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

Piero Treves (1911-1992)

Milan 27 November 1911 - Nice 7 July 1992

Lives on the move

Emigrant family members

  • Claudio Treves (Turin 24 March 1869 – Paris 11 June 1933), father: one of the leaders of the Socialist Party and a personal enemy of Mussolini’s, who he challenged to a duel in 1915. He emigrated to Switzerland and later made his way to Paris. In Paris, he was actively involved in the Italian Anti-Fascist Concentration. He died suddenly and never returned to Italy.
  • Olga Treves Levi (Venice 2 December 1877 - London 20 September 1945), mother: an educated and established woman born to a middle-class Venetian family. She married Claudio Treves in 1907. Widowed in 1933, she left Italy with her children in 1938 and sought refuge in England. During World War II, she joined many anti-fascist organizations active in London. She never returned to Italy permanently.
  • Paolo Treves (Milan 27 July 1908 – Fregene (Rome) 4 August 1958), brother: graduated with a degree in law and political science, he was barred from being hired due to his declaration of antifascism. In 1938 he sought refuge in England with his mother and brother. During the war, he was one of the most diligent collaborators for Radio London. He returned to Italy in 1945 and dedicated his career to politics. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly and was a representative from 1948 to 1958. In 1950 he began teaching the history of political doctrine at the Università di Firenze.
  • Alessandro Levi (Venice 19 November 1881 – Berna 6 September 1953), uncle: philosophy of law professor at various Italian universities. In 1925 he signed Croce’s Manifesto of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals. He lost his tenure due to the racial laws and, in 1943, sought refuge in Switzerland. He returned to Florence after the end of the war and, in 1948, resumed teaching at the university. 
  • Sarina Nathan Levi (Livorno 16 July 1884 – Florence 22 December 1967), aunt: born into a family renowned for their involvement in Italian politics. Her grandmother, who had the same name, was very close to Mazzini. Her uncle was a renowned mayor of Rome from 1907 until 1913. She married Alessandro Levi in 1911 and lived with him until he died in 1953. They went to Switzerland to escape anti-Jewish persecution. She later returned to Italy.
  • Antonello Gerbi (Florence 15 May 1904 – Civenna (Como) 26 July 1976), cousin: from 1932 head of the Ufficio Studi della Banca Commerciale Italiana. In 1938 he lost his job because of the racial laws. After ten years of living in Lima, Peru, with his family, he returned to Italy in 1948 and resumed his former position at Comit until 1970.
  • Claudio Gerbi (Florence 1907- New York 1990), cousin: internal medicine doctor. He moved to the United States in 1938, where he remained for the rest of his life and obtained US citizenship. In 1942 he settled in New York, where he taught internal medicine at Columbia University until 1979. He also had his private practice. He never returned to Italy permanently.
  • Giuliano Gerbi (Florence 26 December 1905 – Genoa 25 January 1976), cousin: after graduating from Bocconi di Milano, he became a sports journalist. He lost his job due to the racial laws. He found refuge in Paris, Colombia, and finally in the United States. He became one of the most prominent voices for the Italian broadcast of the Voice of America in the US. He returned to Milan in the seventies, entering the world of finance while continuing his journalistic endeavours.
  • Uberto Limentani (Milan 15 December 1913 – Siusi 17 August 1989), cousin: he graduated with a degree in law from the Università di Milano. Following the implementation of the racial laws, he emigrated to Great Britain. He survived the shipwreck of the Arandora Star. During the war, he collaborated with Radio London. He taught Italian Literature at the University of Cambridge after the war until his retirement.

Aid organisations

  • The Society for the Protection of Science and Learning


References declared to the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning (December 1937):

  • G. Murray, Oxford University
  • F.E. Adcock, King’s College, Cambridge
  • F.M. Cornford, Trinity College, Cambridge
  • M. Cary, University College, Londra
  • W. Jaeger, The University of Chicago
  • M. Rostovtzeff, Yale University
Actual references received:
  • M. Rostovtzeff, Yale University
  • M. Cary, University College, Londra
  • W. Jaeger, The University of Chicago 

Support network

  • Alessandro Casati (Milan 5 March 1881 – Arcore (Monza) 4 June 1955), in the thirties he hired Treves as a private instructor for his son Alfonso. As such Piero was able to continue his studies; he had been barred from gaining admission to university due to his declaration of antifascism
  • Frank Ezra Adcock (Desford 15 April 1886 – Cambridge 22 February 1968) professor at Cambridge. Along with his colleague Francis Macdonald Cornford, he helped Treves obtain a scholarship that then permitted him to move to Cambridge as a PhD student. 
  • Francis Macdonald Cornford (Eastbourne 27 February 1874 – Cambridge 3 January 1943), professor at Cambridge. In 1939 Cornford successfully recommended Treves to the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning so that he could receive further financing for his collaboration with Corpus Platonicum Medii Aevi. 
  • William Gillies (1885 – 1958), secretary of the British Labour Party’s International Department. He put pressure on the British government to release several anti fascists, including the Treves brothers. They were placed in the prison camps along with other Italian residents of the United Kingdom the day after Fascist Italy entered the war.
  • Decio Pettoello (Turin 24 July 1886 – Cambridge April 1984), exile in England since 1922 and professor at the University of Cambridge. At Pettoello’s house Treves met other prominent exiles that often gathered there. Pettoello was one of several others who revived the Free Italy Movement, which the Treves brothers joined. 
  • Raffaele Mattioli (Vasto (Chieti) 20 March 1895 – Rome 27 July 1973), banker and patron, he supported Treves’ arduous entry into the university environment of World War II. 



Birth and education

  • Liceo Manzoni
  • Student

University student

  • University of Turin, faculty of literature
  • Student

University student

  • La Sapienza University
  • Student

Independent researcher and home tutor

  • Home tutor for Alfonso Casati, son of Count Alessandro
  • Freelance job
  • Teacher


  • University of Strasbourg
  • Fixed-term employment
  • Researcher


  • University College; University of Cambridge
  • Fixed-term employment
  • Researcher

Return to Milan

  • Not employed

Emigration with his family

  • University of Cambridge, PhD student
  • Student
1940Isle of Man



Work with the BBC

  • Editor and speaker, then programme assistant; since 1945 journalist on various Italian newspapers
  • Freelance job,Fixed-term employment,Stable employment
  • Journalist

Return to Italy

  • Fixed-term professor of Greek epigraphy, Università Statale of Milan
  • Fixed-term employment
  • Untenured professor


  • University of Trieste
  • Stable employment
  • Tenured professor


  • University of Florence
  • Stable employment
  • Tenured professor
1968Austin (USA)

Fellowship in the USA

  • Visiting Professor at the University of Texas
  • Stable employment
  • Tenured professor


  • University of Venice; since 1970 head of the faculty of literature and philosophy
  • Stable employment
  • Tenured professor