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Conference Proceeding

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This paper focuses on the decision taken by Benito Mussolini to appoint Police General Inspector Guido Lospinoso as officer in charge of the ‘Jewish question’ in Italian-occupied southeastern France in March 1943. Historians have discussed the meaning of Lospinoso’s appointment at great length, especially in relation to Fascist Italy’s changing responses to the German requests to have foreign Jews residing in the Italian occupation zone handed over for deportation. By approaching the topic from a new analytical perspective, in this paper I propose a reinterpretation of Mussolini’s decision. I analyse Lospinoso’s appointment in the wider context of the security policy (grounded in military concerns and targeting politically dangerous elements and Jews alike) carried out by the Italian troops and security services in southeastern France as of December 1942. Against this backdrop, I argue that Mussolini’s decision to entrust the ‘Jewish question’ to Lospinoso and divide it from the security policy signified the outset of a specific anti-Jewish policy in the Italian occupation zone whose aim were not military anymore, but ‘political’, that is, that had to do with Fascist Italy’s ultimate goals (which, however, remain largely unclear) as regards Jews’ fates. Finally, I argue that Lospinoso’s appointment cannot be automatically linked to the Italian government’s decision in July 1943 to surrender to the Nazis German Jewish refugees in southeastern France, though both decisions need to be read in light of the broader tendency of the regime to further intensify its anti-Jewish persecution before Mussolini’s downfall on 25 July.