'Ebreo'- Jew - is one of the worst insults used by Italians
'Ebreo'- Jew - is one of the worst insults used by Italians

Supporters of the Rome-based soccer team Lazio, playing in the highest professional soccer division, the Seria A, corresponding to the British Premier League, the German Bundesliga, or the Spanish Primera División (a.k.a. La Liga), had already been suspended by the Italian Soccer League for racist incitement, when, last Sunday, another horrible episode of mass anti-Semitism occurred.  Their supporters were waving posters with Ann Frank’s picture "wearing" the uniform of the rival team Roma, carrying the inscription Roma supporter: JEW!

Anne Frank in sports uniform
Anne Frank in sports uniform INN:public.

Jew, in fact, is still considered one of the worst insults thrown around in Italy, a place where for 2000 years, widespread popular and institutional anti-Semitism is a historical fact, mostly omitted by Italian history books.  

Not by chance the word «ghetto» is an Italian word originated 500 years ago in Venice, and the Ghetto of Rome - where Jews were held until 1870 in abject living conditions, was worse than the Ghetto of Warsaw in 1943, with an average of 14 Jews per room.

in 1938, Italy gave the world the worst racist laws ever seen, much worse than the Nuremberg Laws of the Third Reich.
Not by chance, in 1938, Italy gave the world the worst racist laws ever seen, much worse than the Nuremberg Laws of the Third Reich, without having to deal with ANY popular or other protest.  Compare that to the fact that even in Nazi Germany, in February-March 1943, in Rosenstraße ("Rose street»), Berlin, there was a large permanent demonstration of German women, under the eyes of the Gestapo, against the deportation of their Jewish husbands.

Of the over 7,500 Jews (1/3 of the Jewish population remaining in Italy) deported by the Nazi-Fascists to the death camps in Poland, very few returned, two of whom, Primo Levi and Giuliana Tedeschi, came back alive from Auschwitz, and were my teachers in elementary and junior high school.

Contrary to popular opinion that sees Italians as benevolent toward the Jews, the success rate of the Nazi and Fascist deportation and assassination machine was incredible in Italy: in a few months of German occupation, they were able to eliminate 1/3 of the Jews of Italy, not needing four years of occupation as in Holland, Belgium, France, or Poland.  Most Jews were captured after they were denounced and sold-out to the Nazi and Fascist civil and military authorities, by everyday Italian informers, who denounced them with letters and in person, pocketing the blood-money given to them by the Nazis and Fascists, just as in 1938, after the racist laws, they had pocketed the homes, jobs, properties, bank accounts, industries and business of the local Jews, without any restitution ever being done after the war, contrary to what happened in most other countries.  

Not only, given the lack of any replacement of even judicial personnel, after the war the Italian Supreme Court validated practically all the theft of Jewish properties with disgusting sentences, often confirming those given by the same Fascist judges in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  One of the first laws passed by the Italian Parliament, in fact, was a law of general amnesty for all crimes committed by the Italian Fascists.

The Italian Parliament, alone in this too, passed even a law renouncing any compensation from Germany to Italian Jews: Italians needed to hide the fact that they were the allies of the Third Reich in the «Rome-Berlin Axis» and were afraid of any request for compensation. 

Italy has NEVER seriously dealt with its anti-Semitism.  The centuries of persecution of Jews in Italy are nowhere to be found in almost all talian history books.  The locally taught history of the Fascist popular dictatorship (1922-1945) comfortably omits any reference to the anti-Semitic laws and their implications.

Italy is the only country where even January 27 is not the day of commemoration of the Holocaust, or Shoàh, but a generic «Giornata della Memoria», the «Day of Memory» [síc!], where one often finds that the actual theme discussed in classes all over Italy is the alleged «Palestinian Genocide»  and, not by chance, while the rest of the world still considered the PLO a terrorist organization of child killers and airplanes high-jackers, Italy in 1977 was the first Western country to give them an Embassy in Rome.

If you want to make sure, until today, of getting dirty looks, if not worse, just wear a kippàh in Italy.  If you want to get into incredible arguments, talk well about Israel.  If you want to lose most of your friends and be called the most outrageous of insults, just move to Israel.

In Italy they «looove» the dead Jews of the Shoàh, for whom they even spill a hypocritical tear.  They tolerate living Jews as long as they are not «too Jewish» for them, that is they don’t eat kosher or observe the Sabbath.  The cultural hatred inherited from the Ancient Greeks and the Romans, and fostered by Christianity for 2000 years, make most Italians I have encountered very hostile to recognizably observant Jews and to Israelis, unless they support their own enemies.

I still remember when, during my childhood, they used terms found in the dictionary like «maccabeo» (Maccabean) to say corpse, and even during child play in the park, «vil marrano» (vile Marrano) was a common insult thrown around by sword playing children, inspired by the highest Italian Literature.  I also have clear memories of the insult «ebreo!» (Jew!) shouted in the stadiums by the masses to soccer referees, and I was even attacked and beaten-up with pick-axe handles at 18 by both Communists and Fascists screaming «sporco ebreo!» (dirty Jew!).

Sergio HaDaR Tezza is a UCLA Graduate in Contemporary History (Middle East, Jewish History, III Reich)