Anthroposophists and Antisemitism in Fascist Italy

By Peter Staudenmaier

Posted to the waldorf-critics list June 8, 2008

Here’s a quick overview of my recent research. I spent last week in the state archive in Trieste, Italy to work through the surviving documents from an important antisemitic institute during the Fascist period, the “Center for the Study of the Jewish Problem” based in Trieste from 1942 to 1943, which was renamed “The Center for Race” from 1943 to 1945, when Fascism was finally defeated. The founding director of the Trieste Center was Ettore Martinoli (1895-1958). In 1944 Martinoli became the head of the national bureau for press and propaganda in Fascist Italy’s General Inspectorate for Race, a position he held up to the bitter end.

Martinoli was also one of the most prominent Italian Anthroposophists during the Fascist period, indeed during the twentieth century. He was co-founder of the Anthroposophical Society in Italy, which was founded in Trieste in 1931, and he served as its Secretary for many years. At the same time he was also a committed Fascist, from the very beginnings of Mussolini’s movement (he joined the Fascist party already in 1919), and played a leading role in the persecution of Italian Jews under the Fascist regime, particularly in his hometown of Trieste, which was the site of Italy’s third largest Jewish community.

Martinoli’s participation in the Fascist antisemitic campaign has been thoroughly discussed in the standard historical literature on the topic, in Italian as well as German. For interested readers: Silva Bon’s 1972 study La persecuzione antiebraica a Trieste (1938-1945) — the title means The Antisemitic Persecution in Trieste, 1938-1945 — contains an entire chapter on Martinoli’s Center for the Study of the Jewish Problem. Bon’s later work Gli ebrei a Trieste 1930-1945 (The Jews of Trieste 1930-1945, published in 2000) covers much of the same material, with lots of information on Martinoli. Michael Wedekind’s thorough study Nationalsozialistische Besatzungs- und Annexionspolitik in Norditalien 1943 bis 1945 (Munich 2003; the title means Nazi Occupation and Annexation Policies in Northern Italy 1943 to 1945) also discusses Martinoli’s role in the “persecution, deportation and annihilation of racial and political enemies” (pp. 358-361). Further references can be found in Rosella Ropa, L’antisemitismo nella Repubblica Sociale Italiano (Bologna 2000) and in Liliana Picciotto, Il libro della
memoria: Gli ebrei deportati dall’Italia 1943-1945 (Milan 1991). This is by no means a comprehensive list.

Martinoli founded the Trieste Center for the Study of the Jewish Problem in June 1942, and it quickly became a crucial organizational focus of the most hardcore antisemites within the Fascist movement, and especially of those who like Martinoli himself were particularly close to the Nazis. Thanks in part to Martinoli’s agitation, already in 1942 (more than a year before the occupation by Nazi forces) there were violent antisemitic outbursts in Trieste.

In addition to producing antisemitic propaganda, Martinoli’s Center carried
out a census of Trieste’s Jewish population, compiling names and addresses
which the Center later handed over to the Nazi military forces in late 1943
for use in the rounding up and deportation of the city’s Jews. This service
earned Martinoli the praise of his colleagues in the SS, who particularly
commended his role in the “struggle against Jewry and Freemasonry”. In 1944
the various Fascist racial bureaucracies were combined into a new office,
the Inspector General for Race, and Martinoli was named head of the
propaganda division. In this capacity he co-authored the Inspectorate’s
handbook on race, which was dedicated to ferreting out “the clandestine
emissaries of Judeo-Masonry.”

In 1943, meanwhile, Martinoli also published a paean to Rudolf Steiner as a devoted antisemite and spiritual forebear of Fascism and Nazism, and he published a lot of other antisemitic material during the same period as well. Here are some quick excerpts:

In 1942 Martinoli warned against “international Jewry” in the pages of the Trieste journal La Porta Orientale, a crucial outlet for radical antisemites and a gathering point for hardline racist and pro-Nazi elements within Fascist ranks. According to Silva Bon, the journal tended to support “the German model for solving the Jewish question” (Bon, La persecuzione antiebraica a Trieste, p. 148). One of Martinoli’s articles in this journal was Ettore Martinoli, “L’importanza di Trieste per l’ebraismo internazionale” (The importance of Trieste for international Jewry), La Porta Orientale, December 1942, pp. 106-110. Martinoli begins by
describing in detail what he calls “the global Jewish conspiracy”:

“Jewry does not carry out its Judaic conquests solely because of its innate
love of money or its greed for profit and its subtle Hebraic commercial
cunning, but really in order to fulfill its conscious age-old plan for
global conquest and domination. Every Jew has in his blood the conviction,
cultivated for millennia, that the Jewish people is entitled to and will one
day be given dominion over the whole world and all of mankind.” (p. 106)

He continues:

“The conscience of our Aryan world, our European world, must truly rouse
itself in the face of these facts and not remain in its state of slumber
regarding the Jewish problem, a slumber that allows Jewry to achieve its
goals.” (p. 107) Martinoli goes on to praise Mussolini as “the true
historical adversary, conscious and deliberate, of the international Jewish
conspiracy.” (p. 109)

A few months later Martinoli fleshed out this argument in the journal La Vita Italiana, another crucial antisemitic and radical fascist outlet which published many of his fellow anthroposophist Massimo Scaligero’s racist and antisemitic essays. Martinoli’s article, written and published in the midst of World War II, carries the title “Gli impulsi storici della nuova Europa e l’azione dell’ebraismo internazionale” (The historical impulses of the new Europe and the actions of international Jewry), La Vita Italiana, April 1943, pp. 355-364. In this article Martinoli rants against “the Jewish plutocratic oligarchy” (359), five years after the passage of the racial laws in Italy, and blames “the liberal democratic regimes”, the enemies of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, for giving shelter to the insidious Jewish threat: “under the guise of democratic liberty the most despotic domination imaginable is developing, the domination of plutocracy and of Jewry.” (p. 358) In a section on “Judaism and Freemasonry” Martinoli invokes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and ridicules egalitarianism as a tool of the Jewish-Masonic conspiracy; social equality is turning “the civilization of our race” into “a servant of Israel.” (p. 360) But all is not lost:

“If it had not been for the providential arrival of those towering and, one
may say, superhuman personalities, the Duce and the Fuhrer, who succeeded in
saving from the abyss the two great peoples of Aryan civilization, the
Jewish plan would surely have been achieved.” (p. 360)

According to Martinoli, “it is perfectly true that Jewry and Masonry are
behind all of the liberal, democratic, egalitarian, and leveling movements,
behind everything that is subverting the traditional European world and
dragging both Europe and America into the present chaos.” (p. 361)

The article concludes with a discussion of the “struggle between Fascism and Jewry for the new Europe”; Martinoli says that Fascism holds the key to
“purification from Jewish servitude” (p. 362). But the strongest defense against Jewish corruption is “a new historical impulse,” namely “racism, which
opposes itself to Judaism.” He continues:

“Racism has by now placed itself clearly in the center of the political,
cultural, and ethical development of our century. With the achievement of
Aryan racial consciousness, to an extent not seen before now, racism is
establishing a barrier against Jewish oppression, a barrier that is even
more spiritual than political. Racism is also beginning to shape a
continental European conscience, the only possible basis for an orderly and
harmonious coming together of the peoples of Europe towards a unified
civilization.” (p. 363)

Then in June 1943, just before the fall of Mussolini’s first regime, Martinoli published another long article in La Vita Italiana, this one praising Rudolf Steiner: Ettore Martinoli, “Un preannunziatore della nuova Europa: Rudolf Steiner” (A Herald of the New Europe: Rudolf Steiner), La Vita Italiana, June 1943, pp. 555-566.

This article includes very lengthy quotes from Steiner, in the pages of the
major mouthpiece for radical racism and antisemitism within the Italian
Fascist movement, presenting anthroposophy as the way of the future and the
continuation of Fascism in spiritual form. Martinoli also quotes his fellow
anthroposophist Massimo Scaligero, and gives particular emphasis to
Steiner’s rejection of democracy. This is followed by a section on Steiner’s
“critique of British policy, of Judaism, and of Masonic-plutocratic
influence”, where Martinoli reports that Steiner “became well-known as an
antisemite” during his Vienna period, because of his 1880s articles on “the
Jewish question”, and continues: “In numerous lectures in the years 1917 and
1918 he also directly confronted the influence of Jewish intellectualism
within European civilization” (p. 562).

(Some of the lectures Martinoli refers to here are, by the way, available in English in Rudolf Steiner, The Challenge of the Times, published by the Anthroposophic Press in 1941; the antisemitic elements are even more pronounced in the German original: Rudolf Steiner, Die soziale Grundforderung unserer Zeit, Dornach 2000, originally published in 1921.)

Martinoli goes on to celebrate Steiner’s dedicated German nationalism (p. 565), and he even enlists Julius Evola, the major promoter of “spiritual racism” in Fascist Italy, as a supporter of Steiner, noting that Evola chose Rudolf Steiner as a primary example of the Aryan racial type in his 1941 book Synthesis of the Doctrine of Race (p. 556). (This is indeed the case; see pp. 275-276 of Evola, Sintesi di dottrina della razza.) Martinoli’s article concludes with the following paragraph:

“Rudolf Steiner was a true ideal precursor of the new Europe of Mussolini
and of Hitler. The aim of this essay has been to reclaim the spirit and the
character of this great modern German mystic for the movement — a movement
that is not only political but spiritual — introduced into the world by the
two parallel revolutions, the Fascist revolution and the National Socialist
revolution, to which Steiner ideally belongs as a true predecessor and
spiritual pioneer.” (p. 566)

In 1940 Martinoli published a booklet under the title Funzione della mistica
nella rivoluzione fascista (The Function of Mysticism in the Fascist
Revolution, Trieste 1940). Martinoli begins the book by declaring in its
very first sentence: “The mysticism of Fascism was born when the Duce, in
the immediate aftermath of the war, took into his hands the rebirth of Italy
and with it the fate of the new history of Europe.” (p. 7) Martinoli quotes
Mussolini copiously throughout the book. The introductory chapter discusses
“Fascism as a spiritual fact”, explaining that “Fascism is a counterattack
of the spirit against the materialism of the nineteenth century.” (p. 13)

Martinoli continues: “the Fascist revolution not only brought a new
political-social order into the world, it also ushered in the beginning of a
new civilization, one which the white race, having exhausted its previous
historical cycle, necessarily had to take to heart if it did not want to
die.” (p. 14) Martinoli invokes the white race (“la razza bianca”) at
several other points in the book as well, e.g. pp. 18, 32. He also decries
“Jewish-Masonic demo-plutocracy” (p. 19). Characterizing fascism as a truly
spiritual movement, Martinoli proclaims: “The impulse of renewal at work
within Fascism demonstrates that the white race still has for the future the
task of guiding human civilization toward its further goals.” (p. 32)

Italian anthroposophists continue to honor Martinoli today as one of their chief forebears.

I think it would be good if someday some anthroposophist could explain the ongoing presence of figures like Martinoli, Scaligero, Enzo Erra and others within the anthroposophical movement, and perhaps indicate what anthroposophists think this tells us about the legacy of Steiner’s racial teachings.