This essay examines how the main historical writings in languages other than Italian (mostly English) published in the first forty years after the end of the war addressed the role played in the arrests and the deportations of the Jews in Italy by Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana) between the autumn of 1943 and the spring of 1945. It discusses what reconstruction of this single, salient aspect in the Italian chapter of the Shoah has been advanced or accepted by foreign historians.
To this end, I have selected the (few) existing texts on Italy and the works offering a reconstruction of the Shoah in its entirety, adding the most significant essays published in periodicals or collective volumes and a few of the many books devoted to specific aspects of that event.
As I see it, a complex contagion has taken place between the historical reconstruction of the “final solution,” the ethical judgement on it, the containment policies towards post-war Germany, the quest by the successor states of the non-German collaborationist countries to pursue their own “moral absolution.”
By drawing on the literary and intellectual trajectory of the writer Primo Levi, the essay underlines the most relevant turning points in the shaping of an Italian memory of the Shoah. A contextualization of Levi’s work puts into evidence the intermingling of national and international factors in this process, as well as the role a single individual can play in the shaping of a collective memory.