Richard Melson

August 2006

Ledeen & Fascism

http://www.enigmabooks.com/jifi.htm

Spring 2001

The Jews in Fascist Italy
A History

By Renzo De Felice

Professor of History, University of Rome
With an introduction by Michael Ledeen
ISBN 1-929631-01-4 hardcover

enigma books is proud to announce the publication of a fundamental work of scholarship by Renzo De Felice, Italy’s foremost historian of the 20th Century.

De Felice’s groundbreaking book, the most detailed and well-researched historical study of the Holocaust in a single European country, was first published in 1961 in Italian. It was revised continuously by the author, as new information came to light, until it reached its definitive edition, published by Einaudi in 1993.

De Felice, who died in 1996, is also known for his monumental 8-volume biography, Mussolini.

enigma is pleased that this towering work of investigative and interpretive history has finally been translated for the first time into English. Aside from being an important historical study, The Jews in Fascist Italy: A History is a necessary reference for all those readers, students, and scholars interested in the Holocaust and World War II.

 

Review: The Jews In Fascist Italy: A History

Posted 11/14/01 on the home page for The Jewish Press

By Michael Skakun, Book Review Editor

Title: The Jews In Fascist Italy: A History

Author: Renzo De Felice
Publisher: Enigma Books

In recent years, Italy has been ranked just behind Denmark and Bulgaria as a European nation in which Jews stood a fair chance of survival during World War II. Italy's essential humanity — the common people's refusal to be tainted by racial anti-Semitism — is often attributed in part to the nation's anarchic spirit, distrust and general lawlessness (all exemplary virtues under Fascism). Byron understood this romantic spirit more than a century earlier when he wrote of Italy: "There is in fact, no law or government at all; it is wonderful how things go on without them."

Yet the full historical record is mixed. Italian Jews, among the most highly assimilated in Europe, did in fact survive in greater numbers than their brethren in other countries, but it cannot be denied that nearly 8,000 Jews out of a 1939 population of 35,000 never returned from the concentration camps. While it is true that Italians found racism, on the whole, repulsive, Mussolini did succeed in pushing through the notorious 1938 racial laws as a nod to Hitler. And while the Italian army was often humane in its behavior towards Jews, the fascist squads in Florence and elsewhere were infamous for their murderous cruelty.

Founded in New York in 1999 with the express purpose of offering the English-reading world important, but often neglected, historical works of the twentieth century, Enigma Books is to be congratulated for the publication of Renzo de Felice's magisterial The Jews in Fascist Italy, arguably the single most comprehensive study of the Holocaust in a single European nation. A masterpiece of interpretive subtlety and comprehensive sweep, the book was first issued in Italian forty years ago by the distinguished house, Einaudi and commissioned by the Union of Jewish Communities of Italy in an early attempt to set the record straight about what occurred to the Jews in Italy between the fateful years of 1938 and 1945. Over the decades the author, who died in 1996, expanded his book and today, the first English language edition is published with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Professor Michael Ledeen is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, the neo-conservative think-tank in Washington, D.C. He is a tough-minded historian and a student and friend of Renzo De Felice, Italy's foremost post-war historian of fascism, and an ex-member of his nation's Communist Party (he was the prize pupil of the Florentine Marxist historian Delio Cantinori). Professor Ledeen provides a useful introduction to the harsh ideological, political and cultural landscape that greeted the book's initial appearance. An intellectual projectile, it exploded on impact and eviscerated such cherished myths of the Italian Left as the notion that Fascism was purely a reactionary phenomenon of the middle class, its defense against the threat of a socialist revolution; that Italian Fascism was imposed by terror wielded by a small minority when in fact was a mass movement. DeFelice argues that, as in Germany, there was little effective resistance once the regime was consolidated; and, perhaps, most embarrassingly, that it was Italy's youth and intelligentsia who were most easily seduced by the Fascist regime and its racial laws, a class that in large numbers morphed into the Left after World War II and gave De Felice the greatest grief.

Ledeen writes "For daring to write the truth, [De Felice] was subjected to a campaign of cultural terrorism that could have destroyed any but the strongest man, and had the Left succeeded in silencing De Felice, it might well have confirmed its hegemony over Italian historical and political culture."

De Felice is forthright, reminding the reader that Mussolini, who met three times in 1933-1934 with Chaim Weizmann and Nahum Goldmann, was a supporter of Jabotinsky. He underscores that the modern Israeli Navy, in effect, was born at the maritime school at Civitavecchia in 1934, largely thanks to Fascist largesse, a result of Duce's anti-British Mediterranean strategy. De Felice draws an interesting Italianate distinction between Weizmann and Jabotinsky by quoting his French counterpart Francois Furet: "Weizmann is Cavour, and Jabotinsky reincarnates both Mazzini and Garibaldi; the first, a diplomatic visionary, but gifted as a tactician keeps to the official program on the home front, with an attentive eye on the international scene; the second, romantic, dazzling, always in a rush, seeks a short cut that lead to the state of Israel."

De Felice differentiates between Nazism and Italian Fascism. Many Jews were present among the ranks of the Fascist party and contributed financially to it. He reminds the reader that a handful of leading Fascists, including Giovanni Gentile, the regime's court philosopher, protested against anti-Semitism and that Mussolini himself was not tainted with racial prejudice against the Jews — after all his mistress, Margherita Sarfatti, was Jewish. De Felice is not suggesting, however, that Mussolini avoided wielding anti-Semitism as a political weapon.

©2001 The Jewish Press

 

Milan, Italy
Panorama
August 17, 2000

Storia—presto in inglese

De Felice,
star intemazionale

Accolto con ostilità, mai tradotto. Ma ora il suo volume sugli ebrei arriverà negli Usa.

Michael Ledeen, che partecipa all'American enterprise institute di Washington, noto think tank, dice che forse è la volta buona. Renzo De Felice potrebbe finalmente diventare una star della storiografia internazionale e uscire da quella maledizione che gli ha negato all'estero la traduzione del libri importanti. La sua Storia degli ebrei italiani sotto il fascismo l’anno prossimo verrà tradotta per la prima volta, negli Stati Uniti. Ora negli Usa l'interesse per la storia langue, salvo che in un caso: l'Olocausto e la persecuzione degli ebrei. <<Perché è un argomento che interessa agli stessi ebrei. Che, com'è noto, sono intelligenti, leggono e comprano parecchi libri>> dice Ledeen. <<E quindi, chissà, potrebbe anche essere l'occasione giusta per De Felice>>.

La casa editrice che nella primavera prossima stamperà la traduzione del libro è l'Enigma books, newyorkese, nata nel 1999 con lo scopo di far conoscere al pubblico di lingua inglese grandi lavori storici del Ventesimo secolo. Sua è una notevole edizione di Hitler's table talk. 1941-1944, la raccolta di discorsi pnvati del Führer curati da Hugh Treyor-Roper. Di prossima pubblicazione sono le memorie dell'ex spia sovietica W.G. Krivitsky, In Stalin's secret service. Nella primavera del 2001 sarà poi la volta di De Felice.

Anche il perché di questa scelta è facile da spiegare. Proprietario e mente della casa editrice è Robert L. Miller, padre americano e madre italiana. Miller parla l'italiano benissimo e ha lavorato a Milano e poi, per la Rizzoli, a New York. Quando si è messo per conto proprio quest'impresa, racconta, aveva in mente una cosa precisa: <<Le grandi case editrici si sono tenute lontane dalla saggistica e in particolare dalla grande produzione storiografica. Hanno lasciato un vuoto, che io ho deciso di colmare>>. Per quanto riguarda De Felice, il suo interesse risale al suo periodo di lavoro in Italia. <<Mi chiedevo seropre perché De Felice non venisse mai tradotto all'estero, pensavo che il suo lavoro fosse fondamentale. MI ero persino fatto l'idea che fosse lui a non volersi fare tradurre>>.

Così è venuto fuori questo libro, che sarà tirato, come gli altri in 10 mila copie, tante per gli standard italiani. La prefazione sarà di Ledeen, che di De Felice e stato allievo e amico (lo ha incontrato anche un mese prima della morte, nel 1996) e con lui ha scritto la nota Intervista sul fascismo (Laterza).

<<Racconterò la storia travagliata di questo libro importante>> dice Ledeen. <<Di come fu accolto con furore ostile quando uscì nel 1961 da Einaudi, perché svelò all'Italia di essere stata un paese antisemita, facendo tanti nomi imbarazzanti. Fu uno scandalo enorme. E racconterò agli americani che De Felice subì il tentativo del Pci di controllare la cultura del Paese. Vediamo che cosa succederà. Gli americani non studiano più la storia. Ma in questo caso ci sono di mezzo gli ebrei. Potrebbe davvero essere la volta buona per un successo>>.

Giorgio Fabre

Milan, Italy
Panorama
August 17, 2000

History–soon to be published in English

De Felice, international star

Greeted with hostility, but never translated, his book on the Jews will now be published in the USA

Michael Ledeen, of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C., a well-known think tank, says that this will finally come to pass. Renzo De Felice could at last become a star among international historians and lift the curse that has prevented his books from being translated and published overseas. His The Jews in Fascist Italy. A History, will be translated in the United States for the first time next year. Interest in history in the USA is on the wane, with one exception: the Holocaust and the persecution of the Jews. "Because it’s a subject that is of interest to the Jews themselves, who as we know, are intelligent, read, and buy many books," says Ledeen. "So, who knows? This could be the right time for De Felice."

Enigma Books, the publishing house that will issue the translation of the book, was founded in New York in 1999 with the mission of offering the English-reading public important historical works of the 20th century. Enigma has just published a noteworthy edition of Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-1945, a collection of the Führer’s private conversations, edited by Prof. Hugh Trevor-Roper. It will also shortly publish In Stalin’s Secret Service, the memoirs of former Soviet spy W. G. Krivitsky. De Felice’s turn will come in the spring of 2001.

It is also easy to explain the reason for this choice. The owner and moving force of the publishing house is Robert L. Miller, who had an American father and an Italian mother. Miller speaks perfect Italian and worked in Milan and for Rizzoli in New York. Striking out on his own in this enterprise, he says, he had a very definite idea: "The large publishing firms have avoided essays and serious history. They have left a void that I have decided to fill." As for De Felice, he became interested in him during his time working in Italy. "I thought his work was extremely important and always wondered why De Felice was never translated overseas. I even suspected that he was the one opposing a translation."

This is how this translation came about. Ten thousand copies will be printed, which is a lot by Italian standards. Ledeen, who was a student and friend of De Felice (he even saw him one month before his death, in 1996), will provide the preface. He also wrote, with De Felice, the famous Interview on Fascism (Laterza).

"I’ll tell the difficult story of this important book," says Ledeen. "How it was received with extreme hostility when it was first published in 1961 by Einaudi, because it revealed that Italy had been an anti-Semitic country, and named many embarrassing names. There was a colossal uproar. And I’ll tell Americans that De Felice was also the victim of an attempt by the PCI [Italian Communist Party] to control the culture of the country. We’ll see what happens. Americans don’t study history anymore. But in this case, the Jews are involved. And it could be the right time to succeed."

Giorgio Fabre

Michael Ledeen, Mussolini, Jews, Israel

August 23, 2006