SCIENCE, PSEUDOSCIENCE AND
Foà*, M.D., Sc.D., Emeritus Professor of Physiology
PUBLIC POLICY IN FASCIST ITALY
Physical Anthropology, Phrenology,
Constitutional Medicine and Eugenics: The
Slippery Slope to Racism
Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan
[Footnotes ][Figure legends
The history of Fascism, its rise and fall, and the consequent fate of
the Italian Jews have been told in films and lecture halls and analyzed
by historians, political scientists and journalists, including Benito
Mussolini and two of his mistresses, Angelica Balabanoff and Margherita
App.1.). Much has been written also about the origins
and development of Physical Anthropology, Phrenology, Constitutional
Medicine, Positive and Negative Eugenics and their exploitation for
political purposes (see below). In this article, I will review the
participation of three generations of Foàs in this period of
history, both as protagonists and victims. It is a story based on a
collection of mementos, letters and photographs preserved in the family
archives (some of them attached to this article) and enriched by bits
of oral history heard from my grandfather Pio and my father Carlo. A
story which describes the end of what, in retrospect, might have been
considered a fool’s paradise: the total social, economic and cultural
integration of the Italian Jews in the life of the Nation. It contains
some heretofore unpublished material reproduced in the original Italian
and followed by my translation into English, illustrating the effort by
Mussolini and his henchmen to create a “scientific” basis for their
The idea that
a person’s physical, mental and emotional characteristics are
controlled by discreet and specific areas of the brain is very old.
Traces of it are found in the Indian and Balinese concepts of Aryuveda
2). Pythagoras, Plato, Socrates and, later, Galen (11,12) taught
that the brain is the seat of the mind, while Albertus Magnus (13)
believed that the anterior region of the brain is the seat of judgment,
the posterior the seat of memory. These concepts of functional
localization were extended in more recent times by the observations of
J.K.S. Spurtzheim and K. Brodmann (14) and eventually by the analysis
of the responses which Harvey Cushing and Wilder Penfield (15,16)
obtained upon cortical stimulation in conscious patients during brain
3). Some of this work, which resurfaced
educational, psychologic and psychiatric literature (17, Fig.
upon the morphologic foundation laid by Camillo Golgi (18, App. 2, 3)
and coincides with the birth of Criminal Anthropology, a science based
on the belief that criminals are themselves victims of inherited or
“atavistic” abnormalities(stigmata) reminiscent of more primitive
stages of human evolution. While this school of thought led to
fundamental reforms of the penal codes in many Western Countries, with
emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment, it also gave rise to
Phrenology, a pseudoscience also know as Cranioscopy, Craniology or
Physiognomy, based on the proposition that the degree of development of
cortical functions are proportional to the size and development of the
corresponding cortical areas and that, in humans, the size and contour
of the cortical areas are sufficiently close to those of the outer
surface of the skull to allow an evaluation of a person’s mental and
emotional faculties from an examination of the size and shape of the
head. It was also a time when the medical world was turning its
attention to the “social diseases” (tuberculosis, alcoholism, malaria,
venereal diseases) and to the need for public health remedies. My
grandfather Pio, a colleague of Lombroso at the University of Turin
where he chaired the Department of Pathologic Anatomy, joined the
battle sponsoring legislation in the Senate, writing for the medical
and the lay press, ignoring social taboos with lectures on sex
education to old and young alike (19,20), and earning his badge as a
pioneer in what was going to become a dispute between those who
believed that the health of the Nation depended upon public health
measures and education, that is upon “negative eugenics”, and those who
believed in “positive eugenics” and preached birth control, compulsory
sterilization and premarital certification as means to eliminate the
unfit and to save the Caucasian people from contamination by the
Negroid races, then considered culturally and physically inferior (see
to A. Macalister, writing in the Encyclopedia Britannica (21), germs of
phrenology can be found in the work of F.J. Galls, J.K. Spurzheim, of
the French anthropologist A. Bertillion and others. Indeed, in the
middle of the 19th Century, Bertillion developed a system of
identification based on measurements of the skull and other body parts
widely used in criminal cases. While supplanted by finger-printing in
the courts of law, Anthropometry remained a basic canon for the
believers in Phrenology, among them the Italian Cesare Lombroso
5), a Professor of Physical Anthropology, Psychology
and Forensic Medicine at the University of Turin. Lombroso believed
that some individuals were “born criminal” and were physically,
emotionally and behaviorally a throwback to past races of mankind,
easily identifiable on the basis of cranial, facial and other bodily
features normally found in “inferior” populations such as the
Hottentots, the Bushmen, the American Blacks and the Mongolians.
According to Lombroso, the list of these features included a sloping
forehead, large jaws, prominent cheek bones, orbital arches and lips,
large ears, large and crooked nose, thick hair, asymmetry of the face
and cranium, long arms, exaggerated tendon reflexes, abnormal sexual
behavior, emotional instability, lack of moral sense, vindictiveness,
cruelty to humans and fondness for animals and for violent and
pornographic tattoos prevalence of epilepsy, somnambulism, left
handedness other “atavistic” features(22-25). The Fo`a and the Lombroso
families were close friends and Lombroso wrote a warm letter of
introduction to Charles Richet when my father Carlo went to Paris to
work in his lab at the Sorbonne (Fig.
6, App. 4). Lombroso’s daughters
Paola and Gina and my mother Isa were also good friends and worked
together as volunteers at the Casa del Sole, an institution for the
care of sickly children who were taught to make made trinkets and sold
them for the benefit of the Home (26, Fig.
7). Nevertheless, no
publication or document suggest that Pio had an interest in Phrenology,
although he honored Lombroso’s request to provide some skull and other
measurements of six inmates of Turin’s insane asylum (27). Pio’s only
other brush with Phrenology was related to me by my father Carlo.
According to this story, while doing the autopsy on one of Lombroso’s
students, Pio found an anomaly of the brain cortex, which the deceased
had described as one of the “atavistic” traits of the “criminal man”.
My father, then a medical student, remembered also that Lombroso’s
lectures were always attended by overflow crowds of students and
admirers and were often accompanied by the presentation of clinical
cases. Usually these were derelicts recruited by Mr. Cabria, the savvy
errand man of the Department and were selected because they had at
least some of the required physical and psycho logic features (not a
difficult task given the abundance of choices) and who, for a few lire,
would manufacture a suitable criminal record and answer question about
personal and family life with a stream of colorful profanities.
Lombroso’s propensity for stretching the evidence to support his
hypotheses should be interpreted in the light of some medical concepts
of the time when many considered pellagra a contagious disease and
believed that the children of cretins would be cretins, and that the
progeny of alcoholics was prone to strokes, microcephaly, epilepsy and
personality disorders for generations(28). Lombroso also showed
ambiguity towards medianic phenomena. Having attended a session held by
the popular medium Eusapia Paladino and apparently influenced by the
favorable position held by celebrities such as Madame Curie, Filippo
Bottazzi, Professor of Physiology at the University of Naples and other
prominent scientists and intellectuals, he chose to overlook the
evidence of fraud and illusion and took the position that the phenomena
were real manifestations of the power of thought, writing: “I am
ashamed and grieved at having opposed with so much tenacity the
possibility of so-called spiritistic facts; I say facts because I am
still opposed to the theory ... but facts exist and I boast of being a
slave to facts”(29-40). Paladino’s sessions were attended also by my
father who, in spite of repeated attempts, was unable to obtain
convincing photographic evidence of the flashes of light around
Paladino’s head seen by others, to record on a smoked drum the
movements said to have occurred in a separate room (Fig.
8) or to
account for notes written in Italian and in French and attributed to
the presumably illiterate person (1,Fig.
9). Lombroso received many
honors and upon his death, Leonardo Bistolfi made a bronze plaque in
his memory (Fig.
Lombroso’s teachings, carried on, among others, by
Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Pavia (42-44), was
one of the bases of “Constitutional Medicine”, whose proponents,
believing in the clinical application of anthropometric measurements,
described 3 major types of human beings: asthenic, muscular and picnic
(later reduced to microsplanchnic and megalosplanchnic), each having a
propensity toward different sets of diseases. The most prominent
Italian believers in Constitutional Medicine were Achille De
Giovanni(45), one of the “four great men of Sabbioneta” (Fig.
his disciple Nicola Pende (46-50). Indeed, Pende argued that crime must
be considered a manifestation of human biology and that a
medico-bio-typologic-psychiatric examination of the criminal must
precede judgment and sentencing. Pende further argued that given the
close relationship between physical and “humoral” makeup, intelligence
and predisposition to disease, the characteristics of each person
should be used to create an individual’s “biotypological” chart, which
would serve as a guide to the indivual’s education, employment and
preparation for parenthood and should be periodically updated. One of
the goals of this policy was to improve the quality of the Italian
people and to reverse the decline in birth rate, then considered a
great social ill. It amounted to a form of “negative eugenics”, in
sharp contrast with the teachings of Thomas Malthus which had made the
headlines with publication of a pamphlet entitled: “L’Arte di non Far
Figli” (The Art of not Having Children, 51). The author, Secondo
Giorni, had been prosecuted for lese modesty, but had won acquittal
after my grandfather Pio, a witness for the defense, argued that
contraception was acceptable when dictated by overriding social,
economic, medical or family circumstances.
Negative eugenics was also in sharp contrast with
the German policy of “positive eugenics”, which advocated the
elimination of the “undesirable” lest they contaminate the purity of
the nation’s blood. Ironically, this policy conveniently ignored the
similarities between the many tall blue-eyed, blond, dolicocphalic Jews
and the idealized nordic type and between the short, dark and
brachycephalic Jews and the Germans of alpine descent. Positive
eugenics was supported by other political, social and intellectual
leaders, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Justice of the Supreme Court
of the United States.
The battle for negative eugenics was joined by my
father Carlo who, in
a series of five lectures delivered at the University of Milan argued
(55-59), argued that positive eugenics was based on poor science and
very limited knowledge of the laws of human heredity, noting that the
elimination of many undesirable traits would have required the
sterilization of all healthy carriers of heterozygotic genes, a morally
unacceptable and clearly impossible task and, incidentally, one which
would have deprived society of great men like Napoleon, Giacomo
Leopardi and Ugo Foscolo. My father underlined further the importance
of negative eugenics for a Country like Italy, whose major wealth was
its human capital, and praised the government efforts to improve the
quality of the “race” through prenatal and neonatal care, assistance to
unwed mothers and illegitimate children, through sports and cultural
events, while imposing a “bachelor tax” on unmarried men and provided
tax and other benefits for large families (60-62).
Mussolini himself dramatically expressed his
opposition to the positive eugenics advocated by Nazi Germany when, in
a 1929 speech before the Italian Parliament, stated that: “Thirty
centuries of history allow us to look with disdain upon certain
transalpine doctrines held by the progeny of people who, having not yet
learned to write, could not pass on to their descendents the documents
of their life, at a time when Rome had a Caesar, a Virgil and an
Augustus” and continued: “It is ridiculous to think that synagogues may
be closed. The Jews were in Rome at the time of the Kings...they
numbered fifty thousand at the time of Augustus and they asked to weep
at the bier of Julius Caesar. They will not be disturbed”.
Did this rhetoric represent Mussolini’s true beliefs
or was it an expression of cynical political expediency” It is hard to
say, especially in the light of a letter entitled “Parole di Grave
Allarme (Words of Grave Alarm, App. 5-7) written in 1927 by Margherita
Sarfatti and published with Mussolini’s approval in the daily press.
The letter was a response to an article published in the pro-zionist
magazine Israel and invited all Jews “whose loyalty was to Jerusalem”
to move to the Holy Land, lest they contaminate the patriotism of those
whose loyalty was to Rome. No matter, the Italian Jews continued to
enjoy the equality before the law which they had enjoyed under the
House of Savoy, even before the unification of Italy and which had
allowed them to reach the highest levels in the academic, political and
social life of the Nation and who had fought and died as other Italians
in the Italian wars. In other words who considered themselves and were
considered Jewish Italians, rather than Italian Jews. Their religious
affiliation was a private matter not relevant to their place in
society. This view was eloquently expressed also in a regular column
written by my father for Mussolini’s political magazine Gerarchia and
entitled “Cronaca Scientifica” (Scientific Reports). The content of
that particular column had been discussed with Amedeo and Fiammetta
Sarfatti, Margherita’s children, who arranged an audience for my father
with the Duce to discuss the problem (App. 8-10). After learning the
details of the Zionist point of view from one of its most eloquent
proponents, Prof. Sabatino Lopez, my father went to Rome prepared to
discuss both sides of the issue and was received by Mussolini who, with
typical flair, repeated that any government guilty of closing a church,
a synagogue or any house of worship did not deserve the respect of the
community of nations adding that all he wanted was a clarification. The
audience lasted more than two hours and my father came away convinced
that Mussolini had no anti-semitic programs and that the Italian Jews
had nothing to fear. The two men remained in friendly contact. My
father kept his government-approved position as Dean of the Medical
School and exchanged cultural pleasantries with Mussolini (App. 11).
Most importantly, the official anti-semitic rhetoric
was laid to rest, although occasional anti-Judaic or downright
anti-semitic writings continued to be printed by a press which could
not have been done it without tacit government approval. One of the the
most venomous columnists was P. Orano (63,64) who, after asking if it
is possible to a be a good fascist and keep one’s Jewish identify,
declared that the Jews were a threat to the integrity of the State,
adding that “Fascist Italy does not want them. To say more would be
superfluous”. Another was G.Papini (65,66) who equated Judaism with
gold and Satan declaring that Jewish culture derived from the priestly
science of the Assyrians and undermined Christian culture through the
Cabala and Spinoza, and that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity
would lead to anarchy and chaos. Perhaps paradoxically, Papini also
condemned the positive eugenics of the Nazis as a product of the
eternal conceit of the German people, based on bad science and
falsified history. Another columnist, J. Evola (67-69), contrasted the
“Aryan Ethos” based on freedom, individuality, faithfulness and honor
with the virulent “Jewish Pathos” of materialism, sensuality, guilt and
abstract contemplation. L. Livi (70,71), a Professor of Demography at
the University of Rome, as early as 1918, declared that contemporary
Jews, like their biblical ancestors, belonged to a unique nation, just
like the Latins, the Germans and the Slavs, and that, while they may
not be distinguishable from Italians on the basis of anthropometric
measurements, they could easily be recognized by observing their
general appearance, their behavior and their way of thinking and
operating, concluding that, through historic circumstances, they had
achieved a political, economic and cultural influence out of proportion
to their number. This point of view was shared by A.Fioretti (72) who
wrote that the Jews “are a distinct ethnic group who live among many
nations, but do not assimilate”, adding that “to think that 50 thousand
Jews in a Country of 50 million people constitute a threat is nonsense.
The danger lies in their disproportionate representation in the ruling
class and in the Jewish International”, adding that “The Italians must
regain control of their civilization”.
In 1921, such rhetoric was used by people like G.
Preziosi as an excuse for the distribution of old anti-semitic
13, App. 2), including the infamous Protocols of the
Elders of Zion, providing fodder for the theologic antijudaism of the
editors of “Civilt`a Cattolica” and other preachers. Among these was
Father Agostino Gemelli, Professor of Experimental Psychology and
Rector of the Catholic University of Milan, President of the Pontifical
Academy of Sciences and a professed close friend of my father. Indeed,
the anti-semitic rhetoric reached a peak of animosity and vulgarity
when Roberto Farinacci, Secretary General of the Fascist Party, accused
the Jews of being sowers of hate and mayhem, guilty of the murder of
Christians and of the destruction of churches and when the same
Farinacci commented upon the suicide of the publisher Angelo Formiggini
by saying that by jumping to his death from one of Bologna’s towers, in
a typical fashion, he had saved the cost of a bullet. Or when Father
Gemelli, commenting on the suicide of the writer Felice Momigliano,
wrote that “if together with positivism, free thinking and Momigliano
would die all the Jews who continue the work of those who crucified our
Lord, the World would be better off; it would be a liberation”, yet
lamenting the tragic and painful situation of those who, because of
their blood and their religion cannot be a part of this great
fatherland; a tragic situation once more reflecting the terrible
sentence that the deicidal people called upon itself: to wander without
peace for their horrible crime”(73).
Among the first signs that these heretofore isolated
voices were heard
at the higher levels of government was the publication of an unsigned
article entitled “Religion or Nation” in a November 1828 issue of the
Popolo di Roma. The article, ghost-written by Margherita Sarfatti at
the request of Mussolini and slightly edited by my father (App. ) was a
warning of the “irreparable consequences” of pro-zionist activities. A
letter by Margherita Sarfatti to my father suggested that the article
be brought to the attention of all prominent Jews “without mentioning
my name”, as a warning to all ill advised persons who interpret Judaism
not as a religion, but as a sometime insidious, sometime openly
aggressive, destructive, sectarian anti-Italian movement in the service
of foreign propaganda and expressing the indignation of all “Italians
of the Jewish faith” against those “traitors of the Fatherland”.
Apparently, according to Fiammetta Sarfatti (App. ), the letter was
nixed by Mussolini who considered it too strong and apt to prolong the
Unwilling or unprepared to face reality, many Jews,
clinging to the belief that the advent of Fascism had marked the
beginning of a moral, political, social and economic reawakening of the
Country, chose to ignore these red flags. They also ignored the
implications of the Lateran Treaty which, although it had settled old
temporal disputes, had made Catholicism the state religion, declared
other religions “tolerated and protected” and mandated the
establishment of Jewish Communities and the registration of all Jews
who did not make an open declaration of apostasy. Again, the
Foàs had a
ring-side seat in these momentous events, for an ebullient Mussolini
wanted his mistress Margherita Sarfatti to be the first to know about
the treaty and, on the eve of the official announcement, called her
while she was visiting the Foàs in Milan. When the telephone
sister Ornella picked up the receiver and a male voice asked to speak
to Mrs. Sarfatti, adding “if you want to know who is calling, ask her”.
Many Jews chose also to ignore the consequences of
the Italian conquest of Ethiopia and of the Italian participation in
the Spanish CivilWar, events which led inevitably to a rapprochement
with Nazi Germany and, in the Summer of 1938, to a rapid succession of
On May 31, 1938 Mussolini who, according to a letter
written to my father by Margherita Sarfatti’s son Amedeo,
had personally directed the “noted campaign”, received Hitler in Rome.
On June 5, on orders from Mussolini, the newspaper
La Informazione Diplomatica fired a broadside reminding the Jews prone
to “wail useless lamentations” and to change from a mood of arrogance
to one of despondence” that “to discriminate is not to persecute” and
declaring that, henceforth their participation in the life of the
Nation was going to be proportionate to their number.
On July 26, the Ministry of Popular Culture
published a “Manifesto della Razza” designed to establish the
scientific bases for declaring that Italians were pure Aryans, defined
the Jews, established guidelines for the defense of the Italian race
and recommended the establishment of Chairs of Racism in all major
Universities. The Manifesto further declared that marriage between
Italians and colonial subjects must be prohibited (although an
occasional sexual encounter for the convenience of the troops was
deemed acceptable) and mandated a jail sentence of one to five years
for any Italian found guilty of engaging in a “conjugal relationship”
with a colonial subject even if catholic, although this was a violation
of the Lateran Treaty.
On September 5, 1938, by executive order, Mussolini
who, only two short years before had sent the Italian army to the
Brenner Pass to stop Hitler’s attempt to annex Austria to the Third
Reich, signed a military alliance with Germany, became a de facto
junior partner (Fig.
16) and began to follow orders from “oltr’alpe”, among others the
adoption of the eugenic views which he had previously ridiculed.
A “Consiglio Superiore per la Demografia e la Razza”
was created. On October 6, after Victor Emanuel III had assumed the
title of “King of Italy and Emperor of Ethiopia” and considering the
urgent need to protect the Italian people from “bastardization” and the
Italian “blood” from contamination and mindful of the fact that the
World Jewry had been solidly hostile to Fascism, the Gran Consiglio del
Fascismo, Mussolini’s rubber stamp Supreme Council, approved the draft
of a “Legislation for the Defense of the Race” which, after a series of
Royal Decrees, Executive Orders and amendments, became the law of the
land (App. 13). It was a complex 135-page document which reaffirmed the
prohibition of intermarriage between Italians and individuals of the
Hamitic, Semitic and other non Aryan races, barred the Jews from
attending public schools or holding teaching positions at any level
(except in private Jewish schools), decreed that any property worth
more than the equivalent of $1000 had to be exchanged for 30-year
treasury bonds (Fig.
12), prohibited the listing of Jews in the telephone directory, the
publication of Jewish obituaries and the participation of Jews in all
sorts of gainful activities, except the sale of used clothing. These
and other provisions effectively created a social, economic and
cultural ghetto and excluded the Jews from the life of the Nation. To
be sure the document provided some exceptions for meritorious service
to the Nation, for war veterans and for Jews who had joined the Fascist
Party before the “March on Rome” who could be declared “discriminated”.
The rush to obtain a certificate of discrimination from a sympathetic
official or to buy it from a corrupt one soon became a humiliating and,
eventually, a futile farce which in any case did not apply to teachers.
It was a form of 20th Century simony, but there were no Dante’s or
Machiavelli’s to fulminate against it.
The statement that there were no Italian, Jewish and
Arian races, but only Italian, Jewish and Arian populations and
cultures was expurgated from the 1940 edition of the Italian
All this was accompanied by a barrage of propaganda
and servile praise. Telesio Interlandi founded “La Difesa della Razza” (Fig.
13), a magazine dedicated to “science, documentation and polemics”
in matters of race. Photographs, distorted notions of history,
genetics, or anthropology invariably led to rabid attacks against the
Jews and condescending statements about the blacks. “God created the
white man, Satan the Mulatto. Caracalla’s “Constitutio” granting
equality to all citizens marked the beginning of the fall of the Roman
Empire. A pretense of respectability was provided by pseudoscientific
articles contributed mostly by the signers of the “Manifesto” who, by
doing so, gave the lie to their post-war declaration that their names
had been used without their knowledge. Other examples of obsequiousness
were common, even among the intelligentsia.
Thus, Giovanni Razzaboni, a Professor of Surgery and
Rector of the University of Parma, in his 1938 inaugural address, spoke
of the University’s absolute and total devotion to the directives of
the National Government, guided by the genius of “Il Duce”, declaring
that his timely and decisive intervention averted the biggest
catastrophe...the triumph of the international conspiracy of the anti
fascist movement led by Jews, Masons and Bolshevics (74). While satraps
of Razzaboni’s ilk were few, most members of Academia, grateful for the
opportunity to fill vacancies created by the removal of the Jews and to
advance their career and that of their students, remained silent. Some
newly appointed department chairmen denied access to offices,
laboratories and libraries to their predecessors and former teachers,
others, while doing nothing to harm, affirmed their unconditional
admiration for the racial policies of the Regime. The behavior was
similar in the large insurance companies, such as the Assicurazioni
Generali, whose newly appointed directors denied help to their Jewish
predecessors (Marco Ara, Mario Padoa, Benedetto Morpurgo, Adolfo
Errera) to whom they owed their careers. Some took advantage of a their
newly acquired position to deny even the smallest of favors to their
former bosses with an ostentatious display of petty power. The
responses of public servants and bureaucrats varied. Some obeyed the
letter of the law. Many chose to follow the dictates of their
conscience and used the time honored system of delay, inefficiency and
the misfiling of documents. An unknown bank teller, when informed about
the reasons for my emigration to the United States, sold me twice the
amount of dollars allowed for non-business purposes, underlining his
feelings with loud profanities. The conductor of streetcar No. 33,
which for many years had taken me to the medical school every morning
at 6:30, responded to my goodbyes by a sudden application of the
brakes, all the while cursing the government. A police inspector gave
advance notice of his visit so that my mother could be found “ill in
bed” and thus entitled to keep the gentile maid of many years. A large
number of students assembled under my father’s office windows in a
vociferous demonstration of support, undisturbed by the police.
The reaction of the man in the street was not
different from that of the bureaucrats. Many, while deeply disturbed by
the constant bombardment of propaganda, could not make the connection
between their very real friends and neighbors and the seemingly
threatening, but very distant “Jewish International”. Having no
opportunity to help, some shook their heads in disbelief and followed
the events passively. Others sought opportunities to help.
Acquaintances became friends at the risk of being prosecuted for the
newly created crime of “Pietismo” (showing sympathy for the Jews),
colleagues offered to cover up for the professional activities of
physicians, lawyers, accountants or engineers. Others became front
owners of business establishments or offered their bank accounts,
vaults and homes as hiding places for money, valuables and family
possessions. Still others risked and a few lost their lives helping
Jews hide or escape. My father’s first cousin Ugo Fano, a successful
attorney, was shot by border guards while helping other Jews escape
into Switzerland. Paolo Scotti, a friend of a friend, stored out large
library in his villa in the country; Piero Chiesa took charge of our
art collection and, later, managed to ship it to Brazil; our silver was
placed in the bank vault of Umberto and Giulio Vanazzi; our apartment,
bank deposits and other properties were turned over to our accountant,
Dr. Mario Rotti who, using his power of attorney, sold the apartment
and managed to smuggle the proceeds to Brazil, thereby risking
prosecution for breaking the laws against both pietismo and the export
of money. My father’s secretary, Silvia Castelli, lovingly packed and
cataloged our books and our precious collection of 3-D glass
photographs, documenting three generations of family life.
There were exceptions, of course. Carlo and Paola
Pellizzi, who had been my parent’s “best friends”, cut off all
contacts, most likely motivated by fear (she was a converted Jew).
Enrico Miserocchi, a classmate and friend of many years wrote me from
the United States, where he was pursuing a training program in
Neurosurgery, arranged by my father, that since essentially all Jews
were anti fascist, the anti Semitic laws were justified and long
overdue... too bad if his best friend had to suffer for the sins of
others. A few exploited the situation, profiteering from the forced
sale of property or the lurid commerce of political favors, and, a few
years later, some collected bounties by turning Jews over to the
occupying German army for deportation and death.
Jokes, an irrepressible form of political dissent,
were rampant. One of them told of a telegram sent to Mussolini by the
Mayor of a small town, praising his battle in defense of the Italian
race and asking for a few Jews so that he too might join the anti
Semitic crusade. Reactions of the Jews also ran the gamut. After an
initial period of stunned disbelief, some became desperate and killed
themselves, while others joined the political underground. My cousin
Giorgio Lattes enrolled in the French Foreign Legion and fought in an
Allied military units. Yet others like a man I shall call P.F., a child
of a mixed marriage who had been baptized at birth and was considered
Aryan, joined the Italian army fighting the Allies, “invaders of the
sacred soil of the Fatherland”, and turned his back on the Jewish
members of his family, some of whom later emigrated to the United
States, while others were arrested for deportation to the Nazi death
camps. Still others tried to erase all traces of their Jewish
background through futile acts of apostasy, baptism, overt expression
of loyalty to the Fascist Regime or the acquisition of “aryanization”
or “discrimination” papers, which served only to divide the Community
and turn Jew against Jew. A few rededicated themselves to Judaism,
helped Jewish refugees from Germany and Nazi-occupied countries,
organized schools for their children, or rallied to make life more
bearable for their families and for the community, Finally, some
prepared for aliyah. Many hoped that the Crown or the Vatican would
intervene to put an end to the nightmare, but King Victor Emanuel III,
fearing for his throne did not act, just as in 1922 he had failed to
declare a “State of Siege” which would have allowed the police to
arrest the Fascist Black Shirts and thwart their “March on Rome”. The
Pope, more afraid of godless communism than of Nazism, concerned with
maintaining the prerogatives of the German clergy and true to the
traditional anti Judaism of the church, spoke only in defense of the
baptized Jews, failing to recognize that, by not condemning racism, he
had become an accomplice to the worst crime in history (75,76). Other
Jews, such a Mr. Segre, whom Ornella and I met in Courmayeur, welcomed
the anti-Semitic laws, arguing that they would save the Italian Jewish
Community from extinction through acculturation and intermarriage.
Still others, such as our family, who through generations had become
Italian in every sense of the word, had fought with Garibaldi for the
unification of Italy and participated in all subsequent wars with their
Italian comrades-in-arms, had admired the same national heroes,
memorized the same poetry, sung the same songs and had naively believed
that the coming of the Fascist Era meant the beginning of a period of
moral, political, social and economic renewal for the Nation, were
overcome by feeling of disbelief and betrayal (App. 14).
The situation changed radically after the
capitulation of the Italian Army, the arrest and subsequent
assassination of Mussolini (Fig.
19). The regions of Italy still under German control were declared
occupied territory and the Italian version of racism turned into the
most vicious Nazi variety. More than 15,000 Jews (out of about 45,000)
were arrested, brought to a temporary camp in Fossoli and deported to
the Nazi extermination camps. Among them were my grandfather’s brother
Paolo Errera and his wife Nella (Margherita Sarfatti’s sister). The
majority managed to hid in private homes, farms, Catholic institutions
and in the Vatican itself, even as the Pope himself continued to remain
My grandparents Adolfo and Rita Errera, who were
hiding in their Summer villa in Vittorio Veneto, managed to escape
through the back door as the gardener, Toni Milani, held the Fascist
patrol at bay, and were admitted to the local hospital as Mr. and Mrs.
Toni Milani. My grandfather died there of natural causes and was buried
as Toni Milani, while the real Toni joined the partisans, disappeared
into the hills and, after the war had a difficult time proving that he
was alive and reestablishing his identify. My maternal uncle, Gilberto
Errera was arrested, but the policeman, having noticed his lapel pin
with four silver medals for valor earned in World War I, asked hin to
wait at a caf´e while he made a telephone call and never
returned. Gilberto and his son Guido were given refuge in a monastery,
while Gilberto’s wife Daisy and their daughter Lea moved to a farm,
where Daisy was camouflaged as an aunt in poor health and Lea worked as
a farm hand. My parents and my sister had emigrated to Brazil and I,
armed with birth, police, good conduct and health certificates and a
passport duly stamped “di razza ebraica” embarked on the S.S. Vulcania
bound for the United States. I was carrying 14 trunks and suitcases
filled with all the clothes I could buy with my savings, enough luggage
to arouse the suspicion of the border guard whose orders were to
prevent the smuggling of gold and other valuables out of the Country
and who, when informed about the reasons for my emigration, let out
some salty remarks and sealed everything without inspection.
I was leaving a Country where anti-Semitism was the
law of the land, but was eschewed by its citizens, to start a new life
in a Country where the law protected my freedom, but protected also the
right of others to establish all sorts of antisemitic covenants
limiting the availability of housing and of jobs. It took me a while to
understand the meaning of signs in a resort area reading “restricted
clientele”...but that is another story.
** According to
recent studies, left handedness is often associated with developmental
abnormalities in chimpanzees.
Trenta secoli di storia ci permettono di guardare con sovrana
pietà su talune dottrine d’oltr’alpe,
sostenute da gente che ignorava la scrittura con la quale tramandare i
documenti della propria vita, nel tempo in cui Roma aveva Cesare,
Virgilio e Augusto..... E` ridicolo pensare che si possano chiudere le
sinagoghe. Gli Ebrei sono a Roma dai tempi dei Re..... erano
cinquantamila ai tempi di Augusto e chiesero di piangere sulla bara di
Giulio Cesare. Rimarranno indisturbati.
1. Centers in the brain represented by mountains, rivers and
trees according to the concepts of Ayurveda. Balinese
Medicine. Courtesy of Dr. L. Chandra.
2. Cortical representation of “propensities” in the human
brain according to J.K. Spurzheim. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911.
3. Cortical areas of the lateral and medial surfaces of the
human brain according to K. Broadmann.
4. Functional localizations in the human brain.
Cartoon, New York Times, January 14, 2001.
5. Cesare Lombroso. Photograph dedicated to "my dear
Foà’s", April 15, 1901.
6. Cesare Lombroso. Letter introducing Carlo Foà
to Charles Richet, the Sorbonne, Paris.
7. Leather wallet sold for the benefit of the Casa del Sole.
8. Kymograph recordings of a medianic session. Note the
signatures of Pia and Carlo Foà.
9. Samples of notes attributed to Eusapia Paladino.
10. Bronze plaque honoring Cesare Lombroso, cast by Leonardo
Bistolfi and dated April 20, 1909 (20 x 10 cm).
11. The “Four Great Men of Sabbioneta”: Albertoni and
DeGiovanni, Clinicians; Pio Foà, a pathologist and Ottolenghi, a
general. (Foà and Ottolenghi were Jewish).
12. Government bond issued to Eloisa Foà, 1938.
13. Cover page of the magazine “La Difesa della Razza) (The
Defense of the Race), 1938. Note the separation of the image of
the Caucasian (“Aryan”) from the caricature of the Jew and the
photograph of the Negro.
14. Benito Mussolini addressing the crowds from the balcony
of Palazzo Venezie-Rome.
15. Benito Mussolini addressing the crowd from the balcony of
16. Benito Mussolini reviewing the Black Shirt Legions.
17. Benito Mussolini reviewing the Army Almanacco
Encidopeslico del Popolo d’Italia (1931-IX).
18. Benito Mussolini declaring war against France and England.
19. The End – Piazzale Loreto-Milano.
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List of Appendicies
Article by Giovanni Marinelli describing the October 28-38, 1922
political crisis created by Mussolini’s refusal to participate in a
coalition government and by King Victor Emanuel III‘s failure to
declare a “State of Emergency” which would have allowed the police to
arrest the fascist black shirts, thus preventing the “March on Rome”
and the formation of a Government headed by Mussolini. In an admiring
tone, Marinelli states that this event “cut a deep furrow in the life
of the Italian people where the fertile seeds of a moral, political,
social and economic renewal will germinate....., marking the last hours
of a decrepit socialist-democratic regime.
2. One of four drafts of a love letter by Margherita Sarfatti to Benito
Mussolini. Undated, but probably written in the early 1930's.
3. Localization of “Propensities” in the human brain, according to J.K.
instinct, 2. Love for one's children, 3. Power of concentration, 4.
Friendship, 5. Combativeness, 6. Destructiveness, 7. Love for food, 8.
Secretiveness, 9. Acquisitiveness, 10. Mechanical sense, 11.
Self-esteem, 12. Vanity, 13.
Circumspection, 14. Benevolence, 15. Religiosity, 16. Conscience, 17. Firmness, 18.
Hope, 19. Sense of wonder, 20. Idealism, 21. Wit, 22. Imitation, 23.
Individuality, 24. Memory for shapes, 25. Sense of space, 26. Sense of
27. Sense of color, 28. Orientation, 29. Numbers, 30. Orderliness, 31.
Memory for things, 32. Sense of time, 33. Musical ear, 34. Language,
35. Sense of causality.
4.& 5. Sample pages from the handouts of Camillo Golgi’s lectures
attented by Carlo Foà.
6. Letter by Cesare Lombroso introducing Carlo Foà to Charles
7.& 8. Draft of a statement of “Grave Alarm” written by Margherita
Sarfatti and edited by Carlo Foà, with follow-up comments by M.
9.&10. Letters by Amedeo Sarfatti, Margherita’s son, to Carlo
Foà discussing his response to “Words of Grave Alarm”.
11. Letter by Fiammetta Sarfatti, Margherita’s daughter, offering to
arrange a meeting of Carlo Foà with Mussolini.
12. Facsimile of a letter by Benito Mussolini to Carlo Foà
discussing the works of Plato. (the original was lost).
13. Quote from Giacinto Gaggia’ s “Letter to the Clergy”.
Dear Friend, Tell me if you are in
Milan, or when you will go there and if you still are in sufficiently
friendly relations with Sabatino Lopez. I say, sufficiently friendly
relations to be able, sometime, that is right away, let him have a
confidential word of advise and of warning.
What he is doing, in agreement with others, is
simply stupid and criminal. You know that in Italy there is no
antisemitism, but these gentlemen of the Jewish or Zionist circle or
whatever they call themselves I don’ t know, in Milan or elsewhere, but
especially in Milan, and to whom S.L. gives the support of his
reputation, are doing their best to provoke it.
You know that I am not speaking for myself nor for
you, because I consider myself outside any form of Judaism and I
believe the same about you. I am religious without clear confession,
otherwise I feel above all Italian and therefore catholic-sympathizer,
if not catholic.
But what do these gentlemen want? I speak as an
Italian and a woman, in the name of humanity and reason and out of a
sense of sympathy and solidarity of someone who senses the approaching
of a storm, caused by very few, over the innocent heads of many good,
worthy, innocent and reasonable people.
Let these people beware. Are they religious? Good
for them, let them practice their cult in peace. But they talk, write
and print about alien nationalities and races and about a sense of
lineage and ethnic difference, loudly and even offensively, or at least
in a manner
hostile and antipathetic to Italy, a mother reneged by no-one, except
these few crazy men.
Let them get out, what are they doing in Italy if they don't feel
Italian? Let them go to Palestine, to Jerusalem or Tiblis, that Mr.
Foligno and that other young man ( I believe his name is Perugia) who
speak in this way and, if he feels like it, also Sabatino Lopez
instead of writing as Italians in Italian about the Italian illusion.
Let them all go to the devil, because it is not permissible to hurt
with their idiocies, the tens of thousands of excellent, laborious and
devoted citizens Italian by centuries of culture, tradition and
sacrifice of blood.
See if you can talk to Sabatino Lopez, for yourself
and, if you care also for me. Be aware that the matter is very serious
and that the word of warning is not only mine and that it comes
indirectly from much higher sources, from a person who is more
farsighted than me and who worries about these people who are bringing
about a storm not only upon themselves, and it would not be so bad, but
All this is in strict confidence. Strictest absolute
secret , between you and me. I beg you not mention a word to anyone,
except Lopez, not even to the dear Irma, especially not to Irma.
(on the train) Between Verona and Trento, 4/ 11/ VII*
He directs personally the noted campaign with
a sense of equanimity and sympathy as he considers it of the utmost
importance and worries about avoiding serious future dangers and
threats. He is very satisfied by the turn of events. The newspaper
(which on these matters does not print a word without God‘s
permission), brought him your letter. You may turn summersaults because
he read it, approved of it, gave it its stamp of approval praising the
fact that it was signed and spoke to me about it spontaneously. Bravo
Carletto! Now we must produce a flood of letters from veterans and
volunteers, Fascists, relatives of the dead and of the decorated (war
heroes). For example, I suggest Lustig, Del Vecchio, Benedetto
Morpurgo, the families of Giacomo Veneziani, Guido Brunner (gold
medal**), Blum (gold medal), Liebman’ s widow and son, Lea Donati, Mrs.
Pontremoli Luzzatti, Dr. Raffaele Vivante, Gilberto e Paolo Errera,
Piero Pontecorvo of Rome, Aldo Mayer of the “Piccolo”*** of Trieste,
etc., the greatest possible number. We must act energetically: the
campaign is extremely urgent.
In addition, if possible, the letter should be
accompanied with a copy of the “Popolo di Roma” article.
In addition, we must get Don Brizio to relinquish
for one issue his column in Gerarchia. Carlo should write it and sign
it “Interim” or something like it, discussing very tactfully and from a
non-confessional, but rather christian**** point of view: a) the
distortion of Zionism which, originally was a pure humanitarian
philanthropic movement and became a nationalist one, taken over in
Italy by a few masons, antifascists and self aggrandizers. b) the
traditions of the Italian Jews, from Daniele Manin (son of Jews) to
Riccardo Luzzatto who at the age 15 enrolled in the “Mille”***** and at
the age of 70 volunteered in the Great War, Luigi Luzzatti, Sonnino,
Giacomo Veneziani. c) The prominence of Italian of Jewish religion in
Trieste, where they kept alive the Italian spirit in politics and
culture (Mayer, Michelstaedter in Gorizia, Giacomo Veneziani, Liebman,
Ara, Brunner) and knew the meaning of an Italian Fatherland as an
aspiration and a fulfillment. Rome is our holy city, not Jerusalem.
Refer to the article in “Il Popolo di Roma” discretely praising its
equanimity and underlining its authority. I will then show the column
to the chief.
I recommend sending copy of the letter to the
My address, Krankenhaus prof. dr. Katzenstein,
Trautenauer Strasse 14, Berlin-Wilmersdorf. Remember Mordechai******
I embrace you with due regard to gender and good
* Seventh year of the Fascist Era, i.e. 1929 ; ** the highest Italian
decoration for valor;
*** a daily newpaper; **** i.e. “humanitarian”; ***** The Army of
****** A reference to the German Rabbi who died as a martyr in
Nuremberg in 1298.
5 / 12 / VII*
On second thought, mother believes that it would be
better if your signed “Cronaca Scientifica” and were to discuss the
biologic characters of a people and of a Nation, going on to talk about
the assimilation of the Israelites ** and showing 1) that the purity of
a race is is an absurd myth given the mixing over the millenia 2) that
even if it were possible, it would be harmful because it would lead to
“in-breeding” 3) that the extraordinary vitality and the constant
amazing of the Italian People are probably due in part also to
the renewal of the original substrate by superimposed layers,
allowing it to rest and resurface vigorously 4)the great ability of the
Jews to assimilate, their western nature and their probable affinity
with many nations which contributed to the formation of the Italians
from time immemorial (Sardinians, Punics, Phoenicians, Etruscan,
Arabs, etc.) 5) the fact that, during the early centuries of
christianity people confused Christianity with Judaism which were
considered indistinguishable even by the patricians (Tacitus makes
reference to “eastern superstitions”) 6) Faithfulness of the Jews to
their religion, but also to their adopted fatherlands (for example,
after 400 year, the Jews of Cospoli continue to speak Spanish).
Always talk about “Italian of Jewish religion”. Unerline that the race
is very prolific*** by nature and for the highest theologic reasons.
Possibly add statistics and figures.
Perhaps better yet write a separate article and send
it to me for submission to the Pres.(ident).
Probably, the operation cannot be carried out
to-morrow because mother has a slight cold. It will have to be next
Many very cordial greetings
* Seventh year of the Fascist Era, i.e. 1929.
** A word sometime considered more acceptable than Jews.
*** The Fascist government put a premium on large families.
A political magazine
Dear Carlo, you should have
received, I believe, my telegram, and you will be anxious to hear the
details. As soon as I mentioned the matter, the Duce said that he
better talk to you about it; I will fix an appointment for the very
first days of January. However, I insisted to know what your behavior
toward Dante L(attes) should be, given that that gentleman has taken
your ultimatum very seriously, and the Duce believes that, for the time
being, it would not be appropriate for the Zionists to make a complete
and absolute turnaround, for two reasons 1) that this would reopen the
polemic between Dante and Pacifici* 2) it would sound too
opportunistic. It would be better if they would disband, declaring that
Zionism has neason to exist in Italy, and that it must be understood
only as a charitable movement for the benefit of oppressed Jews-, keep
to this line, restoring the magazine “Israel” to what it used to be,
that is a strictly rabbinical magazine, exclusively religious, removing
all political and nationalistic character recently given to it by
D. Lattes and especially by Pacifici. All this must be done with
dignity, convincingly, and therefore calmly.
I am authorized to tell you these things because I asked them in your
name and for your guidance; however, I believe that it should not be
known that it has been dictated from above. For the rest behave as you
wish, dear little soldier who feared having fallen in disgrace with the
Generalissimo, there was no real reason to be worried; (your article)
was thrown into the waste paper basket because, being too strong
against zionsm it could have restarted the polemic; which, at this
moment, is not in our best interest.
I hope that this letter is sufficiently clear, in spite of my
I will see you here in January. Why wouldn’t Isa come along, why will
you not stay with me?
Happy Christmas to you all; and have fun. I am close to you in my
thoughts and a little envious and I greet you all very affectionately,
with infinite wishes for the new year.
Il Capo del
I thank you for sending me the 2 volumes of Plato’s
works. I wish to give you my impressions.
The Apology and the Euthyphron left me rather cold. I was impressed
much more by the Criton, the first time around. On the other hand, I
found the Phaedo sublime. I believe that the proof of the existence of
God is captivating, comforting, perfect. The whole discussion on the
opposites, which can be summarized in the three following proposotions
is absolutely self evident. That is:
1. All opposites are born of their opposite ( sleep
of weakness, weakness of sleep; life of death, death of life)
2. No opposite can contain its opposite within
itself (snow cannot contain fire and viceversa)
3. Not only do opposites not contain their opposite,
but this is true of thing which although not opposite, contain an
opposite. (The number 3 is not opposite to 4, but cannot become even)
It follows (pages 153 and following) (that) soul
which is life, because it gives life to the body cannot contain its
opposite which is death. The soul, therefore, is immortal.
Did I summarize well?
Please , Mr Dean, accept my cordial greetings
Rome, June 4, 1927-V*
* Fifth year of the Fascist Era, i.e. 1927.
God unleashed the
fury of the Jews against his only Son
through his blood a Church may be born