La Difesa della Razza (“The Defense of the Race”) was a fortnightly magazine, published on August 6, 1938 and directed by Telesio Interlandi. A man who had always adhered to the extreme positions of Fascism, he was considered the Duce’s trusted journalist, remembered for his ferocity in anti-Semitic and racist campaigns. The cover of the first issue had the date of the previous day, August 5th, 1938. On that day, the Minister of National Education, Giuseppe Bottai, issued four newsletters regarding the circulation of the magazine, addressed to the rectors and directors of higher institutes, the presidents of art institutes, the president of the Central Council for Historical Studies and the presidents of academies and cultural associations. On August 8th, the Ministerial Commission for the purchase of publications launched the purchase and distribution of one thousand copies.
The magazine’s supporters
The magazine was not only supported by Bottai but also by Dino Alfieri, Minister of Popular Culture and Achille Starace, Secretary of the National Fascist Party. The magazine was aimed at the middle classes and was conceived as a showcase of Italian racism, which was supposed to promote the superiority of the Italian race at a focal point in the history of Fascism, considering that on July 14th, 1938 the Manifesto of Racist Scientists had been published.
The editorial office
Initially the editorial office of the magazine was located in Largo Cavalleggeri in Rome, and then, in November 1938, it found its definitive home in Palazzo Wedekind in Piazza Colonna. This location was an important point, as it was a crossroads of different symbolisms. It was found in the heart of the Rome of the Antonines and near the column of Marcus Aurelius. In addition, the columns of the portico came from the archaeological excavations of Veio. From this, it is very clear that the location alone already evoked the ancient splendor of the Romanity.
The magazine had a well-kept and avant-garde graphic design, with an initial print run of about 150,000 copies, distributed in almost all cases free of charge with a low cover price of just one lira. Fundamental was the organicity of the magazine, as part of the racial campaign carried out by Fascism. Soon, however, the high cost of the print run, the low sales price and the prestigious location brought production costs to exorbitant rates, producing passive balances covered by the Ministry of Popular Culture. In the second half of 1940 the print run was reduced to about 20,000 copies, but the passive balance remained high. Thus, from December 1, 1940, Mussolini charged the Ministry to reduce expenses and, with the new agreements, the management of the magazine was directly taken over by the Tumminelli Institute of Graphic Arts and the number of pages was reduced.
The instrument of the regime
The Defense of the Race remained alive during the war years, representing an important and strategic aid for the regime’s propaganda. It stopped publishing with the fall of Fascism in June-July 1943. The most important members of the editorial board were Guido Landra, Lidio Cipriani, Lino Businco, Leone Franzì and Marcello Ricci, who exalted the close link between the genesis of the magazine and the events of the Racial Manifesto of 14 July 1938.
Science, Documentation and Politics
The Defense of the Race was characterized by the unscrupulous use of images, always aimed at contrasting the Aryan race with the “bastardized” ones. It was divided into three sections, the first of which focused on Science: “We will show that science is with us; because we are with life and science is but the arrangement of concepts and notions arising from the perennial flow of man’s life”. Science was followed by Documentation, aimed at demonstrating “what are the forces that oppose the affirmation of an Italian racism, why they are opposed, by whom they are moved, what they are worth, how they can be destroyed and how they will be destroyed”. Finally, the Debate, or rather the battle “against the lies, insinuations, distortions, falsehoods, stupidities that will accompany this fascist statement of racial pride”.
For Interlandi the controversy will be the “salt in the bread of science, fortnightly broken”.