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January 24, 2005
Mussolini Willingly Assisted The Holocaust: Book

A new book by Italian historian Michael Sarfatti may change the conventional wisdom that Benito Mussolini only grudgingly assisted Hitler in his genocide against the Jews. The London Telegraph reports that newly-discovered correspondence between Il Duce and the Fascisti of Salo shows that Mussolini understood exactly what would happen to the Jews he sent there, and enthusiastically continued to do so:

Rather than being a reluctant participant in the Holocaust, The Shoah of Italy argues that "Il Duce" forged a secret deal with Hitler to hand Jews to the SS and was far more anti-semitic than once thought.

Mussolini was voicing anti-semitic views as early as 1936 and his Racial Laws of 1938 reflected the regime's "biological racism", the book's author, Michele Sarfatti, claims.

Until now, the passing of the laws that made Jews second-class citizens has been written off as an attempt to curry favour with the Fhrer. ...

Correspondence between officials from Mussolini's puppet Republic of Salo and the police suggests a pact under which the fascists would transfer Jews to the Germans and death in the camps, Mr Sarfatti says.

If the evidence that Sarfatti claims to have can be substantiated, it puts quite a different spin on the Italian participation in the Axis and World War II. Even the eminent historan and journalist William Shirer in his seminal book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, excused the Italians from the worst of the Nazi excesses, saying that the Italian people were too down-to-earth to fall for Hitler's rhetoric. He described Mussolini's fascism as merely a philosophical excuse to attempt a new Roman empire, a rallying cry an not much more.

I'd like to see more about the correspondence and its suggestive nature before deciding whether it holds water. I find it interesting, though, that at the same time that British schoolkids are found to be ignorant of the Holocaust and Germans want people to quit reminding them of it, at least some Italians are willing to look closer at their own culpability.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 24, 2005 8:06 PM

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