The postwar government in Rome nurtured the false belief that the inherent “tolerance” of Italians rendered them incapable of collaborating in “the genocide” of the nation’s Jews. Not surprisingly, this characterization struck a responsive public chord among Italians. Western societies, too, were receptive to the benign, almost comedic image of Italians. The fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, was often portrayed as a strutting buffoon, a farcical refugee of the operatic stage.
In fact, on November 17, 1938, (a week after Kristallnacht took place in Germany and Austria), the Mussolini regime adopted a series of harsh laws that denied Italian Jews their civil rights and removed them from public office and institutions of higher education. Other Fascist laws deprived Jews of their assets, limited their travel, and forbade sexual relations and marriages between Jews and “racially pure” Italians.