Italian government demands repayment of pension from deceased Italian-Libyan

Money was awarded as compensation for persecution under Mussolini


The Italian authorities have demanded that the husband of Messauda Fadlun, an Italian-Libyan Jew who died two years ago, return the pension the state had awarded her after having been racially persecuted by the fascist regime during World War II in Libya.

Many Italian-Libyan Jews who had been awarded compensation were later told to return it. In Mrs Fadlun’s case, however, even her death did not stop the pursuit and her 98-year-old husband, Alberto Finzi, was asked to return the money – 76,000 euros.

Mrs Fadlun’s son is Ariel Finzi, the rabbi of Naples, and he has been leading the fight on behalf of other Italian-Libyan Jews.

The government’s claim is that Mrs Fadlun’s Italian-Libyan citizenship (she was born and brought up in Libya, at the time an Italian colony) was “inferior” to proper Italian citizenship.

Her lawyer had argued that fascist Italy’s Racial Laws did not differentiate between Italian and Italian-Libyan Jews so the distinction did not make sense. But the court ruled against her.

Libyan Jews were noted for their strong sense of ‘Italianness’ and even if they had never set foot in the ‘mother country’ felt a strong connection with Italy, which was seen as having brought development and culture to Libya. Tripoli (home to 25% of all Libyan Jews as late as 1941) even looked like an Italian seaside town with its promenade, public gardens and fountains.

The 1938 Italian Racial Laws, which restricted the civil rights of Jews, excluding them from public office and higher education, were felt as a terrible betrayal by the 30,000-strong Jewish community in Libya.

In 1955 Italy passed legislation to provide pensions for Italian citizens persecuted during the fascist regime. A 1980 law also granted pensions to those who survived concentration camps. A commission reviews all cases before approving or rejecting them. But, even when a case is approved and compensation awarded, the state can – and will – try to claw the money back.



Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive