«Book and musket, perfect fascist», recited an old saying of the Ventennio. But what was a school textbook like during the Fascist period?
The Mussolini age is intrinsically pedagogical and educational, in the most derogatory sense of the term. It could almost be defined as a pedagogy of brainwashing, which unfortunately began right on the school benches. The idea of the regime was in fact to occupy people’s consciences (and knowledge).in every sphere of public and private life.
Without going into a detailed explanation of the school and the reforms that have turned it upside down (there are serious and detailed manuals about it), in this article we see together how a school textbook (unfortunately) worthy of the name was structured during the fascist period. helping us with artifacts found in some flea market.
The Italian manual
Let’s take the example of an Italian language textbook, for use in lower secondary schools (now lower secondary): Italian anthology for junior high schools by Fusco and Arfelli, first edition of 1935.
The first page is very clear. Read the header: THE WORD OF THE CHIEF. A title in capital letters, with a letter signed by the Duce in person in which, referring to the war in Ethiopia, promises the very young Italians that everything will be done to ensure that “the conflict of a colonial nature does not assume the character and scope of a European conflict”. All accompanied by poetry Caesar by Aldo Capasso, taken from the volume The Young Fascists sing.
Interspersed with more or less well-known authors, with more or less propaganda purposes, there are even jokes with a racist background about the settlers (and much more). The final word still belongs to Mussolini, who signs a letter entitled THE FASCIST STATEalways written in capital letters, with a decidedly Art Nouveau font.
The German language manual
The link between Nazism and fascism is known to all. It was therefore impossible not to take into consideration a German language manual, Grammar of the German languageby Bianchi and Grünanger, published by Zanichelli in 1941 – XIX, i.e. the nineteenth year after the birth of the fascist state (1922, march on Rome).
All in all it looks like a normal German language manual, but soon one realizes the “scope” of the terms and phrases to be translated. Phrases such as “Italy and Germany are great and powerful”, “Our mother tongue is beautiful” or “All citizens are soldiers”. Again, words like “honour”, “war”, “party” or “power”. In short, it is clear where you want to start from and above all where you want to arrive.
Furthermore, all names are Italianised; for example, Adolfo Hitler (defined as “supreme head of the Reich and of the National Socialist Party”), or Giovanni Volfango Ghoete. As it happens, Adolfo, together with Vittorio, is one of the most popular names among the protagonists of the sentences to be translated and learned!
Read also: The hour of religion, a story.
Any primary school teacher would recommend reading to her little pupils The inventor of dreams of McEwan, some incredible journey born from the pen of Jules Verne or the eternal Little Prince.
A young fifth-grader would instead be able to read The Vittorio tableby Roberto Forges Davanzati, from 1931. The publishing house immediately catches the eye: Mondadori, with the types ofState Polygraphic Institute – The State Library.
The novel recounts the adventures of little Vittorio (maybe he is the same as the phrases in the German manual?) who interacts with the world of the time: a soldier brother, a trip to Romagna (who knows for what mysterious reason…) and the Camp Duxthat is a military gymnastic demonstration reserved for the best young people of every Italian province and colony.
If anyone should have other didactic material of the Ventennio, let us know, to enrich this brief exposition!