In May 1994, Michele Sarfatti published the first edition of his Mussolini contro gli ebrei (“Mussolini against the Jews”), with Zamorani, a publisher specializing in the history of anti-Jewish persecution. At that time, Renzo De Felice, the historian of the Fascist period, was already ill, but still active at the head of his journal, Storia contemporanea. His many former students were a powerful lot, representatives of the academic establishment and collaborating with various journals. Mussolini contro gli ebrei put De Felice’s arguments in a fundamental crisis (particularly his Storia degli ebrei), mainly due to Sarfatti’s careful approach and the irrefutable character of the documentary evidence he used. It marked a turning point in this field, and also in the realm of methodology.
The reaction was an oppressive silence about the book by everyone from the powerful De Felice school. One year afterwards, De Felice published his famous Rosso e Nero (Baldini e Castoldi), which ignored Sarfatti’s book altogether. However, there was one sole exception: a review written by none other than Nicola Tranfaglia, at that point an enemy of De Felice, in La Repubblica. In any case, Sarfatti’s book had a very difficult time.
Sarfatti had managed to reconstruct in painstaking detail, often by recovering original manuscript documents and working directly with the sources, all the positions taken and the concrete acts of persecution committed by the Fascist ruler against the Jews in 1938. This included the writing of the “Manifesto of Race” (the attribution of it to Mussolini was practically unprecedented), and the careful preparation of the antisemitic laws.