The Persecution of Homosexual Men under Fascism



Mario Magri, an Italian anti-Fascist, spent most of the last 17 years of his life in Benito Mussolini’s ‘political confinement’ (confino politico) colonies, located on small islands in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas.2 During the few months of freedom Magri enjoyed between the fall of Fascism (1943) and his execution by the Nazis at the horrific Ardeatine Caves Massacre outside Rome, he wrote about his experiences in Fascist captivity. In his memoir, Magri noted the anomalous presence of a group of homosexual men who had appeared in the confino politico colony on the Tremiti Islands, in the Adriatic, around 1939:

There were about 100 perverts, almost all originating from Catania and other cities in Sicily. These poor devils, among whom there were skilled artisans and even teachers, lived in horrible conditions. They received four lire per day and were crammed into two foetid wooden barracks, surrounded by a metal fence that only allowed a few square metres in which to move around.3

The presence of these men in a penal colony for ‘politically dangerous’ Italians raises several salient questions about the experience of homosexuals under Fascism and about the very nature of Mussolini’s regime.


Public Security Penal Code Police Code Homosexual Behaviour Ministero Dell 
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  1. 2.
    This chapter is based on part of my forthcoming dissertation, ‘Confino di polizia: Repression, Deviance, and Everyday Life in Fascist Italy, 1926–43’ (Columbia University). For an introduction and bibliography on confino di polizia, see Paola Carucci, ‘Confino, soggiomo obbligato, intemamento: sviluppo della normativa’, in Constantino Di Sante (ed.), I campi di concentramento in Italia: Dallinternamento alla deportazione, 1940–1945 (Milan: Franco Angeli, 2001).Google Scholar
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  3. 4.
    The scholarship on homosexuality during Fascism consists of several useful but cursory articles on homosexuals persecuted with confino politico, mainly in the province of Catania (Sicily). For an overview and bibliography, see Gianfranco Goretti, ‘II periodo fascista e gli omosessuali: Il confino di polizia’, in Circolo Pink (ed.), Le ragioni di un silenzio: la persecuzione degli omosessuali durante il nazismo e il fascismo (Verona: Ombre Corte, 2002), pp. 64–74. Giovanni Dall’Orto, a pioneer in the field, has published many articles. See his ‘Il paradosso del razzismo fascista verso l’omosessualita’, in Alberto Burgio (ed.), Nel nome della razza: 11 razzismo nella storia dItalia, 1870–1945 (Bologna: I1 Mulino, 1999), pp. 515–28; and Dall’Orto, ‘La “tolleranza repressiva” dell’omosessualità’, in Arcigay Nazionale (ed.), Omosessuali e stato (Bologna: Centro di Documentazione Il Cassero, 1987), pp. 36–57.Google Scholar
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    Fascist and philo-Fascist journals attacked homosexuality and presented ‘scientific’ inquiries portraying homosexuals as ‘degenerate’. See Dario Petrosino, ‘Traditori della stirpe: il razzismo contro gli omossessuali nella stampa del fascismo’, in Alberto Burgio and Luciano Casali (eds), Studi sul razzismo Italiano (Bologna: Clueb, 1996), pp. 89–107; and Petrosino, ‘Come si costruisce uno stereotipo. La rappresentazione degli omosessuali nellItaliano di Leo Longanesi (1926–1929)’, in Burgio (ed.), Nel nome della razza, pp. 503–14.Google Scholar
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    The files of the confinati comuni, though not entirely available to scholars, attest to this. See Goretti, ‘II periodo fascista e gli omosessuali’, p. 72. See also Prefect of Potenza Ottavio Dinale’s report to the Ministry of the Interior, 28 December 1929, in Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Ministero dell’Interno, Direzione Generale della Pubblica Sicurezza, Ufficio Confino Politico (hereafter ACS, MI, DGPS, UCP), busta 11, fasc. 710–14, sottofasc. C/comune.Google Scholar
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    There were officially ten cases of confino politico for ‘pederasty’ from 1926 to 1937, and 67 between 1938 and 1941 (Goretti, ‘II periodo fascista e gliomosessuali’, p. 71). I have also found cases where ‘pederasty’ played a role in a confino politico sentence but was not noted as the official motive.Google Scholar
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    See ‘ammonizione’, in Enciclopedia dellantifascismo e della resistenza, Vol. 1 (Milan: La Pietra, 1968), pp. 61–2.Google Scholar
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    See the confino proposal of the Questore of Salerno to the Prefect of Salerno, President of the Commission for police measures, 24 July 1939, in ACS, confinati politici, busta 878, ‘R.D.’.Google Scholar
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    See Prefect of Florence to Ministry of the Interior, ‘Oggetto: Prevenzione e repressione della pederastia — provvedimenti di Polizia’, 16 August 1939, in ACS, confinati politici, busta 83, ‘B.G.’.Google Scholar
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    See Guido Neppi Modona, ‘Carcere e societa civile’, in Storia dItalia, Vol. 5/2: I docurnenti (Turin: Einaudi, 1973), pp. 1901–98.Google Scholar
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    See Victoria de Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).Google Scholar
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    Twenty men were investigated in 1936; one was 17, one 49 and the rest were in their twenties and thirties. Thirty men investigated in 1937 ranged in age from 18 to 65, with most in their twenties and thirties. See Questore of Florence (Modesti) to ‘Provincial Commission for police measures, Oggetto … pederasti’, 18 December 1936, in ACS, confinati politici, busta 8, ‘A.E.’; and Questore of Florence (Dadduzio) to Provincial Commission for Police Measures, ‘Prevenzione e repressione della pederastia. Adozione di provvedimenti di polizia’, 10 February 1938, in ACS, confinati politici, busta 117, ‘B.G.’.Google Scholar
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    Questore of Florence (Dadduzio) to Provincial Commission for police measures, ‘Prevenzione … pederastia’, 10 February 1938, in ACS, confinati politici, busta 117, ‘B.G.’.Google Scholar
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    Document included in files of all homosexuals condemned to confino from Catania; for example, Questore of Catania (A. Molina) to Prefect of Catania (President of the Provincial Commission for the Assignment of Confino di Polizia), 29 March 1939, in ACS, confinati politici, busta 247, ‘C.G.’.Google Scholar
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    Questore of Catania (A. Molina) to Prefect of Catania (President of the Provincial Commission for the Assignment of Confino di Polizia), January 1939, pp. 2–3, in ACS, confinati politici, busta 1009,Google Scholar

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