New light on Intellectuals who fled Fascist Italy

Diana Castelnuovo-Tedesco / News /

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco is among those profiled in a new and fascinating digital history project, Intellectuals Displaced from Fascist Italy. Led by Patrizia Guarnieri, professor of cultural history at the University of Florence, this ambitious bi-lingual web portal focuses attention on the brain drain that took place in Italy during the fascist years, particularly after the anti-semitic laws were promulgated in 1938. 

During this period, academics, scientists, artists, scholars, and students fled the country, alone or with their families, to the United States, Latin America, Great Britain, Mandate Palestine (Eretz Yisrael), to other European countries while these still offered security, and to Switzerland.  Currently, the site illuminates the lives of those intellectuals who, whether through birth, residence, education or work, had a link with Tuscany before their departure from Italy. 

An in-depth biographical essay about Castelnuovo-Tedesco details his emigration journey from Italy to New York and, soon after, to California, as well as his post-war years as an American citizen, which he himself described as “suspended between two worlds.” Written by Mila De Santis, Professor of Musicology and History of Music at the University of Florence, the article explores the personal and professional challenges that the composer had to overcome in his adopted country as well as his complicated feelings about the country he left behind.  The composer’s connections to other Italian emigrés — friends, colleagues, and family members — as well as his American support network are documented,  and there is a photo gallery of archival images as well.

Initiated by the University of Florence on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of the “racial laws,” Intellectuals Displaced from Fascist Italy has received financing from the Regione Toscana and enjoys the patronage of institutions and organizations outside Italy including the New York Public Library, the Council for At-Risk Academics, London, the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, CUNY, and the Central Archives for the History of Jewish People, Jerusalem. The portal considers itself a work in progress, and the research team looks forward to receiving new material and updates over time that will aid them in the mission of bringing these forgotten stories to public attention.

Watch a video presentation of the portal by Professor Patrizia Guarnieri here.