Chronology of Rescue of Jews in Italy and by Italians in Occupied Zones


Jews of Italy 85% of Italian Jews survived the Holocaust (approximately 36,820 survived, 5,596 - 7,680 lost; Jews of Rome – 90%; 7,000 survived)[1]  Jewish population before the Italian Armistice of September 8, 1943 was 44,50, 12,000 were foreigners. 6,000 Jews emigrated during the war.  The Undersecretary of the Italian Foreign Ministry Giuseppe Bastiannini, 1944-1945, argued against the arrest and deportation of Italian Jews.[2]  In addition, thousands of Jews in the Italian occupied zones of Yugoslavia (Croatia), Greece, Southern France and Tunisia were saved from deportation by Italian diplomats and commanders in the Italian Army.[3]  682 Italians have been honored for Rescuing Jews.[4]  In addition, numerous Italian government officials, including diplomats, soldiers, and military police, aided Jews in three Italian zones of occupation.  These zones were located in Southern France, Athens, and Croatia.  These officials refused to deport Jews or aid in the arrest, roundup or deportation of Jews under their control.[5]  Italian citizens all over the country acted courageously to aid the beleaguered Italian Jews throughout the war.  There were a number of prominent rescue organizations and networks that were successful.  The majority of the Jews in Italy in the North survived the war.  In Rome, most of the Jews survived with the help of many individuals, particularly members of the Catholic clergy.

February 24, 1920
The Nazi Party platform is written.

October 1922
Benito Mussolini takes control of the Italian government.

1922-late 1937
Italian fascist government does not formally interfere with the social and legal equality of Italian Jews.

One third of Italy's Jewish adults were Fascist Party members.  There were many Jewish officers in the Italian army, some in the high ranks.  Many high-ranking government officials were Jewish.

November 9, 1923
Adolf Hitler and the Nazis fail in their attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government in Munich.

Benito Mussolini becomes dictator of Italy, calls himself Il Duce--The Leader.

July 31, 1932
The Nazis win over 37% of the vote in a Reichstag election.

January 30, 1933
Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany.

March 22, 1933
Dachau concentration camp opens.

April 1, 1933
German boycott of Jewish shops and businesses.

July 8, 1933
The Vatican signs a concordat with Nazi Germany, which gives the new regime legitimacy.

August 2, 1934
Hitler proclaims himself Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor).  Armed forces must now swear allegiance to him.

September 15, 1935
“Nuremberg Laws”: anti-Jewish racial laws enacted; Jews no longer considered German citizens.

October 3, 1935
Italy attacks Ethiopia.

Worsening of Italian-British relations.

Italy strengthens ties with Nazi Germany.  Italian fascism turns increasingly to militant anti-Semitism.  Escalating Italian anti-Semitic press campaigns, talks of "Jewish and Zionist danger."

May 5, 1936
Ethiopia surrenders to Italy.

October 25, 1936
Hitler and Mussolini form Rome-Berlin Axis.

March 21, 1937
Pope Pius XI issues an official statement against racism and nationalism.

July 6-15, 1938
Representatives from 32 countries meet at Evian, France, to discuss refugee policies; most of the countries refuse to help or let in more Jewish refugees.

July 1938
Major anti-Semitic publication in Italy declares the existence of a "pure Italian race of Aryan stock," in which Jews had never belonged.

September 1938
First anti-Semitic laws are passed in Italy.  Forbids Jews from teaching in colleges. Orders the deportation of all Jewish aliens residing in Italy who had immigrated after 1919. 

A department for demography and race is established in the Italian government.  This agency establishes a racial policy against Jews in government and civil life.

October 7, 1938
Supreme Council of the Italian Fascist Party establishes policy and principles for anti-Semitic legislation.

November 17, 1938
Anti-Semitic legislation in Italy is implemented.  It forbids Jewish/non-Jewish marriages, excludes Jews from serving in the armed forces, government or municipal services.  Jews are defined as having one Jewish parent.

Other restrictions include not allowing Jews to own radios, visit resort areas, use public libraries or publish newspapers.  Jewish businessmen are forbidden to have Aryan business partners.

In 1938, there are 57,000 Italian Jews out of a total Italian population of 45,600,000.  As a result of continuing anti-Semitic policy, 5,000 Italian Jews emigrate and more than 4,000 convert to Christianity.  After emigration and conversion, the Jewish population of Italy is reduced to 35,156.

Thousands of Austrian and German Jewish refugees flood into Italy.

Pio Perucchi and Candido Porta, Swiss Consular Officers in Milan, Italy, issue more than 1,600 illegal and unauthorized visas to Jews who had fled Austria to Italy after the Anschluss.  Some of these Jewish refugees escaped Austria with a Chinese visa.  The refugees then entered Switzerland where they were protected for the duration of the war.  Perucchi and Porta were demoted and transferred for their illegal and unauthorized activities.

Chinese Consul in Milan, Italy, issues visas for Jews to leave Italy for China.

March 2, 1939
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli becomes Pope Pius XII.

March 15, 1939
German troops invade Czechoslovakia.

April 7, 1939
Italy invades Albania.

September 1, 1939
Beginning of World War II: Germany invades Poland.

April 9, 1940
Germans invades and defeats Denmark and Norway.

May 10, 1940
Germany invades the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.

May 20, 1940
Concentration camp established at Auschwitz.

June 10, 1940
Italy enters the war as a German ally, declares war on Great Britain and France, and invades France.

Italy's entry into the war does not change the condition for Italian Jews.  However, 43 concentration camps are set up for non-Italian Jews and resident enemy aliens.  Several thousand non-Italian Jews, mostly refugees, are placed in these camps.  Two hundred Italian Jews are included in this number.  These are not German-style concentration or labor camps.

German army invades France.

June 15, 1940
Paris falls and the French government transferred to Bordeaux; more than 1 million refugees pour into Bordeaux.

Soviets invade and occupy Lithuania.

June 22, 1940
France surrenders to Germany; the French sign an armistice with Germany; in Article 19 of this document, the French agree to “surrender on demand all Germans named by the German government in France.”

June 24, 1940
Italy and France sign a peace agreement.

September 27, 1940
Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis alliance is signed.

October 28, 1940
Italy invades Greece.

Late 1940
During the Italian occupation of Tunisia in North Africa, Italian officials there prevent the implementation of anti-Jewish laws.  They demand that the French refrain from confiscating the property of 5,000 Jews in Tunisia who held Italian passports.  After December 1942, thousands of Jews are made to do forced labor under harsh conditions.  In the Italian forced labor camps, the Jews are treated far better than in German camps.  On May 7, 1943, the Allies liberate Tunis and thousands of Jews are saved from annihilation.

April 6, 1941
German forces invade Greece and Yugoslavia.

April 9, 1941
German forces occupy Salonika.

Spring 1941
Defeated Greece is divided into three occupation zones.  Italy occupies most of the Greek peninsula, including Athens, Epirus and the Ionic Islands.  The zone is controlled by the Italian army and the Italian Foreign Ministry.  This zone has approximately 13,000 Jews.

Giuseppe Bastiannini of Italy, acting Governor of Dalmatia, drafts an important memorandum for the signature of Italian leader Mussolini to protect Jews in the Italian zones of occupation.  Bastiannini encourages Italian diplomats to protect Jews.

During World War II, the Italian army and Italian diplomats administer three zones of occupation.  They are in Athens and the Ionic Islands; Croatia and Yugoslavia; and southern France.  The Italian occupying forces actively participate in sheltering Jews from deportations to the Nazi death camps.  It is estimated that more than 40,000 Jews are rescued from Nazi murder.

June 22, 1941
German army invades Soviet Union; Nazi Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) begin mass murder of Jews, civilian and Communist leaders.

July 31, 1941
Heydrich appointed by Göring to implement the “Final Solution.”

October-November 1941
German and Austrian Jews are deported to ghettoes in Eastern Europe.

October 15, 1941
Nazi authorities pass a law imposing the death penalty for all Jews who leave the ghettoes without permission or for “persons who knowingly provide hiding places for Jews.”

December 7, 1941
Japanese attacks Pearl Harbor.  America declares war on Japan and, the next day, on Germany.

Night and Fog Decree: Hitler orders the suppression of anti-Nazi resistance in occupied Western Europe.

December 8, 1941
Gassing of Jews begins at Chelmno extermination camp in Poland.

December 10, 1941
Germany and Italy declare war on the United States.

January 20, 1942
Wannsee Conference in Berlin: Heydrich outlines plan to murder Europe’s Jews.

May 1942
The Italian government orders all Jewish internees to be used as laborers in lieu of military service.  Fewer than 2,000 Jews are utilized.

July 2, 1942
French Vichy authorities agree to deliver foreign Jews to the Germans for deportation.  French police conduct roundup of Jews.

July 1942
Deportation of Jews to killing centers from Belgium, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, and Poland.

Summer 1942-September 1943 - Croatia
With German cooperation, the anti-Semitic Ustasha party in Croatia destroys entire villages and murders thousands of Jews and Serbs.  Italian soldiers and diplomats refuse to look the other way.  Without instructions, they rescue thousands of Jews by allowing them into protected areas.  Ustasha ceases operation in Italian zone of occupation.  Word spreads in Croatia and thousands of other Jews and Serbs flee from German to Italian zones.  Germans protest these rescue activities.

Mussolini communicates to the Germans that he has no objections to the deportations of Jews in Croatia, and he conveys this to his Italian army and Foreign Ministry officials there.  Italian diplomats and armed forces in Croatia ignore his communication, and no deportations occur.  Throughout their occupation, the army and diplomats continue to impede the German efforts to deport Jews in Croatia.

Three thousand Jews under the protection of the Italian occupation forces in Yugoslavia are transferred to the Island of Arbe in the Gulf of Carnero, off the coast of Yugoslavia.  The Italian Foreign Ministry instructs the Italian army not to permit the Jews of Arbe to be turned over for deportation.  By the end of the war and the liberation of the Island of Arbe by Tito's forces, most of the Jews on Arbe had survived.  All told, nearly 80% of the Yugoslavian Jews who fled to the Italian-occupied zone were saved.

The following Italian diplomats were involved in the rescue of Jews in Croatia: Vittorio Castellani, Liaison Officer, Foreign Ministry; Ambassador Roberto Ducci, Head of the Croation Department of the Italian Foreign Ministry; and Gastone Guidotti, Secretary at the Italian Legation in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

October 9, 1942
The Italian racial laws are put into force in Libya.

November 11, 1942
The Germans and Italian forces occupy southern France.

November 1942-September 1943 - France

Beginning in November of 1942, the Italian Army and Foreign Ministry officials occupy and administer eight French departments east of the Rhône River, in southern France.  A French government remains in place, but the Italians control the area.  In these Italian zones, French Jews and other refugees are protected right up until the Italians leave the war in September 1943.

Italian forces refuse to enforce any anti-Semitic measures in their zones.  They refuse to allow any forced labor camps in their occupation zones.  Further, the Italian occupying Army prevent any arrests or deportations of Jews in their area.  As word spreads, thousands of Jewish refugees flee into the Italian zone.  More than 50,000 Jews move to the Italian zone by July 1943.  Twenty to thirty thousand of these are non-French Jews.  Many of the Jews gravitate to the area around Nice.

In order to prevent concentration of Jews in one area, refugees are sent inland to villages and even resort areas in each of the Italian occupied zones.

The Nazis strenuously protest these actions to Mussolini and representatives of the Italian Foreign Ministry.  Mussolini's ministers and generals persuade him not to accede to the Nazi demands for deportations.

For nearly 10 months, Italian diplomats and the occupying military forces thwart the Nazis' "final solution" in southern France.

After the Italians surrender, thousands of Jews flee with the Italian Army in their retreat back to Italy.  Unfortunately, many Jews are captured and deported during this period.

The following Italian diplomats are active in rescue of Jews in southern France: Gino Buti; Alberto Calisse, Consul in Nice; Guido Lospinoso, Interior Ministry Official and 'Inspector General of Racial Policy,' Nice; Vittoriano Manfredi, Consul in Grenoble; Augusto Spechel, Consul General in Nice; and Consul Vittorio Zoppi.  In Paris, Consul General Gustavo Orlandini; and Vice Consuls Luciolli and Pasquinelli.

1942-1943 - Greece
After the German occupation of Greece, the Italians are given the occupation zone around Athens.  The Nazis begin rounding up the Jews of Salonica for deportation to Auschwitz.  The Italian consulates in Salonica refuse to participate in the deportation of Jews.  Italian consular officials issue hundreds of Italian naturalization papers to Greek Jews.  This action protects many Jews from deportation.

Pellegrino Ghigi, Italian Minister Plenipotentiary in Athens, with the help of General Carlo Geloso, Italian Commander of the 11th Army in Greece, protects Jews in the Italian zone and rescues as many as possible from the German occupied areas such as Salonica.

Guelfo Zamboni, Italian Councillor in Salonica, Greece, on his own authority and without permission from the Italian Foreign Ministry, provides hundreds of Greek Jews Italian birth certificates and certificates of citizenship, which protect Greek Jews from deportation to Auschwitz.  He is challenged by the German authorities, but convinces them he has authority from the Italian Foreign Ministry.

Giuseppe Costrucci, Italian Consul in Salonica, Greece, plays a key role in saving 350 Salonica Jews by placing them on an Italian military train that takes them out of Salonica into the Italian neutral zone.  He does this on his own authority.

Italian soldiers are sent to German detention camps in Salonica on missions to save Jewish women.  They falsely claim they are their wives.  The Germans release the women to their "husbands." 

Italian military trains carry protected Jews from the German occupied zone to Athens, where they remain temporarily under the protection of the Italian army.  As long as the Italian army remains as an occupying force, these Jews are fed, housed and remain under Italian protection.  After the Italian surrender and withdrawal, many of the Jews are deported and murdered.

July 9-10, 1943
Allied forces invade Sicily.

July 1943
Gastone Guidotti, Secretary of the Italian legation in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, issues unauthorized visas to Jews.

July 25, 1943
The Italian Foreign Ministry reiterates to the Italian army not to release Jews from its zone for deportation.  In addition, the Foreign Ministry tries to arrange for transport of Jewish refugees to Italy.

Benito Mussolini and the fascist regime are overthrown; Pietro Badoglio sets up a new government in Italy.

September 3, 1943
The Allies invade southern Italy.
Armistice signed.

September 5, 1943
Unconditional surrender by Italy to the Allies.

September 8, 1943
US General Eisenhower announces armistice in Italy.

Italy is cut in two.  The south is held by the Allies.  The central and north of Italy is occupied by the Nazi forces.

Most Jewish communities are concentrated around Rome and in the northern areas and are subject to Nazi deportation.

Italian army in Yugoslavia lays down its arms.

German forces occupy Athens and most of Greece.  The Italian army withdraws from Athens.  As a result, the Italian army and diplomats can no longer protect Greek Jews. 

Italian forces surrender to the Germans in Rhodes.

Germans begin brutal roundups of Greek Jews.

Most of the 3,000 Jews on the Island of Arbe go into hiding.  Most survive the war.

Despite the deportations in Athens, 5,000 Jews survive in hiding.  The local Greek Orthodox archbishop Damaskinos urged his fellow Greeks to protect the Jews in Athens.

September-November 1943
First phase of deportation of Jews in Italy. Most Jews are initially put in Italian jails and specially set up concentration camps in northern Italy.  They are then transported to Auschwitz.  Nearly half of the Italian Jews who are deported during World War II leave during this period.

September 16, 1943
Roundup and deportation of the Jews in Merano, Italy.

September 22, 1943
Roundup and deportation of Jews in the Lake Maggiore area.

September 28, 1943
The Jews of Rome pay a tax of 50 kilograms of gold to the Gestapo.

October 9, 1943
Roundup and deportation of the Jews of Trieste, Italy.

October 16, 1943
One thousand Roman Jews are rounded up and deported to Auschwitz.  Most are murdered on their arrival on October 22-23.

November 3, 1943
Roundup and deportation of Jews of Genoa.

November 6, 1943
Roundup and deportation of Jews of Florence.

November 8, 1943
Roundup and deportation of Jews of Milan.

November 9, 1943
Roundup and deportation of Jews of Venic.

November 14, 1943
Roundup and deportation of Jews of Ferrara.

November 1943-April 1945
During this phase, additional roundups of Jews in Italy by the Nazis took place.  By war's end, 3,110 Jews were deported to Auschwitz.  4,056 were deported to other concentration camps.  In all, approximately 7,750 Jews were deported and murdered from Italy.

Late 1943-May 1945
Most Italian Jews go into hiding and into the underground.  Most get sanctuary from their neighbors and the general population.  Many are hidden in houses, farms and in the rural countryside.  Despite the extreme danger of hiding Jews from the Nazis, the greater part of the Italian people, for humanitarian reasons alone, risked their lives to save Jews. 

Many Jews were saved by Catholic religious institutions. 

Approximately 2,000 Jews served in the Italian partisan forces.  More than 100 were killed in partisan actions.

By the end of the war, more than more than 35,000 Jews, 85% of the Italian Jewish population, was saved from the Nazi murderers.  This was a completely spontaneous, altruistic rescue effort.

October 18, 1943
Italy declares war on Germany.

October 16, 1943
In Rome, mass arrests of Jews are launched.

More than 5,000 Roman Jews are hidden in the Vatican complex.  This is with the tacit approval of Pope Pius XII (Monsignor Eugenio Pacelli).  Further, Pius permits Catholic clergy to assist Jews in various religious sanctuaries.

October 18, 1943
In Rome, 1,035 Jews are deported to Auschwitz.

November 30, 1943
SS officer Theodor Dannecker is put in charge of the roundup and deportation of Italian Jews.

The Nazis order all Italian Jews concentrated in camps.

Archbishop Roncalli, who later became Pope John XXIII, intercedes on behalf of Bulgarian Jews with King Boris of Bulgaria.  He also helped Jews escape to Turkey.

June 4, 1944
The American Fifth Army captures Rome.

June 6, 1944
D-Day: Allied invasion at Normandy.

October 1944
Perlasca becomes Spanish citizen; volunteers with Minister Sans-Briz in mission to protect Jews in Budapest; by November, 3,000 Jews received Spanish protection in eight safe houses.

December 1944
Spanish Minister Sans-Briz leaves Budapest; Giorgio Perlasca, former Italian citizen, appoints himself Spanish “Ambassador” and continues to issue Spanish protective passes to Jews.

December 1, 1944-January 16, 1945
“Ambassador” Perlasca, acting head of the Spanish Mission in Budapest, saves between 3,000 and 5,000 Jews.

January 27, 1945
Soviet troops enter Auschwitz concentration camp.

April 1945
US and British troops liberate the concentration camps at Buchenwald, Dachau, Nordhausen, Bergen-Belsen and other camps.

April 28, 1945
Italian partisans shoot Mussolini as he tries to escape to Switzerland.

April 30, 1945
Hitler commits suicide.

May 2, 1945
German forces in Italy surrender to the Allies.

May 7, 1945
The Germans surrender to the Allies.

May 8, 1945
V-E Day: end of the Third Reich; World War II ends.

August 15, 1945
V-J Day: Victory over Japan proclaimed.

September 2, 1945
Japan surrenders; end of World War II.

The State of Israel is established.

Yad Vashem Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Memorial Museum is created by act of the Israeli Knesset (parliament).

October 28, 1958
Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the Papal nuncio in Ankara, Turkey, during World War II, becomes Pope John XXIII.

September 3, 2000
Pope John Paul II beatifies (declares “blessed”) Pope John XXIII.  This is the last step before sainthood or canonization.  This raises an individual who is so honored as a public model of heroic sanctity.  Pope John XXIII was formerly Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the Papal Nuncio in Turkey who saved 24,000 Jews.  The Visas for Life Project supports the beatification.

The remains of Pope John Paul XXIII are moved to the main floor of St. Peter’s Basilica to accommodate the many pilgrims who flock to his sarcophagus.  This Pope has been called the most beloved Pope of all time.

Pope John XXIII, written by Thomas Cahill, is published.  Extensive references about his rescue of Eastern European Jews are presented in the book.

Verolino is awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

April 27, 2014
Pope John XIII and Pope John Paul II are canonized as saints by the Catholic Church.

7,680 individuals are recognized by Yad Vashem and the State of Israel for rescuing Jews in the Holocaust.



Updated October 15, 2017


[1] Bauer & Rozett, in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Estimated Losses in the Holocaust,” pp. 1799, 1801; Benz, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Death Toll,” p. 145; Carpi, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Italy,” pp. 333-339; Hilberg, 1985, p. 1221; Michaelis in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Italy” pp. 725-726; Michaelis, 1978, Zuccotti, 1987

[2] Poliakov and Sabille, 1955

[3] Poliakov and Sabille, 1955

[4] Bender & Weiss, 2007, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous among the Nations: Europe (Part I) and Other Countries, s.v., “Italy,” 345-414; Rivlin, in Bender & Weiss, 2007, The Encyclopedia of the Righteous among the Nations: Europe (Part I) and Other Countries, s.v., “Italy: Historical Introduction,” pp. lxxvii-lxxxix.

[5] Alfieri, 1948; Caracciolo, 1986; Carpi, 1990; Carpi, 1994; Carpi, 1981; Carpi, 1977; Carpi, in Laqueur, 2001, The Holocaust Encyclopedia, s.v. “Italy,” pp. 333-339; Herzer, 1989; Hilberg, 1985, p. 1221; Michaelis in Gutman, 1990, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, s.v. “Italy” pp. 725-726; Michaelis, 1978; Poliakov & Sabille, 1955; Steinberg, 1990; Verax, 1944; Zuccotti, 1987.