Physical Anthropology, Phrenology,
Constitutional Medicine and Eugenics: The
Slippery Slope to Racism

Piero P. Foà*, M.D., Sc.D., Emeritus Professor of Physiology
Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan
[Footnotes ][Figure legends ][References ][Appendicies ]

    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 ((1-10), Fig. 1, 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 Italian 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 It contains some heretofore unpublished material reproduced in the original Italian and followed by my translation into English, illustrating the effort by Mussolini and his henchmen to create a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 racist policies.

    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 (Fig. 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 surgery (Fig 3). Some of this work, which resurfaced in recent educational, psychologic and psychiatric literature (17, Fig. 4) rests 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 below).

    According 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 (1835-1909, Fig. 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. 10).

    Lombroso’s teachings, carried on, among others, by Leone Lattes, 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. 12) and 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 pamphlets (Fig. 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 polemic.

    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 rang, my 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 crucial events.

    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 Encyclopedia.

    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 silent.

    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.


* deceased.

** 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.

Figure Legends

Fig. 1.  Centers in the brain represented by mountains, rivers and trees according to the concepts of Ayurveda.  Balinese Medicine.  Courtesy of Dr. L. Chandra.

Fig. 2.  Cortical representation of “propensities” in the human brain according to J.K. Spurzheim.  Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911.

Fig. 3.  Cortical areas of the lateral and medial surfaces of the human brain according to K. Broadmann.

Fig. 4.  Functional localizations in the human brain.  Cartoon, New York Times, January 14, 2001.

Fig. 5.  Cesare Lombroso.  Photograph dedicated to "my dear Foà’s", April 15, 1901.

Fig. 6.  Cesare Lombroso.  Letter introducing Carlo Foà to Charles Richet, the Sorbonne, Paris.

Fig. 7.  Leather wallet sold for the benefit of the Casa del Sole.

Fig. 8.  Kymograph recordings of a medianic session.  Note the signatures of Pia and Carlo Foà.

Fig. 9.  Samples of notes attributed to Eusapia Paladino.

Fig. 10.  Bronze plaque honoring Cesare Lombroso, cast by Leonardo Bistolfi and dated April 20, 1909 (20 x 10 cm).

Fig. 11.  The “Four Great Men of Sabbioneta”: Albertoni and DeGiovanni, Clinicians; Pio Foà, a pathologist and Ottolenghi, a general.  (Foà and Ottolenghi were Jewish).

Fig. 12.  Government bond issued to Eloisa Foà, 1938.

Fig. 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.

Fig. 14.  Benito Mussolini addressing the crowds from the balcony of Palazzo Venezie-Rome.

Fig. 15.  Benito Mussolini addressing the crowd from the balcony of Palazzo Venezie.

Fig. 16.  Benito Mussolini reviewing the Black Shirt Legions.

Fig. 17.  Benito Mussolini reviewing the Army Almanacco Encidopeslico del Popolo d’Italia (1931-IX).

Fig. 18.  Benito Mussolini declaring war against France and England.

Fig. 19.  The End – Piazzale Loreto-Milano.

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Evola, J., Gli Ebrei e la Matematica. Difesa della Razza, 1940,Vol. 3, p.27.

Finzi, R., L’ Università Italiana e le Leggi Antiebraiche. Ed. Riuniti, Roma,1997, pp.142.
Fioretti, A., Antisemitismo e Classe Dirigente. Razza e Civiltà, Vol.1, 1940, p.18.

Foà, C., Ce que le Prof. P. Foà, de l’ Universite de Turin, et trois Docteurs, Assistants du Professeur Mosso, ont constate avec Eusapia Paladino. Annales Sci. Psichiques, Vol.17, 1907, pp.265-294.

Foà, C., I Fattori Fisiologici della Personalità Umana. La Medicina Italiana, Vol.11,1927,p.1.

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Foà, C., Opere e Leggi di Medicina Sociale. Gerarchia, Milano, 1927, Vol. 7, p. 148.

Foà, C., L’ Imposta sul Celibato. Arch. Fascista Med. Politica, 1928, Vol.2, p. 288.

Foà, C., Gli Studi di Genetica e il Problema Demografico. Gerarchia, Milano, Vol.9, 1929, p.1.

Foà, C., Eugenica. University of Milano Lectures, ca. 1930, pp. 31.

Foà, C., Aspetti Biologico -Statistici del Problema Demografico, Gerarchia, Milano, 1931, Vol. 11, p. 679.

Foà, C., I Fattori Biologici della Diminuzione delle Nascite. I Congr. Ital. Genetica e Eugenica. Roma, Poligrafico dello Stato, 1932, p. 50.

Foà, C., Eugenica e Matrimonio Italiano. Politica
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Foà, C., La Sterilizzazione Coattiva del Punto di Vista Etico ed Eugenico. Rass. Cliinico-Scient., Vol. 12, 1935, p.25.

Foà, Pio , L’ Opinion Publique et les Phenomenes Mediumniques. Annales Sci. Psichiques, Vol. 17, 1907, pp. 305-325.

Foà, Pio, Sulla Dottrina delle Costituzioni. La Medicina Italiana, May 30, 1922.

Foà, Pio, Osservazioni Cliniche e Anatomiche Raccolte nel Manicomio di Pavia. Cited by         Lombroso, C., L’ Uomo Delinquente, etc. 1924.

Foà, Piero, An Interview with Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzweig. Video Tape, 1994.

Gaggia, G., Lettera al Clero della Sua Diocesi. Queriniana, Brescia, 1918, pp.14.

Galen, C., Definitiones Medicae, Cited by Castiglioni, A. Galton, F., Hereditary Genius; An Enquiry into its Laws and Consequences. London, Macmillan, 1869, pp. 390.

Gaspari, A., Nascosti in Convento. Ancora, Milano 1999, pp. 139.

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Lattes, L., Eredità, Degenerazione ed Atavismo. Tip. Leonardo da Vinci, Città di Castello, 1934, Vol.4, Fasc. 1-3.

Lattes, L., Patologia, Anomalie, Abitudini nei Minorenni Traviati e Delinquenti. Scuola Positiva, Vallarci, Milano, 1936,Vol. 16, Fasc. 9-10.

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Livi, L., In Tema di Razzismo. Risposta ai Critici d’ Oltre Oceano. Economia, Vol.16, 19 38, p.157.

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Lombroso, C., L’ Uomo Delinquente in Rapporto all’ Antropologia, alla Giurisprudenza ed alle Discipline Carcerarie. Zanichelli, Bologna, 1921, pp. XX-380.

Lombroso-Ferrero, G., Cesare Lombroso. Storia della Vita e delle Opere. Zanichelli, Bologna, 1921, pp. XVII-476.

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Messineo, A ., Giustizia ed Espansione Coloniale. Civiltà Cattolica, Roma, 1937. See also, Informazione Diplomatica, Feb. 15 and Aug. 5, 1938.

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Pende, N., For Additional References, see Maiocchi, R. Penfield, W. and Jasper, H., Epilepsy and the Functional Anatomy of the Human Brain. Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1954, pp. XV-896.

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Putnam, R.D., Making Democracy Work. Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N.J., 1993, pp. XV-258.

Razzaboni, G., Inaugural Address, Academic Year, University of Parma, 1938.

Sarfatti, Margherita, Dux. Mondadori, Milano, 1926, pp. 326.

Sarfatti, Michele, Le Leggi contro gli Ebrei. Israel, Vol. 54, 518, 1938.

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Tas, L., Storia degli Ebrei Italiani. Newton Compton, Roma, 1987, pp. 258.

Visco, S., Le Università di Fronte ai Problemi della Razza e dell’ Autarchia. Vita Universitaria, May 20, 1939, Vol. 16, p. 2.

Zuccotti, S., The Italians and the Holocaust. Persecution, Rescue, Survival. Basic Books, New York, 1940, pp. XVIII-334.

List of Appendicies

1. 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. Spurtzheim.
1.Reproductive 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 weight, 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 Richet.

7.& 8. Draft of a statement of “Grave Alarm” written by Margherita Sarfatti and edited by Carlo Foà, with follow-up comments by M. S.
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 upon others..
    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. 
    Affectionately yours,
(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 authorities.
    My address, Krankenhaus prof. dr. Katzenstein, Trautenauer Strasse 14, Berlin-Wilmersdorf. Remember Mordechai******
    I embrace you with due regard to gender and good manners. Amedeo.
* Seventh year of the Fascist Era, i.e. 1929 ; ** the highest Italian decoration for valor;
*** a daily newpaper; **** i.e. “humanitarian”; ***** The Army of Garibaldi;
****** A reference to the German Rabbi who died as a martyr in Nuremberg in 1298.

                    Trautenaustrasse 5
                    5 / 12 / VII*


Caro Carletto,

    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 Saturday.
    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
The Director

        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 congenital illiteracy!

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 Governo         

Mr. Dean,

    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
so that, through his blood a Church may be born
and mankind be saved
(Giacinto Gaggia)