best, uncertain, will say much about the future of Shoah memorialization in Italy.
Barruzza, John, "The Good Italian, the Bad German, and the Survivor: Narratives and Counter-Narratives of the Shoah in Italy" (2020). Dissertations - ALL. 1187.