A descendant of Italy’s wartime King Victor Emmanuel III has apologized to the country’s Jewish community for his ancestor’s role in dictator Mussolini’s racial laws and the Holocaust.
“I condemn the 1938 racial laws, all of whose weight I still feel on my shoulders to this day, and with me the whole royal house,” 48-year-old Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy said of his great-grandfather.
Victor Emmanuel III had put his signature to an “unacceptable document,” he added in a letter posted to Facebook, “officially apologizing” in the name of his family.
Almost 8,000 Italian Jews were deported from the country and murdered in Nazi extermination camps, most of them in Auschwitz.
Giving a TV interview alongside the letter, Emanuele Filiberto also vaunted his family’s positive role in Italian unification and granting of equal rights to Jews from 1848.
Several Italian royals were themselves deported to Nazi concentration camps, he recalled.
After the war, Victor Emmanuel III abdicated in May 1946 and died the following year in Egypt.
His son Humbert II reigned for only a month before leaving for Switzerland, when Italians opted for a republican constitution in a referendum.
Parliament only ended a constitutional ban on the House of Savoy’s male heirs returning to Italy in 2002, after Emanuele Filiberto and his father Vittorio Emanuele swore loyalty to the republic.
The two men gave up on compensation claims of 260 million euros ($316 million) for their family’s exile and the return of the royal family’s confiscated property, after a public outcry.
The country’s EJC affiliate, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI), reacted in a statement :
“The crimes of fascism and the signatures of Vittorio Emanuele III represented an abomination, a tragic vulnus in the history of Italy and will remain a warning for generations. The Republican Constitution clearly reminds us of this: its very existence is the most eloquent cassation sentence of that period, of the regime and its protagonists.
Today, 82 years after, the descendant, great-grandson Emanuele Filiberto, affirms a feeling of repudiation and condemnation of what happened. A very long time.
In any case, it is an initiative that is to be considered exclusively personal, each responding for their actions and with their own conscience.
Neither the Union of Italian Jewish Communities nor any Jewish community can in any case grant forgiveness in the name and on behalf of all Jews who were discriminated against, reported, deported and exterminated. In Judaism, even G.od cannot be asked for forgiveness if those who perceive the shame and guilt have not first apologized to the offended person.
The moral condemnation of the regime and its acts – which Emanuele Filiberto expresses verbally for the first time today – has been for thousands of Jews, fighting partisans and staunch anti-fascists, a flag and a guide for the fight for survival, for which many of they sacrificed their lives for the homeland.
It is in remembrance of all of them, of the six million Jews exterminated in the concentration camps, of the Italian military internees, of the political persecuted, Roma and Sinti, disabled and homosexuals that any form of nostalgia for that regime must be severely confronted and contained. It is towards the young people of our country, of Europe that brings us together around the fundamental values of man, that the condemnation – not the request for forgiveness to rehabilitate the family – must be addressed, so that they say the most convinced ‘never again’.
We take note of the words of consternation and repentance expressed in the media in the last few hours, in view of January 27th and we will see, in the coming months, years, what concrete, daily actions can follow consistently and be an example to others”.