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Jewish Post

Should Italy Pay Compensation
(Shilumim) to Israel?

By Gad Nahshon

Germany first refused to pay compensation (the Hebrew term used in Israel is Shilumim) to Israel in the post-World War II period. Later, Germany gave in and paid Shilumim to Israel because of the Holocaust. The shilumin in the 1950's, contributed to the building of Israel, a weak poor country. There were many countries that helped the Nazis to murder and gas Jews which never paid any Shilumim.

Italy was one of them. Since 1922, there was one ruler-dictator in Italy: Benito Mussolini, a fascist. Until he became a slave of Hitler, he did not kill Jews. Some even served in the army and the police. Once he told the famous Zionist leader, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, that he supported Zionism and the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. But later, he joined Nazi Germany and participated in the war. He did not care for the Italian Jews. They were sent to the Nazi camps or gas chambers. This, for example, was the fate of Rome's Jews.

There is one more aspect of the Italian killing of Jews this time in Palestine. In the period of the second world war (September 1939-May 1945) 650,000 Jews lived in Palestine. They were controlled by the British mandate from about 1918 to May 1948. Suddenly, in July, 1940, Italian air force planes attacked Haifa and killed 20 Jews and injured others.

They also attacked small cities near Haifa such as Kiryat Mutskin. Jews were shocked, they were afraid of the Nazi army's advance to the Middle East from North Africa under the command of the famous general Erwin Rommel, who later was murdered by Hitler.

The shock of the Jews did not die. In September 1940, Italian planes attacked Tel-Aviv and killed 112 Jews and injured many others. Italian attacks in the Middle East never stopped but their results were small and meaningless. Jews were surprised by these attacks and leaders such as Ben-Gurion, confessed to their ignorance. But these attacks were discussed by other Jews in the west and in the USA.

The famous Jewish American leader, Abba Hillel Silver, asked the Red Cross for help for the victims in Palestine. The leader over there, Eliezer Kaplan, tried to get help from the Red Cross in Geneva. In America, the anti-Zionist pro-Arab State Department refused to help. The President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a low key anti-Semite (who ignored the Holocaust) refused to provide help. America joined the war only after Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. The Italian attacks were discussed by Fr. Mordechay Naor and Dr. Shapiro.

But most of the Israelis do not know about these attacks because the focus of the Holocaust is on Nazi Germany and not on its allies in Europe who helped the Nazis Holocaust. Italy, which considered itself as a victim of the Nazi occupation of Italy, and to Mussolini and his forces, always likened itself to Hitler’s occupied countries and prisoners.

Italy never expressed its regrets or its confession about the Italian Holocaust. Italy never declared its humanitarian wish and duty to pay Shilumim to Israel. Such an act would also be a symbolic gesture to Israel and to the Jewish nation!

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