Leone Ginzburg

Leone Ginzburg (Italian: [leˈoːne ˈɡintsburɡ], German: [ˈɡɪntsbʊʁk], Ukrainian: [ˈɡinzbʊrɡ]; 4 April 1909 – 5 February 1944) was an Italian editor, writer, journalist and teacher, as well as an important anti-fascist political activist and a hero of the resistance movement. He was the husband of the renowned author Natalia Ginzburg and the father of the historian Carlo Ginzburg.

Leone Ginzburg
Leone Ginzburg (1909 - 1944).jpg
Born(1909-04-04)4 April 1909
Odessa, Russian Empire
Died5 February 1944(1944-02-05) (aged 34)
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
OccupationAuthor, journalist, teacher, anti-fascist activist

Early life and careerEdit

Ginzburg was born in Odessa to a Jewish family, and moved with them, first to Berlin and later to Turin at a very young age.[citation needed]

He studied at the Liceo Ginnasio Massimo d'Azeglio in Turin.[1] This school molded a group of intellectuals and political activists who would fight Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime and, eventually, help create the post-war democratic Italy. His classmates included such notable intellectuals as Norberto Bobbio, Piero Gobetti, Cesare Pavese, Giulio Einaudi, Massimo Mila, Vittorio Foa, Giancarlo Pajetta and Felice Balbo.

In the early 1930s, Ginzburg taught Slavic Languages and Russian Literature at the University of Turin, and was credited with helping to introduce Russian authors to the Italian public. In 1933, Ginzburg co-founded, with Giulio Einaudi, the publishing house Einaudi. He lost his teaching position in 1934, having refused to swear an oath of allegiance imposed by the Fascist regime.[2]

Persecution and internal exileEdit

Natalia and Leone Ginzburg
Plaque on the house where Leone Ginzburg lived in Pizzoli near L'Aquila

Soon after this, he and 14 other young Turinese Jews, including Sion Segre Amar, were arrested for complicity in the so-called "Ponte Tresa Affair" (they were carrying anti-fascist literature over the border from Switzerland), but Ginzburg's sentence was light. He was arrested again in 1935 for his activities as leader (with Carlo Levi) of the Italian branch of Giustizia e Libertà,[3] the Justice and Freedom Party, which Carlo Rosselli had founded in Paris in 1929.

In 1938 he married Natalia Ginzburg (née Levi). The same year he lost his Italian citizenship when the Fascist regime introduced antisemitic racial laws.[2] In 1940, the Ginzburgs received the fascist punishment known as confino, or internal exile, to a remote, impoverished village, in their case Pizzoli in the Abruzzi, where they stayed from 1940-1943.[4]

Somehow, Leone was able to continue his work as head of the Einaudi publishing house throughout the period. In 1942, he co-founded the clandestine Partito d'Azione[5] or "Action Party", a party of the democratic resistance. He also edited their newspaper L'Italia Libera.[6]

Capture and murderEdit

In 1943, after the Allied invasion of Sicily and the fall of Mussolini, Leone went to Rome, leaving his family in the Abruzzi. When Nazi Germany invaded in September, Natalia Ginzburg and their three children fled Pizzoli, simply climbing aboard a German truck and telling the driver that they were war refugees who had lost their papers. They met with Leone and went into hiding in the capital.

On 20 November 1943, Leone – who now used the false name Leonida Gianturco – was arrested by the Italian police in a clandestine printshop of the newspaper L'Italia Libera. He was taken to the German section of the Regina Coeli prison.[2][4] They subjected him to severe torture. On 5 February 1944 he died there from the injuries he received; he was 34 years old.[6]


  1. ^ Ward, David. "Primo Levi's Turin." In: Gordon, Robert S.C. (editor). The Cambridge Companion to Primo Levi (Cambridge Companions to Literature). Cambridge University Press, 30 July 2007. ISBN 1139827405, 9781139827409. CITED: p. 11.
  2. ^ a b c (in Italian) Short biography of Leone Ginzburg, Associazione Nazionale Partigiani d'Italia (ANPI) (accessed October 30, 2010)
  3. ^ Giustizia e libertà Archived 2017-02-12 at the Wayback Machine at www.pbmstoria.it
  4. ^ a b Biography of Natalia Ginzburg Archived 2009-07-05 at the Wayback Machine, Rai International (accessed October 30, 2010)
  5. ^ Partito d'azione (1942-1947) Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine at www.pbmstoria.it
  6. ^ a b Opposition to Fascism Archived 2006-09-07 at the Wayback Machine, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison


External linksEdit