‘Gypsies’ in Fascist Italy: from expelled foreigners to dangerous Italians
Paola Trevisan, Social History Vol. 42 , Issue. 3, 2017
Italian research on the persecution of Rom and Sinti under Fascism is still incomplete (in terms of exploitation of the archival sources) and marginal (in terms of the national academic context). This article analyses new sources for the development and application of anti-Gypsy policy during the Fascist era. The central focus is on developments in the new border provinces of Venezia Giulia and Venezia Tridentina, acquired from the Habsburg Empire at the end of the First World War. As a result of the transfer of sovereignty over the resident populations, the nationality status of ‘Gypsies’ had to be addressed, while the significant presence of Rom and Sinti communities in those territories challenged the symbolic meaning they had for the Fascist regime. The outcome was that Fascism marked ‘Gypsies’ as both ‘undesirable foreigners’ and ‘dangerous Italians’, thereby creating a dual rationale for placing them in police confinement and interning them after Italy’s entrance into the war. An approach that combines archival research and field work with Sinti and Rom reveals the transformations, continuities and contradictions in the categorization of ‘Gypsies’. This article thus presents a case study of the place of social and geographical margins in the construction of the nation state.