The Guilty Silence

Stefania Zezza


The implementation of the “Racial Laws” in 1938 severely affected Italian school and university. The
expulsion of Jewish professors represented a long term loss for Italian academic world, also because many of them had
to leave Italy to continue their work and some never came back. Giuseppe Levi, well known anatomist and professor at
the university of Turin, was expelled together with some of his assistants, like Rita Levi Montalcini, later awarded with
the Nobel Prize. Levi’s experience after 1938 is extremely telling and shows how hard it was for those who were expelled
to find a way out from Italy, to get a job abroad and to sort out the needed papers. From the testimonies written by his
daughter, Natalia Ginzburg, and his students, from the letters he wrote and received in his correspondence with his son
Mario, exile in France, and the archival documents in the Belgian Archives, it is possible to understand how Fascism and
the implementation of the racial legislation affected people, as scholars and individuals. Giuseppe Levi, who had always
been antifascist, had to make hard decisions to continue his work already in 1931, when he had to take the oath the Fascist
government imposed to the professors, and later, in 1939, when he went to the University of Liege, where he was caught
by the German invasion. He managed eventually to come back to Italy in 1941, and had to face the risk of being deported
after September 8, 1943. At the end of the war he got back his professorship in Turin. The common thread which can be
found in Levi’s experience, during the seven years he had to stay away from the Italian university, is his strong dedication
to research and to teaching at a time when these activities, being subjected to an antisemitic policy. were not considered
by the government as priorities for the academic work.


University, Research, “Racial Laws”, Expulsion, Antisemitism, Antifascism, Academic work, Exile

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ISSN 2282-0043 - Registered at the Court of Rome on Nov. 8, 2012, no. 305/2012

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