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Italy's declaration of war on Britain in June 1940 had devastating consequences for Italian immigrant families living in Scotland signalling their traumatic construction as the 'enemy other'. This book takes a case study of a long-established immigrant group and explores how notions of belonging and citizenship are undermined at a time of war. The experiences of the Italian population in Britain during World War Two illuminate the complex and diverse ways in which ethnicity interacts with a sense of belonging to a nation at a time of conflict. There is a tendency within leading British Italian texts to portray the Italians as somehow immune from the difficulties faced by other ethnic minority groups. This book looks at the role of the Fasci all'estero, clubs set up by Benito Mussolini's regime in order to 'fascistise' Italian diasporic communities in the inter-war period. It shows how the wartime configuration of Italians as the 'enemy within' served to dramatically reinforce a sense of 'otherness' and not 'belonging' already prevalent amongst the children of Italian immigrants. The book also offers a critical overview of current representations of Italian internment in Britain, in particular the ways in which the rhetorical device of 'Collar the lot!' is utilised to give the misleading impression that 'all' Italians were interned. The impact of the government's policy of relocating Italian women from coastal regions, the narratives of the Pioneer Corps, and the Italians' declarations of alienage are also discussed.
This chapter tracks the War Office's response to the recruitment of men of 'enemy' origin. It also tracks the ways in which its policy of exemption from liability for overseas service for those who had 'family connections with the enemy' shifted and evolved throughout the course of the war. The accommodation of difference within a military setting encouraged the formulation of a distinctive dual identity that rested on identification with both Britain and Italy, a dimension to military service which has been completely overlooked in the existing historiography. The chapter recovers the memories of the 'consenters', second-generation Italians who served overseas with the British Army. Whilst the stereotype of the cowardly and incompetent Italian soldier was certainly prevalent in the wartime period, it was an image largely shunned in the self-representations of Italian Scottish veterans six decades on.
The commemoration of the Arandora Star victims appears to have merged over time with Prisoner of War (POW) memorials to become a symbol of what it meant to 'be Italian' in Britain during the war. The exclusion of British Army veterans from Italian memorial activity has a historical precedent. At the time of the tragedy, the wider climate of hostility towards Italians meant there was little space for public mourning for the bereaved families of the Arandora Star victims. In 1990, the prestigious civic title of Cavalieri was awarded to twenty-one Arandora Star survivors still living in Britain by the Italian government following an intensive campaign by agencies, including the community newspaper Italiani in Scozia. At the launch of the Arandora Star memorial appeal in Glasgow there were indications that the rhetoric of the apology campaigners was being contested within the community itself.
This chapter explores 'resistance' to call-up, by examining declarations of alienage and conscientious objection amongst dual national Italians, and also addresses the experiences of the 'negotiators'. It focuses on those who served in 270 Company of the Pioneer Corps, an army unit which was partly established to accommodate second-generation Italians who were unwilling to fight Italian troops. Amongst the narratives of internees, the Pioneer Corps has been consistently represented in a negative light, with the overall emphasis resting on the image of the pioneers as 'scavengers' who dug latrines. A small number of second-generation Italians decided to 'resist' military service either by making use of the mechanism of declarations of alienage or by serving prison sentences. During the First World War, when Britain and Italy fought as Allies, Italian citizens had the option of returning to Italy to fight in the Italian Army or serving in a British regiment.
This chapter presents the narratives of two groups of second-generation Italian women: those who bore the brunt of racial hostility on the 'home front' and the slightly older age cohort who were called up into the auxiliary services or war work. It analyses narratives of resistance. It was common within Italian immigrant families in Scotland for children to help out in the family business from a very early age, by helping to prepare food or to serve customers. The two main groups marginalised within communal discourse about World War Two are Italian Scots who served in the British forces and women. The interviews undertaken with second-generation Italian women indicate the importance of oral testimony in illuminating how service in the British forces during the war could quite dramatically reinforce a sense of difference.
This chapter considers the comparative experiences of ethnic groups treated as 'enemies' during World War Two in Britain and other English-speaking countries, and the different ways in which these groups were racialised. It looks at the internment of Italian civilians in North America, Australia and Britain. The decision to start interning Italian nationals in World War Two was part of a wider global tradition of alien internment. The chapter presents a critical overview of current representations of Italian internment in Britain, in particular the ways in which the rhetorical device of 'Collar the lot!' is utilised to give the misleading impression that 'all' Italians were interned. Within historiography there is a complete silence over women's involvement in Fasci femminili and the related detention of first- and second-generation Italian women. Gaetano Rossi's memoir exposes the motivations of the core of British-born Italians who remained in internment until 1945.
This chapter addresses the traumatic events of June 1940; the police arrests, the anti-Italian riots and enforced relocation, which served to dramatically reinforce the outsider status of Italian families in Scodand. The key to understanding the riots and how they are remembered within narratives is Portelli's work stressing how oral testimony 'offers less a grid of standard experiences than a horizon of shared possibilities, real or imagined'. Most enduring aspects of communal myth is that the riots were carried out by a faceless 'hooligan' mob. The chapter explores the impact of the government's policy of relocating Italian women from coastal regions. It highlights the isolation and problems Italian Scottish children felt in their new surroundings, including the effects of disrupted education and exposure to racial and religious hostility. Before the outbreak of war between Italy and Britain, Italian nationals, as aliens, were faced with a range of restrictions and regulations.
Using the Edinburgh Fascio as a case study, this chapter explores the 'fascistisation' of Italian communities in inter-war Britain. In 1927, Mussolini brought the Fasci firmly under the control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the creation of the Direzione Generate degli Italiani all'Estero (DGIE; General Bureau of Italians Abroad) with Piero Parini as its head. It is generally agreed that the Ethiopian invasion in October 1935 led to a great deal of popularity for Mussolini's regime. Scholarship has attempted to qualify the powerful concept of 'italiani, brava gente' and raise questions of responsibility, culpability and complicity in relation to Italy's Fascist past. British Italian historiography has appeared keen to assert that the Fasci were social clubs which simply attracted members who were patriotic about their fatherland. The Balilla sought to provide 'moral and physical education for the young according to the principles and ideals sponsored by Fascism'.
Academic and popular representations have coalesced to present a celebratory and romanticised overview of Italians in Scotland which serves to obscure historical incidences of racism and hostility. This chapter offers a brief overview of the migration patterns of the Italian diaspora. It explores the ways in which Italians and other immigrant groups in Scotland were racialised from the earliest days of settlement. The chapter also explores how long-enduring perceptions of racial difference shaped reactions to Italians at the outbreak of the Second World War. It provides an analysis of childhood narratives of 'difference', based on ethnicity, religion, language and appearance. The chapter shows how the wartime configuration of Italians as the 'enemy within' served to dramatically reinforce a sense of 'otherness' and not 'belonging' already prevalent amongst the children of Italian immigrants.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book illustrates the extent to which the alienation of the war years, a period of intense Italophobia, built upon a pre-existent sense of not 'belonging' amongst second-generation Italians. It looks at the role of the Fasci all'estero, clubs set up by Mussolini's regime in order to 'fascistise' Italian diasporic communities in the inter-war period. The book also looks at the internment of civilian populations during World War Two, providing a comparative account of Italian internment in Englishspeaking countries and analysing the ways in which different countries racialised 'enemy' ethnic groups. It focuses on narratives of resistance and negotiation amongst second-generation Italian men by looking at declarations of alienage, conscientious objection and service in 270 (Italian) Company of the Pioneer Corps.