When Mussolini’s government introduced racial laws in Italy in 1938 fascist university students were in the forefront in the exclusion process of Jewish students and teachers from Italian Universities. This essay focuses on changes in Italian fascist policy and on how its results affected Italian university system and the everyday life of young Jewish students and teachers, victims of the Italian racial laws.
In the Twenties and early Thirties of the 20th Century Italian Fascism welcomed foreign students at Italian Universities in order to spread its influence and ideology abroad and this welcome practice concerned also those Jewish students run away from Eastern Europe after many governments had adopted anti-Semitic laws. Italian policy began to change in 1933 and restrictions on welcome practice
of the foreign students were placed, affecting particularly Jewish students who studied in Italy thanks to grants and facilities. After 1938 Italian and foreign Jewish students were no longer allowed to finish
their studies. Also teachers were excluded. Italian fascist students were protagonists of many anti-Jewish activities and became an avant-garde of the regime in institutions of higher education, strongly supporting the construction of a “Jewish problem” and influencing the spread of this idea among Italian public. The anti-Semitic policy of the regime was preceded and supported by an intensive propaganda based on a theoretical elaboration of racism. Students associations and reviews took part actively in this propaganda: students helped the creation of an ideological context for the anti-Semitic legislation and its application. In Italian universities the Guf (Gruppi universitari fascisti), the fascist
students’ associations, turned this propaganda into actions against colleagues and teachers in order to drive away Jews from the Italian academic world and to cancel any signs of their university lives both in a material and in a spiritual way.