The "Manifesto of Race" (Italian: "Manifesto della razza"), sometimes known as the Charter of Race or Racial Manifesto, was a manifesto published on the 14th of July 1938 which prepared the enactment, in October 1938, of the Racial Laws in the Kingdom of Italy. The antisemitic laws stripped the Jews of Italian citizenship and governmental and professional positions. The manifesto demonstrated the enormous influence Adolf Hitler had over Benito Mussolini since Italy had become allied with Nazi Germany.
In the sixteen years of Benito Mussolini's dictatorship before this, there had not been any race laws; Mussolini had held the view that a small contingent of Italian Jews had lived in Italy "since the days of the Kings of Rome" (a reference to the Benè Romi, or Italian-rite Jews) and should "remain undisturbed". There were even some Jews in the National Fascist Party, such as Ettore Ovazza who in 1935 founded the Jewish Fascist paper La Nostra Bandiera.
The Manifesto of Race, published in July 1938, declared the Italians to be descendants of the Aryan people. It targeted races that were seen as inferior (i.e. not of Aryan descent). In particular, Jews were banned from many professions. Under the Racial Laws, sexual relations and marriages between Italians, Jews, and Africans were forbidden. Jews were banned from positions in banking, government, and education, as well as having their properties confiscated.
The Kingdom of Italy, shortly after the passing of the racial laws, embraced a publication titled "Manifesto of the Racial Scientists" which mixed biological racism with history; it declared that Italy was a country populated by people of Aryan origin, Italians belonged to the Aryan race, Jews did not belong to the Italian race and that it was necessary to distinguish between Europeans and Semites, Hamites, Black Africans and other non-Europeans. The manifesto encouraged Italians to be racist. Fascist Italy often published material that showed caricatures of Jews and Africans.
Even after the passing of the racial laws, Mussolini continued to make contradictory statements about race.
The strong Italian and German alliance was greatly bound by the common political philosophy of fascism as a form of "progressive reaction"—both Mussolini and Hitler despised modern-style liberal humanist democracy, but lauded their own ideas of fascism as paradoxically the fulfillment of modern politics and the embodiment of the popular will. Mussolini was greatly admired by Adolf Hitler, and in one of his conversations Hitler opened up emotionally, declaring the Duce was his "only real friend". Hitler was captivated and personally inspired by the 1922 March on Rome and envisioned himself at the head of a similar march on Berlin. Thus, Mussolini increasingly decided to harmonize Italian Fascism with German Nazism by introducing antisemitic laws in Italy as evidence of his good faith. He conceived it, at least partially and tactically, as an offering calculated to solidify the Italo-German Alliance. In Fascist literature and periodicals, a shift toward a less refined racism, accentuating the biological, Indo-European element occurred, emphasizing the original Latin Romans as a nucleus of warlike Aryans closely related to Celtic and other Indo-European ethnic groups (see Italo-Celtic) and more Italian Fascist nationalism merged with Aryan racism doctrinally.
After considerable resistance, Nazi influence began to penetrate some circles in the Kingdom of Italy. The individualistic maverick thinker Julius Evola was key in introducing Aryan racism and antisemitism into Fascist Italy. In general, however, there was a concerted effort to distinguish Fascist "racism", allegedly of "culturalist" variety, from that emanating from the Germanic realm. Giovanni Gentile, for example, despised the introduction of biological racism into Fascism, and the same can be said of the majority of the early theoreticians of intellectual Fascism. Yet a concern for corporate group national identity, as opposed to what Gentile called the "solipsist ego" enshrined by demo-liberal politics, was always part of the Fascist worldview. In any case, it was not unusual, before the outbreak of Second World War, for Fascist intellectuals to oppose themselves to the more excessive and irrational components of Ariosophy-descended National Socialist racism.
For the most part, the racial laws were met with disapproval from not just ordinary Italian citizens but members of the Fascist party. On one occasion, a Fascist scholar questioned Mussolini over the treatment his Jewish friends were receiving which prompted Mussolini to say "I agree with you entirely. I don't believe a bit in the stupid anti-Semitic theory. I am carrying out my policy entirely for political reasons."
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- Nazism and race
- Nuremberg Laws
- Italian Racial Laws
- Three Aspects of the Jewish Problem
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