Moving from some acute considerations made in 1988 by the historians of Christianity Pier Cesare Bori and Mauro Pesce, this article investigates the forms and ways in which the Italian cultural industry developed, in the course of that decade, an unprecedented attention to Jewish themes. In that season there was an extraordinary explosion of interest towards a wide range of issues related to Judaism, which marks the academic fields of history, philosophy and literary criticism, but that has effects that go beyond academia, influencing inter-religious dialogue and mass culture. Themes already present in the intellectual debate in earlier periods ‒ concerning, for example, the relationship between Judaism and early Christianity, or Jewish culture in Central and Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century ‒ cease to be merely the object of investigation of a small group of specialists and engage a wider audience of readers and consumers of cultural products. The intent of the essay is to illustrate how the renewed interest in various themes connected to Judaism (i.e. relationship between Judaism and early Christianity; the discovery/invention of Mitteleuropa; Holocaust memory) were in some way linked, and how they especially combined in generating a new climate: orienting the cultural industry to a different production and the public towards the maturation of new tastes. It is the author’s belief that it is in that moment that we can track down the origins of the present cultural climate and in particular the role assigned today to the memory of the Holocaust in collective imagination. The article investigates the dynamics that mark this development within the specific Italian cultural context, while at the same time it considers that the phenomenon is to be read within a broader transnational framework.
Keywords: Judaism, the invention of Mitteleuropa, Holocaust memory, cultural consumption in Italy during the 1980s, Judeo-Christian dialogue