2008–09 Pearl Resnick Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Alessandro Visani
Alessandro Visani received his Ph.D. in the history of contemporary Italy and his B.A. in modern and contemporary history from the University of Rome in Italy. During his tenure at the Museum, he was Lecturer in the Department of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Rome. For his Pearl Resnick Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr. Visani conducted research on, “The Jewish Enemy: Fascism, the Vatican, and Anti-Semitism (1922-1945).”
Dr. Visani is co-author with Anna Maria Isastia of The Lay Idea between Church and Freemasonry (Atanor, 2008) and the author of Towards War: Italians in the Months of Non-Belligerence (Edizioni Nuova Cultura, 2007) and The Conquest of Political Majority: Mussolini, the PNF, and the Elections of 1924 (Fratelli Frilli Editori, 2004). At the time of his fellowship he was working on his third book dedicated to racial politics under the fascist regime, parts of which have already been published in scholarly journals. Dr. Visani has also written several articles in scholarly journals, including “Italian Reactions to the Racial Laws of 1938 as Seen Through the Classified Files of the Ministry of Popular Culture” in Journal of Modern Italian Studies (2006); “The Non-Compliance of Interned Soldiers in Germany” in Rassegna della ANRP (2005); and “The Condition of Italian Servicemen in German Hands after the 8 September 1943” in Ressegna della ANRP (2004). He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the German Historical Institute of Rome Research and Conference Grant for his project entitled, “The Italians and the 1938 Racial Laws,” and the Library of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Rome Research Grant for research in his field. He has served as Research Project Coordinator for the Foundation for Veterans and Prisoners of War.
During his tenure at the Center, Dr. Visani researched antisemitism in Italy focusing on the influence of Catholic cultural tradition on the racist turn of the 1930s, which resulted in the Racial Laws of 1938. He measured the extent to which Italy’s deeply-rooted practice of Catholicism made it possible for Italians to accept antisemitic legislation and deplorable acts such as the roundup of Jews. Dr. Visani showed that Catholicism was the primary reason why the majority of Italians reacted to the passage of the Racial Laws of 1938 with indifference and sometimes blatant approval. Dr. Visani used the Museum’s many collections, including the Carmelo Catania collection, the papers of M. Peter Victor and Henry Alter, the work of Harry Burger, and memoirs and oral histories to complete his research.