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Africa: Italian Colonies - THE LEGACY OF FASCIST COLONIAL RACIAL POLICY

italy italians jews colonization

Italy was one of the European countries with colonies in Africa during the modern period. Lasting from 1890 to 1941, Italian colonialism in Africa included the presentday countries of Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. Italian colonialism in Africa came to an end with the death of the Italian leader Benito Mussolini, the collapse of the Fascist regime, and the defeat of Italy in World War II. Half a century of Italian colonialism had long-term effects on attitudes towards race and racism in both Italy and its colonies.

Italian colonization of Africa took place during the same period as other European colonization in the region. In many respects, Italian colonial policy was similar to that of other colonizing powers. Italian colonial policy differed, however, in that it was premised more on enhancing the glory and overall international prestige of Italy, rather than on the economic benefits that could be gained from colonies. Italian colonialism was also not guided by religious motives of converting native populations to Christianity. Italian imperialism was later shaped by Fascist doctrines of governance and social policy, which affected methods of administration and treatment of the indigenous African population.

Italy’s colonial experience forced Italians to confront the presence of non-Europeans within the Italian Empire. The presence of black Africans, especially, led some Italians to construct racial hierarchies in which Italians and other Europeans stood at the top, Arabs and North Africans somewhere in the middle, and black Africans at the bottom in terms of rights and privileges. Such racial-ist thinking led some Italians to consider the position of Jews within Italy in a parallel manner, and to place them on this racial hierarchy. Italian attitudes toward Jews, which had previously been generally benign, began to change as a result of African colonization.

Italian colonization can be divided into two periods. The first begins in 1890, with the Italian colonization of Eritrea, and continues with the acquisition of Libya and Somalia, and the invasion and occupation of Ethiopia. The second period begins around 1937, when the occupation of Ethiopia was complete and when Fascist racial policy became more explicit and extreme. This article will examine racial policies in the Italian colonies during both periods and will conclude by noting the impact of the colonial experience on post-imperial Italy.

THE LEGACY OF FASCIST COLONIAL RACIAL POLICY

The greatest legacy of Italian racial policy in its colonies was the rise of anti-Semitism in Italy. Prior to the imposition of Fascist racial policy, there was little anti-Semitism in Italy, and certainly nothing like the hatred of Jews present in Germany. There were indeed many Jewish Fascists, and many anti-Zionist Italian Jews. In 1911 the mayor of Rome was Jewish, and many Italian prime ministers were of Jewish ancestry, as were many senators, professors, and war heroes. Italy gave sanctuary to Jews expelled from Russia and Germany. Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi racial theorist, even denounced what he called the “Judeo-Fascist regime” located in “world-polluting Rome.”

Yet Italy’s colonization in Africa began to draw distinctions between people of different races. Italians began to think of themselves as somehow different from colonized Africans and Arabs, and Fascist doctrine urged them to think themselves superior to the people they had colonized. Allying racism with nationalism and national identity, the Fascist Party motivated Italians to also think of ethnicity, rather than religion or culture, as what separated them from others, thus leading to increasing anti-Semitism in Italy. Though never urgently proactive in attacking Jews as Germans had been, Italians began to see Jews as foreign and alien.

Italy has not yet confronted its colonial past, and issues of racism and anti-Semitism are not commonly discussed and analyzed in the country. Italian colonialism in Africa, motivated largely by the desire to enhance the historic glory of Italy and to help Italy find its “place in the sun” along with other colonial powers, forced Italians to think about racial difference, and many Italians came to accept racial difference to some degree, even though they may have treated their colonial subjects well.

Africa: Portuguese Colonies - SLAVERY, AFRICAN COLONIES IN THE AGE OF IMPERIALISM [next] [back] Africa: German Colonies - COLONIAL ADMINISTRATION, AFRICA REVOLTS, RACIAL PURITY, VOICES OF CONCERN, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

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over 2 years ago

From Molly
I take great issue with the statement that relations with Jews in Italy were "benign" before Italy colonized parts of Africa and created racial classes. In 1516, the world's FIRST ghetto was established in Venice, where Jewish residents were locked in at night. Previously and subsequently, there were many other restrictions, such as being barred from certain professions, wearing identifying armbands, etc. Please see

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Venice.html#1, for a realistic picture.

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about 5 years ago

Ethiopia was not a colony of Italy study your history before writing nonsense .proud to be Ethiopian
Ethiopia for ever

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over 5 years ago

This article only highlights more evidence that jews control the media.

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almost 5 years ago

Your blog post rocks! Congrats. Seriously considered experienced learning this, an item wasn't just like another, what the heck is considered uncomfortable to go about. You have to do good work buddy. I'm looking good blog/site for post my comment. Now I got it. I'm very happy to your blog/site.

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almost 7 years ago

can you include the impact italians had on somalia's money

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almost 2 years ago

Barrio BLYTHE STx3
LOS BURROS REFFAMOS AHA CLS CLIKA

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about 5 years ago

The Italian colonial legacy is a rich one,and often distorted and under stated,as told by the British or American historians.Since Italy had few colonies in comparison to the other European powers,she could concentrate more on and develop better the few African colonies possessed.Italians did not mistreat colonial subjects by any measure.Take Somalia in E.Africa for example.Italy invested heavily in development of roads,schools,hospitals,etc.Education was paramount in making the otherwiese illiterate population literate in the Italian language.Mogadiscio was a "jewel"on the sea and one of the most beautifulest seaside cities in all of Africa.

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almost 6 years ago

Why does this sophomoric item discuss anti-semitism rather than the actual topic of the treatment of the indigenous populations in the Italian colonies by the Italians?



Stuff like this is for elementary schools, not a serious study - even if preliminary - and shows the unreliability of most materials found on the internet.



thb

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almost 6 years ago

Thanks for your article about the Italian colonial policy in East Africa during 1936-41.Is very interesting the study of the building of the Italian Empire in East Africa during the short peace years before that Mussolini decided went into the war alongside Germany in June 10,1940.

The Italians built in Ethiopia a lot of roads during 1936-40.Is very interesting to study the construction of schools,hospitals,roads....For example Mussolini ordered the building a great road that joined Massawa with Mogadishu.



Peter

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almost 6 years ago

Thanks for your article about the Italian colonial policy in East Africa during 1936-41.Is very interesting the study of the building of the Italian Empire in East Africa during the short peace years before that Mussolini decided went into the war alongside Germany in June 10,1940.

The Italians built in Ethiopia a lot of roads during 1936-40.Is very interesting to study the construction of schools,hospitals,roads....For example Mussolini ordered the building a great road that joined Massawa with Mogadishu.



Peter

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almost 6 years ago

Thanks for your article about the Italian colonial policy in East Africa during 1936-41.Is very interesting the study of the building of the Italian Empire in East Africa during the short peace years before that Mussolini decided went into the war alongside Germany in June 10,1940.

The Italians built in Ethiopia a lot of roads during 1936-40.Is very interesting to study the construction of schools,hospitals,roads....For example Mussolini ordered the building a great road that joined Massawa with Mogadishu.



Peter

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almost 2 years ago

this is a very informative paragraph

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almost 5 years ago

Your blog post rocks! Congrats. Seriously considered experienced learning this, an item wasn't just like another, what the heck is considered uncomfortable to go about. You have to do good work buddy. I'm looking good blog/site for post my comment. Now I got it. I'm very happy to your blog/site.

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over 5 years ago

I like how the article attempts to remove jews from the problem of fascism, marxism, communism and racism. Nice try, but no cigar.

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7 months ago

What this article fails to address is that the Italian colonies in Africa, and particularly in the horn of Africa, i.e. Italian Somaliland and Eritrea, were some of the most developed and socialized European colonies in all of Africa. The Italians built a railroad in Asmara in the capital of Eritrea and built many roads, schools, hospitals, a university, national theatre, Catholic cathedral and other infrastructure projects to Mohadiscio and other cities South of the capital like Merca and Kismayo. They educated the largely illiterate population and gave many Somalis good civil service jobs in the police force, within the university faculty and also in the industrial, agricultural and farming sectors. Somalia had the highest standard of living for native Africans in Africa from (c. 1940 to 1960.)Compared to British Somaliland in the North, the Italian colony was far more developed, civilized and prosperous !

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over 6 years ago

pesomoooooo