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2021: Italia contemporanea yearbook 2021

“They crossed the sea on dry land”. The Jews of Libya in Italian Displaced Persons camps and the international refugee regime in the aftermath of the Second World War (1948-1949)

  • Chiara Renzo
4 October 2022


The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 significantly reduced the number of Jewish displaced persons in Italy’s DP camps. However, it also marked the beginning of an unexpected movement of some eight thousand Jews who, between 1948 and 1949, travelled to Italy from Libya, seeking international assistance to resettle in Israel. This article explores the reasons for which the Jews of Libya illegally attempted to reach Italy’s DP camps, the role Jewish and Zionist organisations played in this process, and the reaction of international humanitarianism to the ensuing emergency. It argues that a Eurocentric vision, intrinsically rooted in the international refugee regime of that time, deprived the Jews fleeing from Libya of the status of displaced persons.


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