Reviewing The Italian Executioners, a recent book on the Holocaust in Italy by Simon Levis Sullam, Michael M. Rosen writes:
Levis Sullam [revisits] the historiography of Italian wartime conduct, finding that the reigning paradigm adds insult to injury by celebrating the righteous Gentiles within the Italian resistance while whitewashing the perpetration of [mass murder] by thousands of their fellow citizens. Nearly 10,000 fascist apparatchiks received a postwar amnesty in the spirit of national reconciliation, a process that spawned what has been called the “myth of the good Italian.” . . .
The hinge moment [in the Italian Shoah] arrived in September 1943, when, after a brief non-fascist interregnum following the (temporary) ouster of Mussolini, the Nazis seized the northern half of the country and helped establish the Italian Social Republic, whose intellectuals . . . “laid the ideological and propagandistic groundwork necessary to prepare, justify, and support [fighting a] civil war and participation” in the Holocaust.
But Levis Sullam attributes the murder of Italy’s Jews less to the government’s grand elevated theory than to its quotidian bureaucratic practice. He reckons that Italians were responsible for 2,210, or roughly half, of all arrests and deportations of Jews, most on their own but some in conjunction with German officers. Yet even the remainder of arrests, which the Germans alone executed, universally relied on “the help of information and organizational support from the Italians”—most prominently the 1938 census that identified the names and addresses of all Jews residing in the country. . . .
Of course, the tragedy in Italy pales in comparison to the ruination of the communities of Eastern Europe; some 6,000 Italian Jews perished, representing 10 percent of the country’s total Jewish population and only one-tenth of one percent of the Jews who were lost to the Shoah. Although there was a surprising thoroughness and efficiency to the efforts of many Italians to solve the “Jewish problem,” the fascist regime did not act with the same urgency as the Nazis did.