Jewish uproar as King's remains brought to Italy
TURIN - The Jewish communities of Italy were dismayed as the remains of Victor Emmanuel III, the penultimate monarch of Italy who signed Fascist laws against Jews, were flown from Egypt to be laid to rest in Piedmont Sunday. Emmanuel’s body has been buried beside his wife Elena, recently moved from Montpellier, in their family museum Vicoforte 70 years after his death.
Victor Emmanuel III ruled from 1900 to 1946, reigning during both World Wars. In 1946, Emmanuel abdicated and transferred his powers to his son, but the move failed and the Kingdom of Italy was abolished in favour of a Republic. The remarkably small king, called “sciaboletta” due to his five foot two frame, has been criticised for failing to stop Mussolini’s rise to power, and for his cowardliness in fleeing Rome during a German attack in 1944.
President of the Italian Jewish Communities, Noemi Di Segni, has referred to the king as “an accomplice of that Fascist regime which he did not hinder the rise of.” With 2018 marking 80 years since the signing of the “Legge Razziali Fasciste” (The Fascist Racism Laws), the government’s decision has been heavily criticised.
On top of this, the body was transported on an Air Force plane, meaning that the cost of transport was paid for at the state’s expense. Giulio Macron, of the newly formed LeU political party, has said that “someone will have to explain to us, to the Court of Auditors, and to the Italians why a plane of the Air Force was used, a state flight, to bring back to Italy the body of the man who did not oppose the rise of the fascist dictatorship, he who signed the shameful racial laws against the Jews, took the country to the disaster of the war alongside the Nazis and cowardly abandoned his soldiers by fleeing .” He has asked for the “government and military air forces to explain this choice in the name of decency.”
The final positioning of Emmanel’s body is also being debated, as the Italian House of Savoy monarchy want to move his body to the Pantheon where other kings are buried. Male descendants of the Savoy had been banned by a post-war constitution from coming to Italy, but the ban was lifted in 2002, and so transportation of Emmanuel’s body is not a legal problem but a moral one.