Italy Diplomatic Reporting from Central and Eastern Europe on Antisemitism and the Persecution of Jews, 1939-1945
From 1938 to 1943, Italian diplomats from all countries in which diplomatic representations existed provided detailed accounts of the persecution of Jews in their reporting area. While the reports contain comparatively few indications of mass murder, they provide ample information on anti-Semitism existing in the respective countries, anti-Jewish legislation, large-scaled confiscations labeled as "aryanizations", ghettoizations and deportations. Special attention was paid to the persecution of potential Italian citizens. Legal restrictions were usually described in more detail than deportations or even mass executions. However, it should be kept in mind that especially in the countries where the mass atrocities would largely take place, like Poland, the Baltic states or the Soviet Union, Italy had no (longer) legations onsite. Therefore, the ambassador in Berlin, former Propaganda Minister Dino Alfieri, relied heavily on secondhanded reports about the ghettoizations in Poland, the construction of the extermination camps, the deportations and the mass shootings.
Reports on the persecution of Jews were handed down in the country files of the "Europe and Mediterranean Area" department of the Directorate General for Political Affairs, which was divided into two sections since 1936. They were mostly sorted under the more general heading of "political conditions" ("Rapporti politici", position 1). In part, files on various countries were also compiled under heading 71 "Zionism" ("Sionismo"). Diplomats at the Armistice and Peace Office (Ufficio Armistizio-Pace, Gabap) in the Cabinet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gabinetto del Ministro degli Esteri, Gabap) also dealt with the issue of the persecution of Jews. The Gabinetto had been established in June 1940 and was transformed at the end of 1941 into the General Directorate for the Affairs of Greece, Montenegro, Dalmatia, Slovenia, Croatia, Armistice, and Borders. In the Gabinetto holdings contain files on the persecution of Jews in Eastern and Central Europe, in particular on Croatia. As in the case of Greece, Italian officials were directly involved in the persecution of the Jews and did not only act as rapporteurs.
In addition, the Affari Generali (General Affairs) Department, Office IV (Affari riservati - Confidential Affairs) under Luigi Vidau dealt extensively with the "Jewish question". Filed under the item "S.E. 27/869/5", the files sorted by country contain reports on the years 1938 to 1943. However, there are also individual files from the time before the anti-Jewish legislation in Italy (1938). Division AG IV forwarded the reports it received to the relevant ministries or interested departments, such as the General Directorate of Public Security, i.e. the Italian State Police, and the General Directorate of Demography and Race, both within the Ministry of the Interior. Both General Directorates were responsible for the development and implementation of anti-Jewish measures.
From September 1943, some of the consulates represented the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI), which had been established by Mussolin in northern and central Italy after the occupation of Italy by German troops. Files regarding the RSI are grouped together in a separate collection. With few exceptions, these reports were no longer concerned with Jews and their persecution.
Due to the extensive, but nevertheless incomplete tradition, it is ultimately impossible to clarify how many reports were actually written by Italian ambassadors, envoys, and consuls general and how high the proportion of these reports was, which found their way into the files of Political Affairs, the Gabap or the Section AG IV, all centrally loced in Rome. A part of the holdings can be suspected to have fallen victim to German troops shortly after the occupation of Rome: In mid-September 1943, Herbert Kappler, chief of the new external command of the Security Police and the SD, had three train wagons with 41 crates full of documents transferred to Berlin, where the files were lost. Among them were also files of the Cabap from the years 1932 to 1943, the Directorate for European and Mediterranean Affairs from the years 1936 to 1943 as well as telegrams from the years 1940 to 1943.
The files of the embassies themselves, like in the case oft the Embassy of Thessaloniki, have rarely survived. Since a large number of Italian Jews had taken residence there, it affected Italian interests and led to detailed reports are from the Consul General Zamboni in Thessaloniki. From the files of the legations of Prague (for the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia), Sofia (Bulgaria), Zagreb (Croatia), Bucharest (Romania), Belgrade (Serbia), Bratislav (Slovakia) and Budapest (Hungary), only fragments were recovered after the war.
Ruth Nattermann aptly summarized the fact that fascist Italy was not only the most important ally of the German Reich, but pursued as a dictatorship its own anti-Semitic policy since 1938: The total exclusion of Jews from society, "aryanizations," internment of foreign and politically suspect Italian Jews from 1940, and forced labor from 1942 on occurred in Italy as well. Reports from other countries about similar persecutions could therefore serve as confirmation of the ‘practicability’ of ones own anti-Semitic policies. However, up until 1943, anti-Semitic policies in Italy were not aimed at the lives of Jews. Notably, Italian diplomats in France, Greece, and Croatia protected Jews from the German grip. However, against the background of their own anti-Jewish laws, it seems that the envoys found it difficult to assess the impact and ruthlessness of "Jewish policies" practiced by other countries. The effects of anti-Semitic legislation and propaganda cannot be overlooked in the reports when they frequently refered to the "Jewish race" ("razza ebraica") and inlcuded anti-Semitic stereotypes. On the other hand, diplomats like Guelfo Zamboni and Giuseppe Castruccio in Greece or Roberto Venturini in Bulgaria, who demonstrably helped the local Jews and also expressed their sympathy for the persecuted in their reports.
The large number of diplomatic reports dealing in detail with the persecution of Jews in Italy makes it clear that Italian diplomacy, but also Mussolini himself, who signed the reading of numerous documents with his "M", the State Police and the Demorazza, were aware of the extent of the National Socialist persecution of Jews. They did not share their knowledge with the persecuted. Therefore, the responsibility for active collaboration in the arrest of the Jews, especially since the end of November 1943, weighs all the more heavily.
The selection of the documents focusses on the persecution of Jews in Southeastern Europe during the war years, the relevant files were systematically evaluated. However, there are no diplomatic reports on the situation in the occupied Soviet Union and the Baltic states since the Moscow embassy had been vacated since in the beginning of the war. On the other hand, numerous reports on anti-Jewish legislation and deportations written in Western and Northern Europe are still available. 
Some of the selected documents on the persecution of Jews have already been transcribed and published in the collection "I documenti diplomatici italiani", but only with a few comments and missing archival signatures.
The reporting situation in the Eastern European countries can be summarised as follows:
The persecution of Jews in Poland, where there was no embassy at that time, was mentioned only sporadically in the files of the responsible ambassador in Berlin and was not evaluated as a crime. This is probably also due to the fact that in the war years Dino Alfieri, previously responsible as Minister of Propaganda for the vehement anti-Semitic propaganda in Italy, was Ambassador in Berlin. In contrast, the persecution of the Catholic Church, the discovery of the corpses in Katyn, took up a much larger space in the reports on "Political Affairs". Reports on the fate of the Jews in Poland can only be found in the description of the general political situation in connection with the increase in gang activity and corruption. The fact that the German Ambassador Dino Alfieri was aware of the situation in Poland is shown by his summary report for the Foreign Minister Ciano on 3 February 1943. In it he drew, even if mostly related to the Jews in the Reich, an overall view of the persecution of the European Jews and their fate. He first discussed the legislation and acts of violence up to 1938, the November pogroms and the subsequent incarceration of Jews in concentration camps, the "Aryanizations," the attempt to persuade Jews to emigrate on a massive scale, and the tightening of anti-Jewish legislation after the beginning of the war. Then he described the first deportations to Nisko, the larger plans for the deportation of Jews from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, from the Ostmark, from the annexed areas of Poznan and East Prussia and from the ‘Altreich’. He mentioned the ghettoization in Poland and the beginning of deportations, the wearing of the "Judensterns" and the resuming of deportations between autumn 1941 and spring 1943 to Theresienstadt and Upper Silesia. He estimated the number of deportees from the Greater German Reich at half a million and declared that he had no doubt about their fate or that of the Polish, Russian, Dutch and French Jews: The ghettos in the East would also be emptied, with only 53,000 Jews left from the Warsaw Ghetto, where 600,000 Jews had been imprisoned. Members of the embassy had also learned details from an SS man who had been involved in executions.
A few months later, on 4 June 1943, Dino Alfieri also gave a report on the situation in the Generalgouvernement in a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The report came from the inspector of the Fasci in Germany and the Protectorate, P. Ruggeri L., who had made a short trip to Warsaw. He, too, was primarily concerned with war damage, the impoverishment of the population, the increase of resistance groups, the black market, corruption, and the establishment of a Polish-Russian army against Bolshevism. He presented the ghetto uprising as a fight against communist gangs, he did not report mass murder.
With regard to the Jews in Romania, individual documents from the legation in Bucharest have been handed down in the general files on "political affairs"; further reports can be found in the holdings of Section AG IV. The letters dealt with legal anti-Jewish measures, the definition of the "Jewish race", "Aryanizations", deportations to forced labour camps, the establishment of a ghetto in Chernivtsi, the pressure of the German ally to intensify anti-Jewish policy. There are also reports about the pogroms of Bucharest and Jassy. On 19 July 1941, for example, the envoy Renato Bova Scoppa referred to the pogrom in Iași (as a "Jewish-Communist revolt") to inform about the draconian anti-Jewish measures of Romanian troops in the reconquered areas of Bukovina and Bessarabia.
On September 23, 1942, Bova Scoppa also named the Romanian government's plans for the deportation of the Jews, which had arisen after German pressure. In fact, a deportation to Belzec was planned, but in the end it did not take place.
The reports also mention the abductions to Transnistria. On 1 June 1943, the Consul General of Odessa, Maurilio Coppini, summarised the situation in Transnistria, occupied by Romanians, in a report for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, referring to the ghettos in Odessa and Balta and to the protests of the Nuncio and the Red Cross.
The files concerning Bulgaria can be found both in the "Political Affairs" holdings and in the files of Division AG IV. Diplomats have reported extensively and frequently about the Jewish population in Bulgaria, the anti-Jewish legislation there, public opinion in the country. The envoy from Sofia, Massimo Magistrati, for example, spoke on 14 July 1941 about anti-Semitic measures in Bulgaria, in particular "Aryanizations", which also affected Italian Jews living on the spot.
On 9 March 1943, the envoy Magistrati reported to the Foreign Ministry in Rome on negotiations between Bulgarian authorities and the German Reich on the deportation of Jews from Thrace and Macedonia to Poland and with Great Britain on the transfer of Jews to Palestine.
The envoy Magistrati analyzed both the anti-Jewish legislation and the deportations to Treblinka as a result of Bulgaria's increased focus on the German Reich, whose pressure to tighten it up he described several times.
On 16 March 1943, the consul in Skopje, Roberto Venturini, told the legation in Sofia of the concentration of Jews from Bulgarian Macedonia in a tobacco factory in Skopje. A few days later the Jews were deported in three trains to Treblinka.
With regard to the persecution of Jews in the smashed Yugoslavia, extensive files on the "Independent State of Croatia" with several hundred sheets of correspondence of the Cabinet Armistice and Occupied Territories (Gabap) with the Italian Embassy in Zagreb as well as the Italian Army have been handed down, including reports by Italian diplomats on the anti-Jewish legislation of the Ustasha regime, the deportation to camps, the beginning of deportations.
The first secretary of the Zagreb legation, Raimondo Giustiniani, for example, in a letter dated 12 May 1942 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome concerning the "Jewish question in Croatia", reported on the anti-Jewish legislation one year earlier, the definition of the "Jewish race" and the anti-Jewish measures that followed the law, which had been carried out on the basis of simple decrees and resulted in the exclusion of Jews from society. He also addressed the public opinion on "Jewish policy" and "Aryanization" and finally stated that of the 40,000 Jews who had lived in Croatia, 6,000 had now been interned in concentration camps or were doing forced labor and the others had partly emigrated, but some should also be regarded as "missing".
On August 6, 1942, a report by Giustiniani on "The Jews in Croatia - new measures against them" followed, in which he referred to the concentration of Jews from some villages in camps - from which they were shortly afterwards deported to Auschwitz.
On 22 August 1942 the envoy Giustiniani from Zagreb reported the deportations from the German zone to Poland to the Cabinet Armistice and Peace in the Italian Foreign Ministry. In fact, in August 1942, the first trains from the Tenje camp to the Auschwitz extermination camp were sent. Giustiniani also responded to German requests for the extradition of Jews from the Italian zone. At the same time, Mussolini agreed to the extradition of the Jews to the Croats at the request of the German envoy in Rome, Otto Fürst von Bismarck, although von Bismarck had expressly indicated that the extradition of several thousand persons would "practically lead to their dispersal and elimination.” Ultimately, this extradition was driven back by an interplay of diplomats and military personnel, and the Jews were interned on the spot instead, which accounts for much of the file material.
In the case of Greece, both the files kept centrally by Division AG IV and the documentation of the Consulate General in Thessaloniki have been handed down. The Italian Consul General Guelfo Zamboni and his successor Giuseppe Castruccio reported in great detail on various aspects of the persecution of Jews, forced labour in 1942, the ghettoisation in Thessaloniki, the stricter legislation, the deportations from Thessaloniki in 1943 and, in particular, the treatment of Italian and Spanish Jews.
On 14 March 1943, for example, the Consul General in Thessaloniki, Guelfo Zamboni, wrote to the Italian representation in Athens and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the "measures against the Jews of Thessaloniki", describing the effects of ghettoisation, the complete exclusion of Jews from the economic and cultural life of the city.
Less than a week later, on 20 March 1943, Zamboni informed the Italian representation in Athens and the Foreign Ministry of the beginning of the deportations from the city. By June 1943, the trains were to travel with more than 40,000 Jews to Auschwitz.
The numerous Italian Jews were transferred to the Italian occupation zone in Athens in July 1943. A month later, on 11 August 1943, the new Consul General Giuseppe Castruccio wrote a report on the end of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, pointing out that the liquidation of the "Israelite colony [...] had taken place amidst atrocities, horrors and crimes", "as I had not heard in the history of all times and of all peoples".
Files concerning Slovakia have been handed down in the documentation of the AG IV office, some of them also in those of "Political Affairs". Since 1939, diplomats in Bratislava have provided detailed information on anti-Jewish legislation, "Aryanization", the flight of Jews to Hungary, the wearing of the "Jewish Star" and deportations.
After the legation in Bratislava had informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 18 March 1942 of the obligation to wear a Jewish Star, the first secretary of the legation, Carlo Alberto de Vera d'Aragona, reported on 27 March 1942 on the beginning of the deportations from Slovakia. These went partly to Auschwitz, partly in ghettos of the Lublin district in the Generalgouvernement, to Majdanek and Sobibor. On the same day, de Vera wrote another report in which he reproduced the speech of the Interior Minister Alexander Mach on the same day. Later, in August 1942, the legation was to put the number of deported Jews at 70,000.
The envoy Paolo Cortese dealt with the public view of the persecution of the Jews and in particular the deportations several times, for example in a report of 9 April, and emphasized opposing positions such as those of politicians and church dignitaries.
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
There are comparatively few reports from the Italian Consulate General in Prague. They can be found in the files of Division AG IV concerning both Slovakia and "Bohemia and Moravia" and concern in particular legal measures in the Protectorate.
On 7 October 1941, the Consul General in Prague, Casto Caruso, for example, informed about new anti-Jewish measures such as the wearing of the "Jewish Star", the closure of the synagogues and the threat of concentration of Jews in labour and concentration camps.
On 23 March 1942, Caruso reported on the concentration of Jews in Theresienstadt.
Reports or documents relating to the Jews of Hungary up to 1943 have been handed down. Since 1938, diplomats have reported extensively and regularly on anti-Jewish legislation, recruitment for forced labor, confiscations, the deportation of thousands of illegally immigrated Jews to Galicia, and the arrest of Jews as (alleged) communists.
On 6 August 1941, the envoy Giuseppe Talamo Atenolfi Brancaccio reported in Budapest on the deportation of 12,000 Jews who had previously immigrated illegally from Poland and Russia to Galicia, in particular to Stanislau and Kolomea, since August part of 30the Galicia district of the Generalgouvernement. There they were used for forced labor. The expulsion of regularly immigrated Jews is also planned. These Jews were murdered shortly afterwards by German units.
On May 8, 1942, the new envoy Filippo Anfuso, who shared anti-Semitic positions and later served as Mussolini's ambassador to Berlin during the RSI, summarized for Foreign Minister Ciano the anti-Semitic measures taken so far and pointed to the integration of Jews with the Hungarian economy and society and the associated difficulties of a complete expulsion of Jews from Hungary.
In their reports, the diplomats repeatedly referred to different positions within Hungarian society and politics on the "Jewish question". At the time of the deportations from Hungary, Italy was already divided into two parts. There were no more envoys from southern liberated Italy. Only one report from this period dealt with the Jews in Hungary, namely a protest letter from Hungarian dissident diplomats addressed to the Italian embassy in Lisbon in July 1944.
 Abb.: AEM: Affari dell’Europa e del Mediterraneo.
 Archivio Storico Diplomatico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri (ASMAE), Inventario affari politici 1931-1945, Città di Castello 1976.
 ASMAE, Indici dell’Archivio storico, volume XI. Le carte del Gabinetto del Ministro e della Segreteria Generale dal 1923 al 1943, a cura di Pietro Pastorelli, Roma 1999, S. 32.
 Some of these reports are therefore also preserved in the Central State Archives. Archivio Centrale dello Stato (ACS), Ministero dell’Interno (MI), Direzione Generale Pubblica Sicurezza (DGPS), Affari generali e riservati (AGR), categoria A16, b. 5. Through these files, it was possible to use the "position" preserved in the documents to find the documents that had not yet been indexed and thus had not yet been accessed by researchers.
 Archivio storico diplomatico, Inventario affari politici 1931-1945, Città di Castello 1976; Ministero degli Affari Esteri, Indici dell’Archivio storico, volume XI. Le carte del Gabinetto del Ministro e della Segreteria Generale dal 1923 al 1943, a cura di Pietro Pastorelli, Roma 1999.
 Ruth Nattermann, Politische Beobachtung im „tono fascista“. Italienische Konsulatsberichte über das „Dritte Reich“, in: Frank Bajohr and Christoph Strupp (eds.) Fremde Blicke auf das „Dritte Reich“. Berichte ausländischer Diplomaten über Herrschaft und Gesellschaft in Deutschland 1933-1945, Strupp, Göttingen 2011, p. 304-348.
 On the rescue activities, see: Daniel Carpi, Between Mussolini and Hitler: The Jews and the Italian Authorities in France and Tunisia, Hanover 1994; Ivo Herzer (ed.), The Italian Refuge. Rescue of Jews During the Holocaust, Washington D.C. 1989; Léon Poliakov & Jacques Sabille (eds.), Jews Under the Italian Occupation, New York 1983; Davide Rodogno, Il nuovo ordine mediterraneo. Le politiche di occupazione dell’Italia fascista in Europa (1940-1943), Turin 2003; Menachem Shelah, Un debito di gratitudine: storia dei rapporti tra l’Esercito italiano e gli ebrei in Dalmazia (1941-1943), Rom 2009; Jonathan Steinberg, Deutsche, Italiener und Juden. Der italienische Widerstand gegen den Holocaust, Göttingen 1994.
 On Italian diplomatic documents in Europe, see the exhibition which, following the discovery of these documents, was shown by the Fondazione Museo della Shoah together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome from January to July 2019 in the Casina dei Vallati: Sara Berger, Marcello Pezzetti (Hrsg), Solo il dovere oltre il dovere. La diplomazia italiana di fronte alla persecuzione degli ebrei 1938-1943, Ausstellungskatalog, Rom 2019.
 On the war years, see: Ministero degli Affari Esteri. Commissione per la pubblicazione dei documenti diplomatici, I documenti diplomatici italiani, nona serie: 1939-1943, vol. I-IX, Rom 1954-1990 sowie decima serie, vol. I-II, 1992. Online accessible via: http://www.farnesina.ipzs.it/series/#lista (last checked 3.09.2019).
 See document VEJ 14/160, Facsimile in Italian language in: Steinberg, Deutsche, Italiener und Juden, p. 17.
 ASMAE, Affari Politici, 1931-1945, Ungheria, busta 37, fasc. Politica interna, 1944. Pos. Ungheria 1-2, s.f.. 2.