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Cultural History, Migration

Intellectuals Displaced From Fascist Italy

A Digital Humanities Project

April 25, 2024
6:30 pm

Intellectuals Displaced From Fascist Italy

A Digital Humanities Project

A presentation of

Directed by
Patrizia Guarnieri, Università di Firenze

in conversation with
Francesca Parmeggiani, Fordham University
Stanislao Pugliese, Hofstra University

Introduction by Stefano Albertini, NYU


Italy is often considered to have been a land of poor, uneducated emigrants. However, during the fascist period, especially after the anti-Jewish legislation in 1938, many men and women, who left Italy alone or with their families, were academics, scientists, students, scholars, writers, professionals, and artists.

“What shall I do with these Italians?” asked the secretary of the main organization in aid of foreign displaced scholars, which had been established in New York City for German intellectuals. No single word can describe the complex galaxy of Italian and European-born intellectuals who, in the 1930s, migrated to the United States, Latin America, Great Britain, and Mandatory Palestine. Laura Fermi called them “Illustrious immigrants”: some were famous, many were not, but they all searched for a future, freedom and a qualified job that they had lost in Italy, while some of them, like Gaetano Salvemini, also wanted to continue abroad their fight against fascism.

Intellectuals Displaced from Fascist Italy is a work in progress. To date, it lists about 400 names and 900 family members, and includes 2000 photos, maps, family trees, and more. At its center are the forgotten or misrepresented life stories, which are based on archival documentation from different countries and the memoirs of the descendants. These stories are often compelling, and an antidote against indifference, oversimplification, and inevitability.

Patrizia Guarnieri, full professor of modern history at the University of Florence, is the director of Intellectuals Displaced from Fascist Italy. She has been a Fulbright V.S. at Harvard, a lecturer in the Overseas Program of Stanford University, Jean Monet Fellow at the European University Institute, and, most recently, Visiting Scholar at the John Calandra Italian American Institute. Her Italian Psychology and Jewish Emigration under Fascism (Palgrave) received an award at the Edinburgh Gadda Prize.

If you have stories, names, or photographs you would like to have included in the Project, please contact