Repression in Fascist Italy

How were Jews repressed in Fascist Italy?

He implemented laws relating to immigration, employment, personal lives and education. Essentially, he systematically imposed anti-Semitic laws of varying degrees that oppressed the Italian-Jewish population, restricting their rights to employment, property and education.

  • All Jews who had arrived in Italy after 1919 were given six months to leave. This meant that Jews who had fled from the Nazi-German regime had to relocate again.

  • Jewish property was confiscated and Jews were not allowed to be managers of businesses that employed in excess of one hundred workers.

  • Marriages between Jews and Italians were forbidden.

  • State employment was denied to Jews, so many people were dismissed, such as Jewish teachers.

  • A Charter of Race was issued in 1938 to give a scientific explanation of the Fascist racial doctrine.

  • Foreign Jews were banned from Italian schools.

How did Mussolini repress political opposition?

Law for Defense of the State 1926

  • A Special Tribunal for the Defense of the State was set up by military officers. They were in charge of putting Fascist political opponents on trial.

  • Following their trial, those convicted would be imprisoned on remote islands.

  • 31 Death penalties were issued by them, including the leader of the Communist Party, Antonio Gramsci and Liberals Piero Gobetti & Giovanni Amendola.

  • This paved the way for the establishment of OVRA in 1927.

Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism (OVRA) 1927

This organization was a secret police force of the Kingdom of Italy.

  • Their job was to stop any anti-fascist activity and eliminante anti-fascist sentiment

  • They were responsible for investigations and ensuring the safety of the Duce from those who wanted to kill him.

  • They were known to persecute a number of groups, including the Jews, gypsies and homosexuals.

  • With their operations, they arrested around 4,000 people and 10 were executed.

  • They used terror to scare the Italian population into obeying and stopping them from speaking out against the Fascist party

Censorship in Italy

Censorship and propaganda were heavily practised in Fascist Italy.

  • The policies targeted the general public (to ensure full cooperation), journalists & editors (to ensure a good image of Fascist Italy was consistently portrayed) and anti-Fascists & government officials (to ensure there was no opposition to the Fascist Government or Mussolini's leadership).

  • In regards to the media, in July 1925, new laws were introduced controlling the press. Anti-Fascist newspapers were closed down. Legally, now any articles have to be approved by the Government before being published. In December 1925, it was required that all journalists be registered with the Fascist party. With this, hostile journalists and editors were replaced or arrested whilst those approved by the Fascists remained.

→ The ‘Ministry of Popular Culture’ had competence over the contents in newspapers, radio, art, etc. Most foreign papers were banned. State-controlled what the media published and portrayed. With this, the reporting of crime, disasters and disorders were forbidden

  • As a result of censorship, there was also a loss of privacy. Private calls and letters were intercepted and monitored.

  • Censorship was to be carried out by Prefects, but in the case of the media, the editors (which were approved by the Fascists) usually performed this task successfully, without the involvement of Prefects.

Public Security Law 1926

  • The Security Law put in practice strict control over the state, aiming to reduce political opposition.

  • Italian associations, bodies and institutes (and by extension the whole Italian population) were required to provide their details when requested by public security authorities.

  • The public security law allowed investigations into threats to public security. Those found to be "enemies of the State" were to be sentenced to harsh imprisonment and faced the re-introduced death penalty.

  • This law would be supported by Italians, especially those who feared communism.

Pact of the Vidoni Palace 1925

  • The Vidoni Palace Pact was signed in October 1925 between The General Confederation of Italian Industry, called Confindustria, which is the Italian employers' federation and national chamber of commerce and jointly with Rossini’s Fascist trade unions. It limited the organisations representing workers to the official Fascist ones by abolishing the Catholic, Socialist and independent unions.

  • Workers were instructed not to challenge the authority of their employers and managers.

  • This matched with the Fascist ideology of anti-individualism and resulted in a loss of freedom and rights.

Law on Corporations 1926

  • Alfredo Rocco's Law on Corporations came into effect in October 1926. Trade unions were banned and a new law court was set up to deal with political offences. The law also made all strikes illegal.

  • With this, The National Council of Corporations was initially established by royal decree on 2 July 1926.

  • This aligned with the Fascist ideology of anti-individualism and resulted in a loss of freedom and rights.

How effective was Mussolini's repression?

  • Many political opponents fled Italy, including Francesco Nitti who was Prime Minister from 1919 to 1920 and Sturzo, who founded The Italian People's Party.

  • Cases about political opponents reached about an average of 2,000 a year and there were in total 9 execution until 1940.

  • In total, 5,000 out of 28,000 opponents were imprisoned or banished.

  • In 1926, 21,000 people were put on trial. From 1927 to 1937, 3,596 sentences were passed, totalling 15,300 years. Thus, the average sentence was approximately five years.

  • Over the duration of his rule, it is estimated that Mussolini had around 2,000 political opponents killed.

  • There were 7,000 Italian Jews who were murdered.

  • Many opponents fled into exile. Those who did not (and some who tried to) were killed by Fascist agents.

  • An important figure was Carlo Roselli. He was one of the founders of ‘ Justice and Liberty’– a group that aimed to unite all political opponents of the Fascists (excluding communists). The members publicly dropped anti-Fascist pamphlets from aeroplanes, and the leaders were arrested as a result. Roselli was fortunate enough to escape and edited the anti-fascist journal from Paris. However, he was eventually assassinated by Mussolini’s agents.

All in all, Mussolini’s actions resulted in huge success. He was able to intimidate the population in order to gain their support. Around 2,000 people were killed by the state for political reasons. Although this is a small number in comparison to the Italian population and those killed by Hitler’s Gestapo, this shows that Mussolini was effective in establishing control. There were no mass killings and the number of people killed was relatively low. This demonstrates that he had control over the country, and therefore, he had no need to kill large numbers of people.