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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 Israeli Arabs Should Drop Their Political Parties

Sept. 20 2017

Even as Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy rights, freedoms, and economic opportunities unrivaled in the Arab world, their political leadership is more intent on undermining the Jewish state than on serving their actual interests. Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, comments. (Free registration may be required.)

[T]he Knesset members of the [Arab] Joint List have nothing but criticism for Israel and praise for its enemies, be they Iran, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or Palestinian terrorists. . . . Although spanning the ideological spectrum from Communism (aside from the North Koreans, the only Communists still around), the Muslim Brotherhood (called the Islamic Movement in Israel), and Baathists (the Balad party), they are united in their hatred of Israel. Naturally, they do not call for Arab integration into Israeli society.

Those who oppose the polygamy rampant in the Arab community oppose Israeli measures to curb it. Those who are against the abuse of women and so-called honor killings think these are “local problems” that should be handled by the Arabs themselves. Nor do they want the Israel police to handle the crime running wild in Israel’s Arab towns. Keep Israel out of your lives, is their common motto. They oppose young Arabs volunteering for either military or civilian national service. . . .

Within Israel’s Arab community there is a struggle between those who insist on rejecting everything Israel stands for while supporting its enemies and those who want to integrate into Israeli society and take advantage of the opportunities it offers. . . . Can Israel’s Arabs become a beacon of democracy and modernity for the Arab world, or will they provide proof that Arabs are not yet prepared to enter the 21st century? . . .

[E]ach year, growing numbers of young Arabs volunteer for national service and join the ranks of Israel’s military and police. At the moment, the only way this trend can express itself politically is for these individuals to drop their support for the Joint List in favor of Israel’s existing political parties, and for these parties to welcome Arabs into their ranks.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Joint List