A Chapter in the History of the Italian Fascist Occupation of Ethiopia
Racism in the Service of Fascism, Empire-Building and War: The History of the Italian Fascist Magazine “La Difesa della Razza”
Italian colonialism, like virtually all modern European colonialism, was from its inception inherently at least partially racist. Italy’s “first-born” colony, Eritrea - Bairu Tafla's homeland, was thus characterised from the outset by considerable racial discrimination. Italian and “native” housing in Asmara, and other Eritrean towns, thus tended to be separate. The principle of different schools for Italians and “natives” in the colony was officially decreed as early as 1909, and urban segregation in Asmara in 1916. No less significant was the institution of “madamismo”, by which Italians officials, soldiers and others, took “native” wives/concubines/mistresses, who had virtually no rights at law.
Italian fascism, which was largely parochial, and Italy-centred, was at first entirely oblivious to questions of race, and did not envisage any specifically fascist racial policy. At the time of the invasion of Ethiopia, in 1935, the fascists permitted the sale of semi-pornographic pictures of Ethiopian women, to popularise their African adventure among the Italian troops. The Italian authorities also gave publicity to the song Faccetta Nera, in which the “piccola abissina”, or young Ethiopian girl, was supposedly to be “liberated” by them.
The British Marxist biologist Professor J.B.S. Haldane, hearing of Mussolini’s plan to settle a quarter of a million Italians in Ethiopia, wrote to the London Times, a fortnight after the fascist occupation of Addis Ababa on 5 May 1936, to predict that the invaders would “interbreed with the Ethiopians”, and thus lead to “a considerable influx of African blood into Italy”.
This prediction was immediately falsified by events. On the very day that The Times published Haldane's prediction, the fascist newspaper Gazzetta del Popolo carried an article entitled “The fascist Empire cannot be an empire of half-castes”. Fascist propaganda was thereupon launched against the Faccetta nera song.
Less than a year later the first of a series of Italian racist decrees, prohibiting “conjugal relations” between Italian citizens and colonial subjects of the Italian East African Empire, was signed by the “King-Emperor” Vittorio Emanuele III, on 19 April 1937. This edict, which may be said to represent the beginning of official Italian racism, was followed by a succession of further royal decrees strengthening racist practices, as well as by a series of orders, by fascist administrators in East Africa, establishing segregation in almost all fields of life. (1)[i]
This was a period when Mussolini’s relations with nazi Germany were drawing rapidly, and inexorably, closer. The ties linking the two dictatorships found dual expression in the Duce’s visit to Germany, from October 22 to 24 1937, and in the Führer’s return visit, to Rome, from 3 to 9 May 1938.
Scarcely more than two months after this later visit the fascist government, on 14 July, published its notorious Manifesto della Razza, which is believed to have been personally conceived by the Duce. (2)[ii]
Three weeks afterwards, on 5 August, there appeared an expensively produced 44 page racist fortnightly periodical, La Difesa della Razza. Printed in photogravure, it was edited by the fascist journalist Telesio Interlandi. Selected for the post by Mussolini personally,(3)[iii] he was a veteran fascist luminary who had founded the fascist newspaper Il Tevere, i.e. “The Tiber”, in 1924. Soon to emerge as a notorious protagonist of racism, he shortly afterwards wrote a polemical book, entitled Contra Judaeos, or “Against the Jews”, which appeared in a series of writings entitled Biblioteca Razziale Italiana, i.e. Italian Racial Library. (4)[iv]
La Difesa, which, according to a later critic, was designed “to give an appearance of seriousness” and “a scientific veneer” to Mussolini’s new racist theses, (5)[v] sold for one lira, and was well funded. It claimed a circulation, for the first four issues, of between 130,000 and 150,000 copies, (6)[vi] and carried advertisements from three of fascist Italy's leading banks, the Banca Commerciale Italiana, the Credito Italiano, and the Banco di Sicilia; two insurance companies, the Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà, and the Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazione; and two industrial firms, the Società E. Breda, and the Officine Villar Perosa.
The publication's editorial board, in addition to Interlandi, included three staff members of the R. Università di Roma, Professor Guidi Landra, an anthropologist; Dr. Marcello Ricci, a zoologist; and Dr. Lino Businco, a pathologist, as well as Professor Lidio Cipriani, the best known of the group, who was Director of the Museo Nazionale di Antropologia e di Etnologia of Firenze. They were later joined, for the third issue, by Dr. Leone Franzi, a pediatrician at the R. Università di Milano. All six contributed frequently to the publication. The editorial secretary was Giorgio Almirante.
The first issue, which appeared on 5 August 1938, and the two following, bore a dramatic cover illustration. It depicted the head of a Roman statue, which the editors evidently considered the highest expression of humanity, separated by an iron sword from a hook-nosed Third Century AD caricature of a Jew, and a photograph of a bead-bedecked shining Ethiopian/African girl of negroid appearance. This composite picture, which typified the virulently racist character of the periodical, became its official emblem, and was reproduced on the inner title page of many later issues.
Immediately after the appearance of the first issue, Interlandi was given an audience by Mussolini. At this meeting, which took place some time between 5 and 7 August, the Duce reportedly expressed considerable satisfaction with the publication, and gave directions for its future development. (7)[vii]
The publication, though highly prejudiced, and strongly xenophobic, was throughout its existence beautifully printed. It contained many fine pictures of Roman statues and classical Italian paintings - intended to display the greatness of Italy’s cultural heritage, and to contrast it with the assumed primitive character of African and other cultures - as well as the "decadence" of fascist Italy's European and American enemies. The periodical may well have attracted many readers by such photographs, as much as by its racism. Beautiful pictures were thus used in the service of squalid propaganda, which, it may be noted, preceded by a decade the official development of apartheid in South Africa.
The following paper attempts to trace the history, and analyse the ideological/propagandist stance of the magazine. Consistently racist, and bitterly opposed to miscegenation, as well as anti-Semitic, it also reflected the day-to-day requirements of the regime, and was therefore at various times anti-African, anti-French, anti-Anglo-Saxon, i.e. anti-British and anti-American, anti-Bolshevik, and anti-Slav.
La Difesa, which constituted a remarkable chronicle of Italian and fascist racism and xenophobia, continued to appear throughout the latter years of the occupation of Ethiopia, where it was widely distributed in official circles. The publication ceased to appear only on the eve of the Allied landings in Italy, and the resultant fall of fascism in that country.
The racist ideas embodied in this publication ideas were important in that they influenced - and reflected - Italian government policy and thinking throughout the occupation of Ethiopia. This was particularly the case in relation to urban segregation, discriminatory education and health policies, and, above all, attitudes to miscegenation and “half-castes”.
The First Issue
The first issue of La Difesa, set the tone for later issues. It opened with a statement on “Razzismo italiano”, or Italian Racism. This was supposedly formulated by a group of fascist University teachers under the aegis of the fascist Ministry of Popular Culture. Mussolini’s son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano, however, confided to his diary that the Duce had told him that “in fact he had drafted almost the whole thing himself”.(8)[viii]
The statement laid down the following ten main theses, to which the periodical often returned in later issues:
1. [Different] human races exist. 2. There exist great and small races. 3. The concept of race is an entirely biological concept. 4. The population of present-day Italy is of Aryan origin and its civilisation is Aryan. 5. The belief that the Italian race was significantly modified by immigration in historic times is a myth, 6. There now exists a pure "Italian race". 7. It is time that Italians should proclaim themselves avowedly racist. 8. It is necessary to make a clear distinction between the Mediterranean races of Western Europe on the one side and the Orientals and Africans on the other. 9. Hebrews do not belong to the Italian race. 10. The purely European physical and psychological characteristics of the Italian race must in no way be changed.
The statement thus summarised was endorsed by the periodical’s editorial. In it Interlandi claimed, in pompous vein, that the publication had appeared at the “right moment”, because:
“The first phase of racial polemics is closed, science has pronounced, the Regime has proclaimed the urgency of the problem. It is fitting to call to Italians not only in terms of a doctrine which has now received its simplest and most efficacious formulation, but also for its irrevocable necessity and its vast range. With her conquest of the Empire, with her resultant assumption of ever greater historical responsibilities, Italy must give the racial problem the prominence due to it both from the strictly biological point of view and from that of custom".(9) [ix]
The article concluded by defining the publication’s intended scope as a three-fold one, of “science, documentation [and] polemics”.
In accordance with this policy the first issue of La Difesa published nazi German statistics which purported to show that Jews statistically exceeded non-Jews in such crimes as "usury (dishonesty in credit); bankruptcy; fraud; diffusion of obscene literature; outrages against decency; blackmail; absenteeism in respect of military duties; violation of obligations derived from judicial decisions; falsification of documents; insults, slander".
The above was followed by a number of pseudo-scholarly, and highly polemical articles, for the most part extensively illustrated. Designed to popularise the concept of race, and the superiority of that of Italy, they carried such self-explicatory titles as:
“Biological heredity and racism”. “The ethnic unity of the Italian race in history”. “The characteristics of Romanity”. “Youth and the Italian race”.
Another essay inquired whether there "Racism could exist in medicine?”, and answered by citing Mussolini, as might be expected, in the affirmative.
A further article, entitled “Mongrels", or persons of mixed race, was illustrated with numerous photographs designed to prove the assumed depravity of “half-castes”.
Two other characteristic articles may be mentioned. The first, on “The Borghesie [or Middle Class] and race”, sought to demonstrate that the Italian Middle Class had lost its “sense of the nation”, while the “cosmopolitan borghesia” was “dominated by the Hebrews”, or Jews. The objective of fascism, the author argued, was therefore to separate “the Hebrews” from the “Italian nation”, and to consider Jews as "strangers" both “in blood and culture".
The other article, on the "Control of the Hebrew cultural movement in Germany", was no less significant. It praised, and committed itself to support, the Nazi attitude towards the Jews. Nazi Germany, it made quite clear, was thereafter, to be the model for fascist Italy's approach to race.
The Next Four Issues
The next four issues, which constituted Volume I of La Difesa followed, and developed, the lines already established. Copiously illustrated with photographs selected for their propaganda impact, they contained polemical articles on the following six themes:
(1) The assumed importance of racism, as reflected in biographical differences between different races. These differences were propounded in articles with such self-explicatory titles as “Antiquity of racial differences" and “Blood and race” (both in issue no 3), “Types of hair in the human race” (no. 2), “The biological blood individuality of races” (no, 5), and “Mendelism in man” (no. 3). Several articles also touched on eugenic considerations, and discrepancies between the birth rate of different social classes, as argued for example in “Heredity and eugenics” (no. 5), and “A danger for the race: The decadence of the Upper Classes” (no. 2).
(2) The supposed physical virtues, and Aryan character, of the “Italian race”. These themes were propounded in such articles as “Concepts of Italian racism”, and “The Italian race has always been distinct from other races” (both in no. 2), “Physical characteristics of the Italian race” (no. 3), and, to rebut any idea that Italians might be of mixed race, “Blonds and Brunets of the Italian race” (no. 4).
(3) The evil character, and racial inferiority of the Jews, and the threat to civilisation which they posed. These assertions were developed in “The Hebrews as a race” (no. 3), and “The distribution of the Hebrews in the five continents”, which claimed that there were 52,000 Jews in Italy, with the implication that this was that number too many (no. 5). One article (in no. 3) attacked the allegedly “Jewish” character of Marx’s Materialism. Another (in no. 4), entitled “The three instruments of international Jewry”, argued that the Jewish threat to civilisation was three-fold. It supposedly came from “High Finance”, represented by the millionaire Lord Rothschild, “Terrorism”, by the Hungarian Communist Bela Kun, and "Pseudo-democracy”, by the 19th. century British politician Benjamin Disraeli.
(4) Differences between “whites” and “blacks”, and the latter’s presumed racial inferiority. Such contentions were propounded in polemical articles with such pseudo-scientific titles as “Racial differences between Whites and Blacks in the third month of embryonic life"” (no. 2), and “The metrical scale of intelligence and the mental inferiority of Negroes" (no. 5).
(5) Racism, in Italy and the Italian colonies, propounding the supposed degeneracy of “half-castes”, as well as the need to keep the “Italian” and “native” races entirely separate. These arguments were formulated in “Colonial racism” (no. 2), “Racism and colonial possessions” (no. 3), and, even more explicitly, in “In the prestige of the race lies the safeguard of the Empire” (no. 5). The periodical also attacked the existence of “half-castes” in an essay entitled “Half-castism: danger to the moral and physical health of peoples” (no. 4). It was accompanied by such slogans as “Mongrels often display degenerate physical characteristics”, “Unions between different races are more dangerous than between the same race”, and, in even stronger language, in “Half-castism is synonymous with depravity and degeneration".
(6) The supposed special role of Italian women in preserving the Italian race in the Empire. This thesis was developed in “Woman guardian of the character of the race” no. 4), which claimed that:
"only Italian colonisation - different from that of the French and British - is based on demographic principle. It is therefore on woman that the future of our colonies greatly depends ... The woman who in Africa forgets the dignity of the race and grants excessive familiarity to the Blacks compromises the future of Italian colonisation ".
This thesis, which was by then official Italian fascist policy in Africa, was symbolised by a photograph, to present-day eyes entirely absurd, of a European woman, elegantly dressed in a long skirt and hat, holding an umbrella, and standing erect, formally shaking hands, at a distance of over a metre, with a completely naked black man.
Some other articles, such as “Internationalism and racism” (no. 2) praised the racial policies of nazi Germany and fascist Italy, while others again, such as “The Jewish shadow over France” (no. 3), condemned supposed Jewish influence in that country, and its alleged resultant degeneracy. An anti-French approach, symbolic of then fascist foreign policy, was likewise apparent in a piece entitled, “Italians and French: two races, two civilisations” (no. 5).
Despite the magazine’s almost pathological xenophobia, it should be noted that, doubtless because of Mussolini’s claim to be “protector of Islam”, nothing was said against Muslims. On the contrary, an article (in no. 2) argued the latter, though theoretically “anti-racist”, were, because of their attachment to Islam, unlikely to produce inter-racial unions with Italians. There was therefore little apparent danger, it was believed, of Italo-Muslim “half-castes”.
The Declaration of the Fascist Grand Council, of 6 October 1938
The fascist lurch to racism, for which La Difesa della Razza had been established, found expression in a much-publicised meeting, at the beginning of October 1938, of the fascist Grand Council: the Gran Conciglio del Fascismo. Its member, after some deliberation master-minded by Mussolini, issued a virulently racist “declaration”, on 6 October, which was dutifully reproduced on the opening page of the magazine’s issue for 20 October. It stated that:
"Fascism for sixteen years has developed and formulated a positive attitude, directed to the quantitative and qualitative amelioration of the Italian race, an amelioration which could be gravely compromised, with incalculable political consequences, by inter-breeding and mongolism".
The “declaration” further proclaimed:
"The prohibition of the marriage of Italian men and women with "elements" belonging to the Hamitic, Semitic and other non-Aryan races.
"The prohibition of the marriage of State employees and employees of State organisations, civil and military, with foreign women of any race".
The Council also affirmed the need to re-enforce measures against "threats to the prestige of the race in the territories of the Empire".
The Council asserted that World Jewry, especially after the abolition of Freemasonry, was "the animator of anti-fascism in all camps"; and declared that "foreign Hebrewism", and Italian exiles abroad, had in certain periods, notably in the early days of fascism in 1924-5 and during the Ethiopian war, been "unanimously hostile to fascism". Jews, the “declaration” stated, were therefore to be excluded from most fields of State employment, including the army, and the Universities.(10)[x]
The subsequent issue of La Difesa, dated 20 October 1938, attempted to publicise, justify, and popularise the Council's “declaration”.
Its statement that fascism had worked for sixteen years for the Italian race thus evoked sycophantic, and profusely illustrated, articles on the "Fascist guardianship of the race”, as well as, more generally, on the “Purity and unity of blood of the Italian race” and its “Homogeneity".
The Council’s remarks on Jewish antagonism to fascism resulted in polemical articles with such titles as “Hebrewism and fascism”, “The Jews against Italy in the period of Sanctions”, and “Bolshevism of Hebrew type”. The latter was illustrated by a photograph of the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky framed in a Star of David. There was also a map, and statistical tables, showing the diffusion of Jews throughout Italy, and a cartoon of a Jew sitting grotesquely on a building labeled “Parliament”.
The Council’s prohibition on Jews entering military and State service was supported by articles entitled “Hebrew defeatism”, and “How the Jews plundered Germany during the great War”, as well as “The Hebrew does not assimilate”, and “Our art and Hebrew deformation”.
The Council’s ban on inter-racial marriage likewise led to a further spate of racist articles, illustrated with photographs of miserable looking, and in many cases actually deformed, “half-castes”. These articles bore such evocative titles such as “Inter-breeding with Africans is an outrage against European civilisation”, and, on half-castes, “Let us prevent the birth of the unfortunates”.
The Second Year, 1938-1939
La Difesa della Razza’s second year, which witnessed the outbreak of the European war, ran from 5 November 1938 to 20 October 1939. Now expanded to 56 pages, and at times to even to 64, the publication carried many articles with page-size photographs or other illustrations. Articles were not too dissimilar in theme from those of the previous year, but there were many striking, and for the most part virulently racist, new cover illustrations. That for issue number 8, for example depicted a strong-armed Italian crushing in his clenched fist a multi-headed serpent in the shape of a Star of David. Another cover, for issue number 11, showed a semi-naked European woman being accosted by a leering hook-nosed Jew, and an ugly, and supposedly insensitive, African. A third cover, for issue number 12, was illustrated by a tree, one side of which, tended by a hard-working Italian, bore fruit, while the other, beside a skeleton, representing France, or the “democracies” in general, was entirely barren. The picture’s demographic implication was underlined by a quotation from Mussolini, who had declared, “Strong people are fertile people, the weak, vice versa, are sterile”.
With the approach of the European war, the magazine adopted an increasingly militaristic line. This was symbolised by an article entitled “Total war and consciousness of race” (no. 15). Other contributions sought to emphasis the vaunted warlike qualities of the “Italian race”, on the one hand, and the decadence, and “Jewish domination, of fascist Italy’s anticipated enemies: France, Britain, and the “democracies” in general. Increasing attention was also paid to the alleged achievements, and aspirations, of nazi Germany, and to defects, weaknesses, and Jewish influence, of the British and French. Though glorifying fascist colonialism, and racism, the magazine saw no contradiction in painting a highly critical picture of the colonial, and racist, policies of the European “democracies”.
With the outbreak of the European conflagration, La Difesa devoted increasing space to military photographs. Effort was also made to persuade readers, by text and illustration, that fascist Italy’s interests and ideology were identical to those of nazi Germany. The magazine also displayed interest in the Italian occupation of Albania, as well as in the existence of other European fascist regimes, notably in Hungary and Romania.
Immediately before and in the first months of the European war, La Difesa, was mainly preoccupied with the following ten themes:
1) The supposed urgent need to intensify Italian racial consciousness. This was expressed in an article entitled “Cultivating racial pride during infancy” (no. 7). The racial theme was also developed in numerous other pieces, such as “Racism and civilisation” (no. 10), “Blood groups... the need for a census of blood" (no. 5). “Heredity and blood” (no. 8), and “Racial eugenics and mixed marriages” (no. 11). Racism was likewise expounded and prominence given, in the issue of 20 March 1939, to the news that the Italian Council of Ministers had approved draft laws providing penal sanctions for the defence of the Italian race in relation to the natives of Italian Africa (no. 10). The text of this law was subsequently published in the issue for 20 June (no. 16).(11)[xi] Seeking to justify this escalation of racist legislation an article entitled “Half-castism; death of empires” (no. 13), dwelt on the alleged evils of racial miscegenation. This was accompanied by a racist “Bibliography”, with entries from the 19th. century French author Joseph French author to Mussolini and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.
2) The presumed superiority, and martial character, of the “Italian race”. This found expression in chauvinistic articles on the “The military virtue of the Italian race” (no. 1), and “Hierarchy of races and Italian pre-eminence” (no. 10), as well as, on a somewhat different theme, “The beauty of the Italian race" (no. 17). The supposed homogeneous character of that race was also expounded, in pseudo-scientific terms, in “Physical attributes of the Italian race”, which contained data on Italian eyes and hair (no. 11). Such racist theses were also supported by pseudo-historical articles on “The garrison family of Romanity” (no. 4), and “The unity of the [Italian] race from the Etruscans to the Renaissance" (no. 5). An article entitled “Physical type and moral character of true and false Italians” (no. 14) presented photographic caricatures designed to distinguish between “true”, or “Aryan”, Italians, and the false ones - the Jews.
3) The world-wide diffusion of Italians, not a few of them in Italy and its empire, who, it was implied, stood unanimously behind the Duce. Praise was at the same time lavished on Italian empire-building. This theme was expounded in such articles as “Italians came from the mountains and across the seas to conquer a Fatherland, AN EMPIRE" (no. 3), and “The colonial policy of fascist Italy” (no. 13).
4) The alleged inherent cowardice of the “Jewish race”, which, it was suggested, justified its rigid exclusion from the Italian armed forces. This was asserted for example in a series of polemical articles in issue no. 1, in which Jews were described as “A people without heroes", a "Race of defeatists", and “A people without armies". A fourth article was no less emphatically entitled “Jew and soldier; an antithesis”.
5) The supposed crimes of the Jews, whom the magazine attacked on innumerable counts. These went back to rebelling against ancient Rome, as related in “Revolts and seditions of Jews in the Roman Empire” (no. 10);. They were also accused of being interested only to money, in “Ubi aurum ibi patria” (no. 6); being opposed to religion, in “Irreligion of Middle-class Judaism”(no. 22); having a criminal disposition, in “Criminal Hebrew psychology” (no. 18); practicing diabolical rites, including the killing of children, in “Hebrew rites” (no. 22); lusting after Christian women, in "How the Jews consider women non-Hebrew” (no, 14 ); being involved in an international Bolshevik conspiracy, in “The international Jews”, which was copiously illustrated with nazi German cartoons (no. 20); working against Christian values, in “How the Jews try to annex the patrimony of the Church” (no. 5 ) and “The Jews against Rome” (no. 19); betraying Italy at the conclusion of World War, in “The Hebrew peace betrayed the victory” (no. 1); exerting excessive world-wide influence, to the detriment of Italy, in “The Hebrew International and Italy” (no. 2); being anti-social, in “The Jews against social justice”, which listed such allegedly Jewish aspects of life as “Stock-trading [and] usury” and “Oligarchy of money”; and, finally, being a source of corruption, particularly in France, in “Hebrews in Paris” (no. 2).
Though many such articles dwelt on the alleged inferiority of the Jews, others, notably in issue no. 17, complained of the prominent position they had acquired in many fields, including literature, poetry, art, science, journalism, cinema, banking, law and finance. Other articles, notably in issues 19, 20, and 22, included highly critical sketches of the Jewish presence in such countries as Poland, Romania, Spain, North Africa, and, in the case of the Falashas, Ethiopia.
6) The frequently-asserted decadence of the French, which La Difesa attributed to Jewish influence and miscegenation with Africans. Despite the fact that Mussolini had not yet officially entered the European war the magazine actively attacked the French, who were however dismissed as an enemy scarcely worthy of attention. Their supposed failings, and weaknesses, were described in “Greatness and decadence of the French race (no. 6), which contained a lengthy exposition of French Anti-Semitism, as well as in articles entitled “France and the Jewish invasion” (no. 7), “The decadence of the family in France” (no. 4), and “The half-caste and France” (no. 10). Three polemical essays on the Jews in France also appeared in number 9: “Hebrew scandals in Paris”, which was illustrated with German Anti-Semitic cartoons, “How the Jews became the masters of France”, and “The moral disorder of France"”.
Attention was also paid to the low French birth rate, which, readers were assured, compared most unfavourably with that of Italy. Emphasis was thus placed (in no. 8) on the fact that France was a country “where the race declines”, a point reiterated in the “Decline of a race” (no. 16). This thesis, which was then central to Italian fascist propaganda, had, as we have seen, been personally expounded by Mussolini, who was again quoted on this matter in issue in no. 11. His argument was driven home by diagrams purporting to show a numerical decline of the French army, together with photographs of French troops asleep. Yet another article asked, rhetorically, “What military force is the French race capable of?” (no. 11). Much space was likewise allocated, in issue no. 21, to a comparison of demographic trends in Italy and France, and the supposed momentous military implications thereof.
La Difesa also sought to draw attention to the defects, and repressive character, of French colonialism, in both Africa and Indo-China. One of several articles on this subject bore the dramatic title “Agony of the French empire”(no. 13).
7) The alleged Jewish domination of Britain. This was asserted in “How the Jews penetrate British political life” (no. 7), which featured photographs of such prominent Jewish personalities in Britain as Disraeli and Rothschild. Another piece, entitled, “The expansion of Hebrew influence in England” (no. 11) was illustrated with photographs of Anti-Semitic leaflets, bearing such slogans as, “Boycott the Jewish stalls in your markets”, and “Scratch a Bolshevik and find a Jew”.
The magazine, despite its own commitment to racism, drew a highly unsympathetic picture of the racist character of British colonialism. One article complained that “The English hold themselves superior to all the other peoples of Europe” (no. 2), while another was unambiguously entitled: “India oppressed” (no. 13).
8) Unemployment in the “democracies”, and their consequent supposed moral inferiority to fascist Italy and nazi Germany, in both of which countries labour was organised by the State. The first theme was propounded in articles entitled “Workers in the democratic 'paradises'" and “How the democracies exploit the worker”. Both articles (in no. 12) showed unemployment in what the magazine, despite Mussolini’s asserted Pre-Belligerency, openly presented as enemy countries. The second theme was featured in “In work we defend and give power to the race” and “The Empire rendered fertile by Italian labour”. They were illustrated with photographs of happy-looking Italian men and women, busily at work. An article on “The organisation of work in Germany” likewise praised the employment situation in that country.
Emphasis was also placed on alleged racial laxity of the “democracies”. “Contact and Encounters of races" (no. 5) thus reproduced film clips illustrating the “Decadence of the White in far-off countries”, “Whites who do not understand racial differences”, and “A race in decadence”. Racial problems in the United States were highlighted in “North American racism” (no. 1), which contained a photograph of a Klu Klux Klan gathering, and in “The Negro and the crisis of civilisation” (no. 21)
9) Identity between Italian fascist and nazi German racial policies, and the supposed unity of purpose between the regimes in the two countries. These themes were expounded in “The concept of race in Germany and Italy” (no. 9), and “The scientific and philosophical bases of German racism” (no. 5). Such articles were illustrated by neatly juxtaposed, and virtually identical, photographs of German and Italian troops, both in modern-style military helmets, and similar pictures of Italian and German male and female “ethnic types” (no. 14), as well as military personnel, and political symbols: the phases and the swastika (no. 15). The title-page of number 15 quoted Mussolini as declaring, “in the question of race we stand firm”, which paralleled Hitler’s statement that "in a mongolised and 'negroified' world we would for ever lose beautiful and sublime humanity”.
Support for nazi Germany also led the magazine to voice support for nazi colonial aspirations, in “German colonial claims” (no. 13). Photographs of the forcible arrest of Jews in Germany were also published, with evident satisfaction, as well as obvious awareness, that such potentially holocaust action was being taken (no. 18).
10. The alleged greater fertility of the Italian and German peoples, and their consequent need for geographical expansion in Europe, in addition to colonies in Africa. This thesis, which permeated many articles, was expounded, most forcefully, in “Vital space for the fertile races”(no. 14).
The Third Year, 1939-1940
La Difesa’s third year, which ran from 5 November 1939 to 20 October 1940, covered the first phase of the European war, as well as well as fascist Italy’s long-expected entry into it, on 10 June, and the French surrender to the Germans less than a fortnight later, on 22 June. At around this time it was arranged, apparently because of the increasingly critical international situation, that proofs of each issue of the magazine should be shown to the Duce personally prior to publication.(12)[xii]
These developments in the international field were accompanied by a intensification of the publication’s propagandist, and militaristic, stance. This found expression in several strikingly new cover illustrations. That of no. 14, which contained a scarcely veiled allusion to the story of Adam and Eve, depicted a handsome white man being handed an apple by a black damsel, while that of no. 16 was based on a photographic collage of an ancient Roman statue, with massed Italian fascist soldiers behind it. The 5 June issue was delayed to publish on its title page, the triumphant news of Mussolini’s declaration of war, which took place five days later, on 10 June.
The issues that followed continued to publish Anti-Semitic propaganda, and to propound chauvinistic theories of the superiority of the Italian “Aryan race”. Arguments were, however, presented in increasingly militaristic terms. Many articles thus attacked the supposedly Jewish-dominated French and British “democracies”, while others anticipated fascist and nazi victories in the European conflict. Admiration, interestingly enough, was also expressed for Mussolini’s newly found ally, militaristic, but un-Aryan Japan.
The magazine’s propaganda, directly authorised, it will be recalled, by the Duce, now centred on the following seven main themes:
1. Racism, in general, and the supposed need for increased racial consciousness. Some articles on these themes, such as “Heredity and destiny” (no. 13), were general, and could well have been published in earlier issues. Others pieces were however written more specifically in response to the war. “Race and the war” (no. 4) thus featured “Aryan wars” of the past, while “Supreme valour of the Aryan race” (no. 7) and “The 'glory' of the Aryan people” (no. 15) were intended to suggest the invincibility of the Axis powers. An article on “The doctrine of the race, and the centre of the political preparation of youths” (no. 4) discussed the racist education of Italian fascist youth in wartime.
Increased relations with fascists in other parts of increasingly war-torn Europe were reflected in several racist articles by fascist supporters abroad. In one such article, “The politics of the race in Italy and in the world”, Ladislao Tyszkiewicz, of the Polish National Monarchical Party, went so far as to claim that “The Italo-Abyssinian war was the first war in over a hundred years to have been lost by the Hebrews” (no. 1).
The magazine’s long-established support of the official fascist policy against conjugal relations between persons of different races reached a new level of intensity in an article entitled “Crimes against the prestige of the race” (no. 4). It publicised the names, and portraits, of Italians who had produced offspring by men or women of other races. A further critique of “half-castes” appeared in article 10.
2. The racial inferiority of the Jews, and their evils world-wide. Articles on this theme appeared in several issues, including nos. 1 and 5. These featured the supposed Jewish crimes, as supposedly revealed in the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and in the utterances of the British socialist professor Harold Laski. An article on “The Hebrews of the new Europe” (nos. 21-2) bitterly attacked “The Hebrew seducer of Aryan girls”, and the “Hebrew corruption of the theatrical world”.
3. The racial inferiority of Africans. This was suggested in numerous pictures of very black, and to racist eyes, ugly, i.e. un-European, Blacks, in Africa, America (no. 8), France (no. 17), and elsewhere. The inferiority of Africans was explicitly referred to in an article on Ethiopian art, which was entitled “The decadence of races and cultures of the Black Continent” (no. 18).
4. The degeneracy of France, a country which was unambiguously referred to, in the issue of 5 May 1940 - immediately prior to Mussolini's declaration of war - as “Enemy France” (no. 23). Several articles, among them those in issues nos. 9 and 10, challenged the existence of a specifically French race, presented France as Jewish-dominated, and elaborated on French inter-breeding with Blacks. An article on “French racism” (no. 17) claimed that France fell, partly on account of the nefarious activities of Jews and Freemasons, but partly also because of French “racial anarchy which mixes the blood of the entire world of caffelatte [i.e. milk coffee]”.
Mussolini’s political claim to Corsica at the same time received support in an article, “Italian Corsica ” (no. 15), which propounded the island’s supposedly Italian ethic character.
5. The decadence of the British, and their domination by local and world Jewry. This theme was expounded in several pseudo-historical articles, such as “The Jewish-British in Egypt” (no. 19) and “The Hebrews, the English and the opium war” (no. 23), and was illustrated by photographs of various prominent Jewish politicians, from Disraeli to Hoare-Belisha (no. 6). A photograph of the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain bore a somewhat libelous caption stating that he suffered from a “hereditary malady” (no. 10).
6. The racial theories of nazi Germany. These were given sympathetic coverage in several articles, illustrated with propaganda photographs, such as “The study of hereditary pathology in Germany" (no. 16), “German literature on race” (no. 1), and “Racial propaganda in the III Reich” (no. 17). Italo-German solidarity was likewise suggested in a multi-illustrated article entitled “The Italian woman in German art” (no. 21).
7. The qualities of Asia’s own expansionist power, Japan. Its rise to greatness was described in an article on “The Japanese race” (no. 7). It claimed that the country was embued with “unity, not only of blood, but above all with spirit and a high civilisation which leads Japan to a great position in world history and to assume a civilising role in the Far East. Support for Japan was likewise featured in a “Study of Racial Physiology” (no. 24).
Despite its rabid editorial policy, and highly propagandistic character, the magazine received, and published, a supportive letter from the well-known Swiss traveller and ethnographer Georges Montandon (no 4), whose earlier scholarship had by then degenerated into racism.
The Fourth Year, 1940-1941
La Difesa's fourth volume, which ran from 5 November 1940 to 20 October 1941, appeared at a time when the Axis powers had succeeded in controlling the greater part of Europe. Britain remained unconquered, but the German invasion of Russia had begun, on 22 June 1941, and seemed, for the moment at least, irresistible.
This politico-military state of affairs, in 1940-1, was reflected in the increasingly strident pages of the magazine. Its editor, apparently believing an Axis victory inevitable, began to publish articles on the perimeters of a future racist Europe, to be dominated, as he assumed, by fascist Italy and its allies, all of them Aryans, as he claimed. The publication’s venom was now largely directed not only against the Jews, but also at the British, which Interlandi was at pains to depict (unlike the Italians!) as belonging to a non-Aryan race.
La Difesa at this stage of its history couched its propaganda in a European rather than, as in the past, purely Italian terms. An article in issue no 5 thus claimed that the continent was evolving from “nationalism to racism”, and defined the latter, for the first time, as “totalitarian nationalism”. An article on “The politics of race in the new European order” (no. 9) proclaimed that “in the new world the Aryan people will exercise functions of order and predominance”, that “the new world will be dominated by the ideals of the Aryan race", and that "at the centre of the new world organisation will be the great racist Empires, i.e. those of fascist Italy and nazi Germany. The immense area then under Axis control was emphasised in a map, which represented the greater part of the continent as “Europa ethno-racial”. It was dominated by fascist regimes, in Italy, Dalmatia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Germany, Holland, and, more recently, the Ukraine (no. 10). The magazine also claimed to envisage a progression “towards a super-racial nationalism” (no. 18).
La Difesa, as in the past, remained rabidly racist. Its editor, Interlandi himself, in an article bearing Mussolini’s slogan “Standing firm” (no. 1), declared, “We must return to the origins of Italian racism”. Another article, entitled “Racist critique of the democratic equality”(no. 16) was illustrated with a photograph of ordinary Italian workers, contrasted with others of “primitive”, and semi-naked, black men. Beside them was the comment that "uniform physical and mental qualities" did not exist in humanity. Other articles drew attention, by contrast, to the “Disorder and oppression" encountered in the "anti-racist democracies" (no. 16) - a thesis illustrated with photographs featuring British terror in India, and racial and other violence in the US.
Another contributor claimed, in no. 22, that “as the monkey cannot be confused with man" so one race cannot be confused with another". An article entitled “Maternity as a defence of the race" (no. 16) likewise developed the often repeated theme that Italian women must preserve the purity of the Italian race. Articles on that subject were, however, now often presented in more militaristic terms than in the past, with photographs of uniformed Italian soldiers (no. 8), or, as in the case of “Heroes of our race” (no. 24), sculptures of Italian aviators killed in battle. “German racial literature in time of war” (no. 2) was likewise illustrated by shots of the German army in Poland, while an article on “The Hebrews in France after the defeat of 1940” (no. 17) contained a cartoon of an ever-mercenary Jew supposedly still trying to do business in a “campo di concentramento”, or concentration camp - a picture which reveals a clear awareness that such institutions were by then operated by Mussolini's much-admired allies in the nazi fatherland,
Propaganda against racial- mixing was meanwhile intensified, An article on “The problem of half-castes in Europe" (no. 1) declared that “the poison of half-castism must disappear from the blood of Europe”, while another went even further, declaring “half-castism” a “crime against God” (no. 8) .
The magazine continued to condemn the Jews on two main counts: as corrupt merchants, wealthy bankers and ruthless money-lenders, on the one hand; and, as bloody revolutionaries, and followers of Karl Marx, on the other. The first of these images was presented in two articles, on the “Criminality of the Hebrews” (no. 4), and the “Immoral criminality of the Jews” (no. 32). One article denounced the “Hebrew superstition and ritualism” (no. 15), while another quoted a racially-minded ecclesiastic, Cardinal Bernetti. as declaring, “Usury, fraud disorder: all come from the Hebrews” (no. 23). A further piece, entitled ‘‘Judoscope” (no. 6), contained caricatures of hook-nosed Jews, with slogans such as “Need to strike against clandestine Hebrews”, “Jewish merchants”, “Jews on the stock-exchange” and “Corrupters of youths and women”. Another caricature contained a stereotyped diagram (no. 6), on the supposed “characteristics of the Jew”. These were listed as being fat, and having curly hair, e hollowed protruding ears, fleshy lips, arched noses, and curved n curved shoulders.
A second, and very different image of the Jews, found expression in a cartoon of a Jew in the form of a spider in the centre of a web (no. 7). Adjacent articles claimed that “Marxism and Semitism” were identical, and that there was a natural evolution “from the Prophets of Israel to the Prophets of the [Communist] International”. Another cartoon depicted the caricature of a Jew, with the double caption “Jew” and “Bolshevik”, framed in a Star of David (no. 17). The Communist, of April 1919, was quoted as declaring, “One can say without exaggeration that the Russian Revolution was made by the Jews”, and a speaker, at the New York Jewish Institute, as observing, “Marxism is a modern form of Hebrew prophecy”. One article claimed that the Jews were involved in “Hebrew espionage” (no. 11), while another asserted that “The Hebrews have provoked two [world] wars and five revolutions": the latter in Russia, Germany, Hungary, Spain and France (no. 20).
As for the future of the Jews, the magazine bluntly declared that “The armies of the Axis will expel Judaism from Europe” (no. 7). This theme was illustrated with a photograph of two German soldiers forcefully obliging a Jew to move. Hitler was quoted as claiming, “All peoples will recognise the greatness of Aryanism, and will form a united front of Aryan humanity against the international exploitation of Judaism”. The Führer was further cited as declaring that "the evil influence of Judaism will be terminated for ever”. The Jews, according to another article in La Difesa, entitled “The future sysematisation of the Hebrews” (no. 6), where to be forcibly expelled from Europe to Africa, more specifically to what the magazine referred to, with a question mark, as “Madagascar the promised land?” The deportation of the Jews was advocated, the publication explained, by the French writer, Louis Cèline, who had frankly spoken of “the need to chase the Jews from our country ” (no. 14).
La Difesa's attack on Britain, which was then regarded by the publication as fascist Italy’s principal enemy, and against which the magazine now often fulminated, was equal only to that of the Jews. One of the fiercest, and most bizarre, lines of attack, was formulated in an article entitled “The two peoples 'elect'”(no. 7). It asked, “Why did not the walls of Jerusalem collapse when the English occupied it?”, and replied: “Because the English are Hebrews. Israel controls England. Over 100 thousand Hebrews in London alone". Elaborating on this contention this article argued that “the Messianic idea that the domination of the world" was "reserved to the English as a people elect" was due less to its reading of the verses of the Bible than to the "Hebrewisation of the British nation”. Another article asked rhetorically whether the Rothschild family belonged to the “Anglo -Saxon nobility" or to "Anglo-Judaic nobility?”. A further article on this theme, “Degeneration of the Anglo-Saxon race” (no. 6) claimed that the Anglo-Saxons had lost all their vitality, and, because of their degeneration and exhaustion, merely awaited the hammer blows to which they were daily subjected by the Axis armies.
This same theme was expressed in a cartoon of “England in the Looking-glass”(no. 18). It depicted a handsome young Aryan woman with the “TIMES” newspaper on her breast. Looking in the mirror, she appears as a Jeweish hag, and the paper reads, in reverse, “SEMIT”. La Difesa prophesied that “The defeat of England will determine not only the foundation of a [new] political and economic equilibrium in Europe, but also a racial equilibrium based on hierarchy”, dominated, it was understood, by the Axis powers.
Britain was also accused, in the magazine, of being riddled with Freemasons. La Difesa claimed that there were 1,743 Masonic lodges in Europe, of which no less than 1,305 were in England; and that of 788,853 European masons a full 725,000 were English. (no. 16).
Another line of attack, in issue no. 7, was represented in banner leadlines on what the magazine called “English justice on England”. This comprised three charges: “The Scots are all thieves" (David Hume); “At Oxford one learns only to drink and smoke” (Jonathan Swift); and “The English farmers are brigands” (The Times, 1830). An article on “Psychological atavism of the English race” (no. 8) likewise declared that a "good Englishman" had three principles: To make promises and not keeping them; to merchandise or speculate in everything; and to rely on the help of others.
A further article, on the “Physical decadence of England” (no. 16), was illustrated with cartoons of British rule in Ireland, from the British satirical publication Punch. It was also argued so-called “English anti-racism" (no. 2) was accompanied by cruel repression, both in India and Ireland; and that the Anglo-Boer war, in which the British had made use of concentration camps, had been accompanied by “Anglo-Judaic vandalism” (no. 24).
The Difesa's attack on the British extended as far as Australia. Publicity was thus given to what the magazine called "The little-edifying story of the ancestors of the ‘Anzacs’ [i.e. Australian troops]” (no. 13). Referring to the country's early settlement by convicts, the magazine claimed that the Australian was "the only people in the world who could not speak of their forebears without blushing".
La Difesa, not surprisingly on account of its Anglophobia and military chauvinism, gave enthusiastic prominence to the Italian capture of British Somaliland, which it triumphantly referred to in its issue of 20 January 1941 as “Somalia ex-britannica” (no. 6). The subsequent collapse, only a few months later, of the whole Italian army in East Africa was, however, completely ignored by the magazine.
France, having by now fallen, and come under a pro-fascist government, received little further attention from the La Difesa. An article on “The French Revolution” (no. 11) nevertheless argued that this event represented a “principle of regression”. The magazine contended that “The civilisation of Europe was violently struck" by the Revolution, which, it claimed, had been characterised by “terror” and “ferocity”. Publicity was also given to a photograph, in France, of a black boy and a while girl bathing together. This was captioned “scandalous promiscuity of white and black children in a French college”.
Though the United States at this time had not yet entered the war, La Difesa seems to have reckoned that this could not be long deferred, and therefore extended its polemical attacks to that country. It was denounced as both Jewish-dominated, as suggested by an article on “The Hebrews of America” (no. 23) and racially decadent. An article on “Whites and Blacks in America” (no. 2) claimed that the racial situation in the country was symbolised by a photograph of two individuals, in which the Negro stood above the White. An article on "North American perversions” (no. 11) gave prominence to a performance of Shakespeare, which the magazine considered particularly shocking, as it was acted by Negro actors, and was therefore, as the publication saw it, a "counterfeit' production .
Another article, entitled “The racial conflict between Japan and the USA” (no. 10) described the former as a racially homogeneous, and hence a strong country, whereas the latter was depicted by a caricature of Uncle Sam, with photographs of Jewish immigrants pouring into his country. Another cartoon depicted greedy America (no. 22) devouring a cake, while the rest of the world starved, and an ancient warrior with the Star of David and a Jewish minora watched. The magazine’s comment read, “The real ends of the Jewish plutocracy are not those enunciated by Roosevelt and Churchill", but "to enlarge the conflict and condemn the rest of the world to hunger". Support for Japan was also expressed in articles on the “Japanese race” (no. 1), and its, prehistory, by the by now notorious Swiss scholar Georges Montandon (no. 4).
With the opening of German invasion of the Soviet Union, in which fascist Italy participated if only symbolically, La Difesa devoted numerous articles to that country, which, like all other enemies, was presented as racially divided, and a pawn of world Jewry. Attention was thus focused on the minority peoples of the Soviet Union, both in Europe and Asia, and to what the magazine denounced as the country’s “Jewish diplomacy” (no. 19). A series of accompanying articles highlighted what was presented as a Jewish conspiracy: in Russia, as evinced by the existence of prominent Jewish Bolsheviks, from Trotsky to Litvinov, and the names of dozens of prominent Jews in Russian civilian and military service. Attention was likewise given, with indignation, to the fact that the wives of both Stalin and Molotoff were Jewesses.
The Fifth Year, 1941-1942
La Difesa’s fifth year, which ran from 5 November 1941 to 20 October 1942, witnessed fascist Italy’s declaration of war on the United States of America, on 10 December 1941, and the battle of Stalingrad in August 1942 . These military events were accompanied by an acutely deteriorating economic situation in Italy, as a result of which the publication shrunk to only 24 pages.
The magazine’s propaganda at this time continued to be closely influenced by the unfolding military struggle. Articles on the supposedly “scientific” importance of race, and the supposed “inferiority” of Jews, Africans, and “half-castes” still appeared, as a matter of routine. Increased attention was, however, paid to the “decadence”, and other alleged bad qualities, of fascist Italy’s three main enemies: the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and, after the beginning of 1941, the United States, where the "Italo-Jewish", Mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia, was singled out for special vituperation. Praise was at the same time lavished on the regime’s principal ally, nazi Germany, and to some extent also Japan.
La Difesa proclaimed, as in the past, the overwhelming importance of race, and its supposedly “scientific” character. This was reflected in such articles as “The scientific genesis of the concept of race" (no. 15) and “Biology and race” (no. 9). The latter article, which was illustrated with photographs of healthy Italian youngsters, claimed that “race is a biological entity that has its foundation in blood and flesh and muscles and nerves and all the cells of the human organism”. This argument was repeated in many other articles, among them two entitled “The concept of race is purely biological” (no. 12) and “Biological realities of the race” (no. 13). Other articles included “Foundations of racial hygiene” (no. 15), “Racism and imperial expansion” (no. 21), and “Consciousness of blood” (no 20). Another article highlighted the supposed “Superstitions of the African peoples" (no. 10), while another, on “The [Italian] race which builds” (no. 23), proclaimed the “need to conduct an implacable fight against half-castes who seek to disturb the serene work of the real Italian people".
Mussolini, Italy’s self-proclaimed Duce, was seen in a photograph “among the sons of his people” (no. 2), while an article on “the racial Italianity of Nice” (no. 1) supported his claim to that French town. A piece on the “Defence of the race in Germany” likewise carried enthusiastic photos of Hitler Youth at work, and on parade (no. 6).
Other racist articles bore such titles as “The pure Italian race” (no. 13), “Continuity of the Italian race” (no. 17), “The Aryanity of Italy” (no. 12), “Aryan Italy ” (no. 17), and “The Aryan nobility of the Italians” (no. 15). The magazine, reverting to one of its old racist theses, claimed that there “A pure Italian race existed”, but that “the Hebrews did not belong to the Italian race” (no. 17). The supposed paramountcy of the Aryan race was likewise expounded in “Evolution of the concept of Aryanism” (no, 15).
The assumed superiority of the Italian, and Aryan race, was even more explicitly propounded in an article headed “Inferiors” and “Superiors” (no. 1), which contrasted “primitive” African masks with the finest of Roman statues. A similar racist approach was developed in “Gravity of the Hebrew problem in Italy” (no. 13), which was illustrated with a photograph of Polish Jews constructing a wall around their ghetto. The picture's caption bore the significant comment that "material separation does not yet constitute the complete solution of the Hebrew problem; it is however the 'first measure' which must be adopted for the safeguard of the Aryan race". Photographs of Jews, obliged to wear Stars of David stitched on their clothing in German-occupied Europe , were also published, with editorial approval, in nos. 8 and 24.
Interlandi and his associates wrote enthusiastically of the deportation of the Jews. A special issue (no. 16) was devoted to the “work of the Hebrews”, a euphemism for “forced labour". The editorial observed: “The Italian racial laws, and the state of war, have led to this unforeseen result: Jews of all conditions, from the most humble to the most qualified, at last appreciate the joys of manual work". Emphasising that "the Hebrews of Italy" were by then "classified by law as second-class citizens", and "denied the privilege of carrying arms", the article claimed that prior to the war they had forgotten that though Italy was "a land of equality it was also one of severe justice". Though previously living on the work of others they were now for the first time obliged for others; "incredible to say, for the hated Goy [i.e. gentile]" An article in the same issue, entitled “The eternal triumph of Rome over parasitic Judaism" was accompanied by photographs of Jews working in labour camps, which clearly met with the magazine’s approval.
La Difesa’s attack on the United States reached its maximum intensity in the immediate aftermath of Mussolini’s deflation of war on that country. The issue for 5 December 1941, which was evidently prepared with advance knowledge of this event, carried an article (in no. 3) with the heading “American intervention signifies America [is] anti-Aryan”. The following issue declared that “Between the Negro and the Jew” America’s plutocrats were speculating, at the expence of the ordinary people". This theme was illustrated with a photograph of Mayor La Guadia gobbling a Hamburger in public. This was described as a “spectacle of vulgarity", fitting a country tin which "Blacks and Whites fraternally mixed”. Another article, entitled “Civilisation and race” featured a picture of young Blacks dancing, with the comment that they “probably spoke a perfect ‘Yankee’; but were Negroes; and nothing could annul their congenital inferiority".
Another issue on the United States, no. 7, contained a series of articles, with such titles as “How the Jews have dragged the United States into war”, “The laughter of Roosevelt and of the Jew La Guadia threatened to ruin for the American people”. To underline this prophesy the magazine published pictures of massed gravestones.
Other articles sought to discredit the United States on almost every conceivable count, They bore such titles as “United States: The Anglo-Saxon racial myth", “Physio-pscycological characteristics of the Anglo-Saxons in America", “Social disorders", "The unemployed". "The horrors of American prisons", "A million and a half crimes per year", “"Political gangsterism”, “The omnipotence of the gangster is acquiesces in by the policemen”, “Political corruption", and “Jewmocracy: the Hebrews in the U.S.A.”. These articles were illustrated with photographs of unemployed workers, urban wastelands, hunger marches, and groups of strikers being broken up by the police, as well as gangsters and gang violence. One picture showed Blacks, and others, with posters such as “Negro and White Unite and Fight!”; another depicted a group of women with the placard “No More Babies until Better Housing”. Publicity was also given to the American invention of a “kissing machine”, and to a report that “a nine-year-old girl has married a man of twenty-one".
Such subjects, often illustrated pictorially, were expounded ad nauseam in later issues. A cartoon of America and Stalin in bed together, carried the question whether this was a “Marriage of convenience or affinity of blood?” (no. 8). An article on the “The racial history of the United States, slavery and Anglo-Saxon humanity" (no. 9) expounded on the evils of racial promiscuity. Pictures of Blacks and Jews in the United States were accompanied by the question “Are Anglo-Saxons North Americans?”, and the reply that America were charactersised by an “extreme racial diversity ”(no. 10). Photographs of the American First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, in various poses, bore a caption denouncing her as “the incarnation of the most odious perversion of femininity” (no. 22). Another photograph was of an American Black, Olivia Strong, who was alleged to have given birth, as a result of "events on which it was prudent not to investigate", to twins, one entirely white and the other black (no. 24).
The magazine’s attack on the British, which had reached a peak of intensity in the summer of 1940, now also grew even more bitter. King George VI was denounced, in one article (no. 1), as the King of the Jews, and of Semitic origin, while Prime Minister Winston Churchill was indicted as an “Agent of Judaism” (no. 18). The country itself was deprecatingly referred to as “Masonic and anti-Catholic England” (no. 6), and accused of being party to an “Anglo-Judaic Alliance” (no. 21). An article on “Israel in England” (no. 20) was illustrated by a produced by a photograph of Churchill superimposed on that of a Jew.
Criticism was likewise directed against as British “imperialism in India” (no. 10), as well as against “Judaic power in the Union of South Africa” (no. 11) and the “Racial decadence of English South Africa” (no. 19).
The magazine's attack on the Soviet Union coincided with some of the fiercest fighting with that country. Issue no. 14, for 20 May 1940, opened with a drawing of a procession in which a band of Blacks and Asiatics carried a banner with the slogan “Workers of the World Unite!”. Bolshevism was then denounced in a series of articles. One, entitled “The essence of Bolshevism”, proclaimed that it was the "negation of God, the State, morality [and] civilisation ”. Another declared, “The enemy of God and civilisation, Bolshevism protects the Blacks, to whose level it wants to lower the world”. Other articles, including one on “Bolshevism and civilisation”, sought to contrast the Bolshevism of Soviet Russia with the decency of fascist Italy. This was illustrated by photographs of Italian health and wealth juxtaposed with ones of Russian poverty and disease, with contrasting slogans, such as “Italian women, strong and kind” /“Bolshevism lowers the mother, degrades woman”; “The family founded by the fascist State” / “Bolshevism dissolve family ties”; “Workers in Italy and Germany are the true aristocracy of the race” / “Bolshevism preaches confusion to the workers and the degradation of the race”; “The Bolshevik hordes fight for barbarism” / “The armies of the Axis fight for Europe”; “Fascism exalts the individual and tempers collectivity” / “Bolshevism negates the individual and annihilates the mass”.
Other articles continued to feature alleged Jewish predominance in the Soviet Union. A photograph of “the Jew Radek”, and other high level Jewish Bolsheviks at a state banquet bore a caption declaring that “millions of poor Russian peasants are snuffed out by the million, but the big-wigs of Bolshevism never lack anything”. To emphasise this contrast a photograph entitled "The Soviet paradise” featured nine people sharing two beds (no. 23).
France and Japan at this time attracted only limited attention in the magazine. The former, having long since surrendered, was largely ignored. The country was, however, referred to in one issue (no. 18) as “Negretised”, while another highlighted its allegedly excessive Jewish population (no. 19). Occasional favourable articles on “The Japanese race” nevertheless appeared (nos. 22, 23, 24).
The Sixth, and Final, Year, 1942-3
La Difesa’s Sixth (and last) Year, which ran from 5 November 1942 to 20 April 1943, witnessed the battle of El-Alemain in late October-early November 1942 - a decisive British victory, which set the stage, half a year later, for the Allied landing in Sicily, in July 1943, and the ensuing collapse of fascism throughout Italy.
In this military situation the struggle against the British came increasingly to dominate the pages of La Difesa. Though continuing its general racist propaganda, against Jews and “half-castes’, the magazine now devoted the greater part of its polemical writings to attacks on the British.
La Difesa’s continued emphasis on racism was formulated in “Biological and scientific racism” (no. 1). Illustrated by a bizarre photograph of a gorilla having its hair cut, a headline asked, “Can one change one's race?”, to which it replied, “No; the hairdresser's care will leave the monkey as it was before. In the same way a Hebrew can never become an Aryan".
Supposed Aryan superiority was affirmed in numerous articles, among them “The instinct of superiority in Aryan blood ” (no. 11) and “Does there exist a hierarchy in the human race?, to which the periodical answered in the affirmative, with a picture of a handsome young Italian youth in juxtaposition to a naked and moronic-looking African child (no. 12). The claim that Italians belonged to the Aryan race was once more formulated, in an article significantly entitled “Italic ethnicity, Aryan blood,” (no. 6).
An article on the “The Anti-Aryan role of the historic half-caste” (no. 2) claimed that “in half-castism lies the fundamental cause of the decadence and the crises of the great Empires of history,”. From this thesis the magazine concluded: “It is necessary to establish the bases of a decisively Aryan solution for our future existence”. Praise was likewise devoted to the fascist and nazi youth organisations, the Balilla and Hitlerjugend, which were enthusiastically described as “sprouts of two races destined to give a new order to the world” (no. 2).
Another article, entitled “The united front of Italian racism” (no. 8), proclaimed that Italian racists "must believe in the millenary quality of the Italian people", and added, "It is necessary at this time for the racist to convince the Italian people that international Jewry, with all its ramifications, is Italy's number one enemy". A similar theme was taken up in the magazine’s last issue (no. 12), in an article on the “The present and future of Italian racism". It claimed that “Italian racism will continue to be real even after the war. The seat of the Hebrews must be far from our Mediterranean”.
As for fascist Italy’s other wartime enemies, one issue of La Difesa carried an article on “The racial chaos in the United States” (no. 8), while another, on the Slavs, asserted that they consisted of various groups, some of race, others of mixed language and diverse races (no. 3).
The magazine’s main polemical thrust at this time was, however, against the English, and was still largely based on supposed Jewish influence in the country. The publication attempted to document this in an article entitled “Hebrewism in British politics and diplomacy” (no. 1), which listed numerous Jews in British public service.
La Difesa, however, went much further, for it also sought to prove that the British were degenerate, quite independently of the Jews, for they belonged, like the latter, to an inferior race. Considerable publicity was thus given to a article on the “Racial inferiority of the Anglo-Saxons ”, by Aldo Modica, which ran through no less than five issues (nos. 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10). This alleged inferiority, or decadence, was illustrated by photographs of English gentlemen in bowler hats and pin-stripe trousers, and judges wearing old-fashioned wigs. A cartoon depicted an Englishman so dressed, reportedly “dis-educated” at Eton and Oxford, sitting arrogantly on a kneeling Indian. The caption claimed that he had in this manner succeeded in dominating the entire Indian sub-continent (no. 3). An article entitled “The Anglo-Saxon race against Europe” (no. 5) included a photograph of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, with the comment, by way of insult, that he looked like a rabbi.
The magazine sought, at the same time, to portray Britain as a poverty-stricken country, inhabited largely by delinquents. One of several photographs of under-privileged Britons bore the caption, “While the plutocrats fatten themselves the people in London starve (no. 4).
An entire issue (no. 7) was devoted to “The horrors of slave-ridden England". It was illustrated with drawings of the eighteenth century slave boats, used by the British to carry Negro slaves to the New World. One set of banner headlines read, “Fires, massacres, violence... The heritage of English domination in Africa”, while another declared, “How the English punish rebels: amputation of a leg and the stake; or death from famine, in some cases castration”. It was also asserted, in bold letters, that “In the English Empire slavery still exists”.
Another issue (no. 9) was devoted to the “Immorality of the English race”. This was encapsulated in a cartoon depicting a scene of desolation, with a beggar, a wolf and a vulture. One of them declares, “It is useless! Where the English have passed there is no longer anything left”. A further cartoon, entitled, “No remorse for the Transvaal”, depicted Queen Victoria in a bath, exclaiming, “God be praised! I can still give myself a good bath of Christian blood”. The same issue described the British as “delinquents by birth”, and, under the headline “Documents of infamy”, reproduced early nineteenth century statistics of the number of persons arrested by the London police, and cases of drunkenness, in the decade between 1838 and 1848. The British were likewise condemned as constituting “the most hypocritical nation in the world”, and the New York Sun, of 1903, was quoted as declaring, “When England and the English people accuse someone of a crime which they themselves committed, it is necessary to ring the alarm bell. Above all when they speak of morality it means they have some annexation in view". Other articles on Britain bore such self-explicatory titles as “The English described by Dickens”, "English arrogance”, “Scandals and prostitution”, and “The Englishman is the most syphilitic in the world ”.
Yet another issue (no. 11), devoted to the Uncivilised England”, carried articles o “British barbarity and the new European consciousness”, “The ‘slums’ [of England]”, “Tragedies of English infancy: The slaughter of the innocents”; “Pauperism”; “Social Injustice”; “Female degradation", “The country of no education”, “Medieval legislation”, and “One drunkard in every ten Englishmen”.
The following issue of La Difesa, scheduled for 5 May 1943, was advertised as devoted to a subject dear to the editor's heart: the “Judification of England” - but the magazine ceased publication before it could appear.
The story of La Difesa della Razza, a periodical sponsored by the Italian fascist party, and one in which the Duce took a keen personal interest - and in large measure reflected his views, serves to focus attention on the history of fascist Italy's acceptance of racism. This phenomenon was of no small importance in the evolution of both of Italian fascism and Italian colonialism, and hence of the Ethiopian history of the fascist occupation period.
Though the roots of colonial racism date back to the beginnings of the Italian colony of Eritrea, fascism in its initial phase took virtually no interest in race. The subsequent development of a fascist racist ideology was a direct result of Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia. This led on the one hand to a belief that the fascist empire should be based on a hierarchy in which pride of place should go to the conquerors, and on the other hand to a fear that the empire might be subverted by intermarriage and other contacts between Italians and colonial subjects.
Such racist concerns were duly reinforced by Mussolini’s increasingly all-important alliance with nazi Germany, as well as by the Duce’s growing personal admiration for its Führer Adolf Hitler.
Such was the genesis of La Difesa della Razza, which sought to define the theoretical perspectives of Italian racism, and to popularise, and in a sense to legitimise, them among the Italian public, both fascist and non-fascist. These perspectives were of direct relevance to Italian-occupied Ethiopia, in that they insisted on the inferiority of the “native” population, advocated the strictest racial segregation, and sought to denigrate, indeed almost to demonise, the offspring of any form of inter-racial unions. This had far-reaching implications for the fascist empire in that it led to urban segregation, separate transport for the two races, and markedly inferior facilities for “natives” in the fields of education and public health.
The magazine, which gave slavish support to fascist colonial ambitions, however also attempted to serve the fascist regime by attempting to popularise other aspects of Italian foreign policy. An on-going propaganda campaign against Africans and Jews was thus accompanied by polemics against other enemies of the day, most noticeably the French, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Slavs, as well as the democracies, or “plutocracies”, as the periodical chose to regard them, and the Bolsheviks. All were denounced as either dominated and manipulated by the Jews, or corrupted by miscegenation with Africans - or both. La Difesa, though consistent in its racism, which was embodied in its title, thus also reflected changes in fascist thinking - and in fascist Italy’s military situation - which took place during the short, but historically fast-developing half-decade or so of its existence.
Though the magazine was influential in terms of its backing we will probably never be able to establish how far it actually influenced Italian thinking, at the governmental or popular level. Perusal of its pages is nevertheless interesting as a barometer of fascist thinking in the short era of its publication. Born as a direct result of Italy’s Ethiopian war, the La Difesa became increasingly militaristic as a result of Mussolini’s entry in the European war, only to perish, like him, in the course of that historic conflagration.
(1) R. PANKHURST, “Fascist Racial Policies in Ethiopia: 1922-1941”, Ethiopia Observer (1969), XII, 277-9.
(2) M. RASPANTI, “I razzismi del fascismo”, in Centro Furio Jesi, La menzogna della razza. Documenti e immegini del razzismo e dell’intisemitismo fasciste (Bologna, 1944).
(3) G. MUGHINI, A via della Mercede c’era un razziste (Milano, 1991), p. 146.
(4) G. BOTTAI, Diario 1935-1944 (Milano, 1989), pp. 166, 568.
(5) “col proposito di coferire una parvenza di serietà o addirittura una vernice scientifica”. L. PRETI, Impero fascista, africani ed ebrai (Milano, 1968), p. 119.
(6) These figures are thought by Luigi Preti to have been “assai esagerate”. PRETI, op. cit., p. 152.
(7) M. SARFATTI, Mussolini contro gli ebrai. Cronaca dell’elaborazione delle leggi del 1938 (Torino, 1994), pp. 24-5.
(8) G. CIANO, Ciano’s Diary (London, 1952), p. 136; G. CIANO, Diario 1937-1943 (Milano, 1980), p. 158. (9) This article is reproduced as a document in PRETI, op. cit. , pp. 255-6,
(10) On this declaration see also PRETI, op. cit., pp. 135-44.
(11) Excerpts from the law, as published in La Difesa della Razza, are reproduced in PRETI, op. cit, pp. 352-3.
(12) MUGHINI, op. cit., p. 150. .