‘Racial Laws Turned Our Lives Positively’: Agentivity and Chorality in the Identity of a Group of Italian Jewish Witnesses



This chapter explores the interviews conducted with a small group of Italian Rome-based Jews who are ‘witnesses of the racial laws’. Born in the 1930s, they are children of Jews who were persecuted under the Mussolini regime 1 and, together with the very few camp survivors, are the last living voices of that period. The term ‘witnesses of the racial laws’ defines these interviewees’ ‘historically acquired identity’ (Schiffrin, 2002, p. 310) and is a term they use to distinguish themselves from the ‘Holocaust survivors’, as the interviewees for the study presented in this chapter experienced the German persecutions in Italy in a painful, bitter and mortifying way albeit with less cruelty than much less fortunate others. The relationship of our group of Italian Jews to the Shoah is a complex mixture of their continually renewing grief for those millions who were killed in various ways and respect and awe for the few who survived. As will be shown, these witnesses’ stories depart from the traditional accounts of the camp survivors who often engage, like Primo Levi’s memoirs, with the inevitable traps of memory, and ‘emphasize the emotional difficulties of retelling and the profound effect of living with memories that subvert the everyday construction of the self’ (Kyrmayer, 1996, p. 182). Following Langer (1991 in Kirmayer, 1996, p. 183), we will discuss how in their role as public speakers within the project in which they are active members, the Memory Project (Progetto Memoria), our interviewees seem to have found a form of ‘compensating’, and hence pacifying, recall of the past.


Jewish Community Oral History Jewish Identity Positive Identity Jewish Parent 
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© Roberta Piazza and Antonia Rubino 2015

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