Patrizia Guarnieri

Intellectuals Displaced from Fascist Italy.

Migrants, Exiles and Refugees Fleeing for Political and Racial Reasons

©2019-Author(s) Published by Firenze University Press
e-ISBN: 978-88-6453-872-3 | DOI: 10.36253/978-88-6453-872-3

Intellectuals Displaced from Fascist Italy

    First names and surnames

    Some were famous, many were not. Far from their own countries, several chose a different first name; others changed their surnames, sometimes beyond recognition. Levi became Stecchini, Schapira became Sorell. They disappear from an Italian viewpoint, but continued their lives elsewhere, and some became well known under a different surname, particularly in Israel and also in America.

    Many of the first names and surnames on the provisional list that appears below have come to light as a result of lengthy and complex searches in Italian and above all foreign archives, most importantly those of the principal organisations established to offer help to displaced scholars fleeing Nazism and Fascism. They have been identified through a systematic examination of the inventories and records of the London-based Society for the Protection of Science and Learning (prior to 1936 under its original name of the Academic Assistance Council) and of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars whose restriction to German scholars was until 1938 reflected in its title. Of the scholars registered with these organisations, some proved to be failed refugees, in that they found themselves unable to leave, or decided not to. They have been included here on the list if they were put forward on account of their curriculum, or if there is evidence of their intention, even if it remained unrealised, to emigrate.

    Clearly not all the intellectuals who fled fascist Italy turned for help to these organisations, or to the Rockefeller Foundation, or indeed to other «refugee scholar programs». The Germans did so with greater frequency than the Italians, political exiles did so much less than Jews, women less than men. In total few men and even fewer women were awarded financial assistance by these organisations (of the 335 «Grantees» of the ECADFS, a dozen or so were Italians), and smaller numbers still obtained a position. Most found their posts in other ways, often with great difficulty and after many years. This is why the valuable archives of the SPSL and the ECADFS are vital sources, but they are not of themselves sufficient for this survey, itself an undertaking which may prove never-ending. The list thus also includes first names and surnames that have been identified through other primary sources, studies and data collections.

    Of enormous importance are the testimonies of relatives and acquaintances whom we have contacted; they have offered not only documents and photographs, but also clues and recollections, which have to be verified. At times however these restarted the research when it reached an impasse. The story of each migrant almost always leads to the discovery of others, through ties of family and friends, as well as scholarly, professional and political networks.

    The decision not to limit the list to full university professors was taken for the reasons already described, within the context of skilled mobility, both outward and inward, and the brain drain. Not only the Italians who left, whether or not they returned, have therefore been included, but also the foreigners who had moved to Italy, irrespective of their forced and sometimes tragic displacement after the racial laws of 1938. They had come to Italy to escape discrimination in their countries of origin, or simply to study at Italian universities, and represented new resources for Italy’s cultural and intellectual life. The racial legislation transformed them from being a brain gain into a brain waste which was usually permanent. In contrast to those who emigrated in search of work elsewhere, those who fled to Switzerland from 1943 sought safety above all else, and almost always returned to Italy as soon as they could. For many their experience of asylum also offered the opportunity to further or refresh their intellectual credentials in the special university camps established in Switzerland. They too come under the scope of this present research.

    Attention is also drawn to gender and generational aspects of intellectual emigration, in so far as the sources, which are not attuned to these issues, permit. As is well known, women remain in the shadows. In the search for work, men were given priority, and thus women academics, even when they were fully qualified, unless they were on their own, unmarried or widows, were and indeed still are today considered as wives following academic and professional men. And yet they played an active role in these experiences of migration, some taking up work for the first time abroad, driven by need and changed circumstances.

    In a family’s decision to leave, and then whether to return or stay, an important element was clearly the presence of children, and a concern about their future. Young adults, adolescents and children, unless they had been entrusted to the care of others until the family could be reunited, left with one or both of their parents, and, as the offspring of educated families, completed their education abroad. Outside Italy, they usually encountered fewer difficulties than the preceding generation, and some of them as adults gained positions of prominence.

    The intention is that they too should feature on the list of Intellectuals displaced from fascist Italy.