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The Jews Who Lived under “Free Imprisonment” in Fascist Italy

July 17 2017

At the request of a friend, Michael Frank set out to discover the fate of a Polish Jew named Fanny Rudorfer, who had spent much of World War II living under the pseudonym Franca Ricci in a tiny Italian village, where she shared her secret with the mother of Frank’s friend. Frank eventually learned how Rudorfer came to be in remote Pievebovigliana:

During the earlier Mussolini years, young, mostly East European Jews were permitted—in fact, encouraged—to come to Italy to pursue studies they were forbidden to pursue in their own countries. The government reduced university fees for these foreign students by half, granted scholarships, and streamlined bureaucracy. . . .

Many of these foreign Jews were students. Others came to Italy with the simple wish to establish new lives in a new and apparently welcoming country. And still others belonged to the population of refugees who began arriving in 1933 from Germany and elsewhere, many of whom intended to use Italy only as a point of transition on a longer journey . . . to the Americas, Palestine, and other safe homes.

But with the passage of the racial laws in 1938 and Italy’s entrance into the war in 1940, the situation of these foreign Jews became increasingly problematic. About 9,000 Jews managed to leave before March 12, 1939 (the deadline set by the racial laws), but that left behind about 4,000 Jews who had no means, or place, to go. They faced two possible choices—only they weren’t choices so much as directives. Some (typically men) were placed in the internment camps that . . .  more closely resembled prisons for political prisoners [than Nazi concentration camps]. (Forty-eight camps for Jews alone would eventually be established throughout the country).

Others were relocated to small towns where they lived under confino libero, which can be translated as either “house arrest” or “free imprisonment,” a revealing oxymoron. These Jews were domiciled in about 220 towns in every region of Italy except Sardinia and Sicily. Under confino libero, families were often separated. Forbidden (as they were from 1938 on) from holding full-time jobs, they lived off very small, often intermittent per diems and by selling off their possessions and doing odd jobs. Each family member was required to check in daily with the police or the local mayor. And, most troubling of all, for months, then years, on end, none of these people knew what would happen to them

Read more at Tablet

More about: Fascism, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Italy, World War II

 

Why Cutting U.S. Funding for Palestinian “Refugees” Is the Right Move

Jan. 22 2018

Last week the Trump administration announced that it is withholding some of America’s annual contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the organization tasked with providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees and their descendants. To explain why this decision was correct, Elliott Abrams compares UNRWA with the agency run by the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), which provides humanitarian aid to refugees who are not Palestinian:

One of [UNHCR’s] core missions is “ending statelessness.” [By contrast, UNRWA’s] mission appears to be “never ending statelessness.” A phrase such as “ending statelessness” would be anathema and is found nowhere on its website. Since 1950, UNHCR has tried to place refugees in permanent new situations, while since 1950 UNRWA has with its staff of 30,000 “helped” over 5 million Palestinian “refugees” to remain “refugees.” . . . UNRWA has three times as large a staff as UNHCR—but helps far fewer people than the 17 million refugees UNHCR tries to assist. . . .

The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA is not primarily financial. The United States is an enormously generous donor to UNHCR, providing just under 40 percent of its budget. I hope we maintain that level of funding. . . . The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA instead rests on two pillars. The first is that UNRWA’s activities repeatedly give rise to concern that it has too many connections to Hamas and to rejectionist ideology. . . .

But even if those flaws were corrected, this would not solve the second and more fundamental problem with UNRWA—which is that it will perpetuate the Palestinian “refugee” problem forever rather than helping to solve it. . . . [T]hat the sole group of refugees whom the UN keeps enlarging is Palestinian, and that the only way to remedy this under UN definitions would be to eliminate the state of Israel or have 5 million Palestinian “refugees” move there should simply be unacceptable. . . .

Perpetuating and enlarging the Palestinian “refugee” crisis has harmed Israel and it has certainly harmed Palestinians. Keeping their grievances alive may have served anti-Israel political ends, but it has brought peace no closer and it has helped prevent generations of Palestinians from leading normal lives. That archipelago of displaced-persons and refugee camps that once dotted Europe [in the aftermath of World War II] is long gone now, and the descendants of those who tragically lived in those camps now lead productive and fruitful lives in many countries. One can only wish such a fate for Palestinian refugee camps and for Palestinians. More money for UNRWA won’t solve anything.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Israel & Zionism, Palestinians, Refugees, U.S. Foreign policy, UNRWA