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Italian-American Wartime Exhibit Opens at State House Annex in Trenton, New Jersey

The Commission for Social Justice® sponsors event for capacity crowd

Contact: Diane E. Crespy, (202) 547-2900

Washington, D.C., June 20, 2000 – The Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ), a leading anti-defamation organization representing the approximately 24 million Americans of Italian descent, sponsored the Trenton, N.J., opening of "Una Storia Segreta," or "A Secret Story," an exhibit that depicts the internment and other civil rights violations of Italian-Americans in the United States during World War II, on June 19 at the State House Annex.

"The actions of the U.S. government against the Italo-American community are a vivid reminder that, in conflict between nations, a common human tendency is to confuse national or racial identity with loyalty," said Anthony Martignetti, CSJ coordinator for the exhibit.

The traveling exhibit is designed to focus on the sad period in American history when the U.S. government treated Italian-American citizens, and Italians living in the United States, as enemy aliens. During World War II, some half a million people of Italian descent were forced to relocate either to new homes or internment camps, quit their jobs, and surrender household items like flashlights and radios, for fear they would be used to aid espionage. They were forced to carry identification cards, and were subject to curfews and travel restrictions.

Sam Fumosa, CSJ Special Projects Chairman and Immediate Past President of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA) Grand Lodge of New Jersey opened the exhibit, giving the history of the legislative process and influence of the "Una Storia Segreta" exhibit that resulted in the passage of House Resolution 2442, the Wartime Violations of Italian American Civil Liberties Act, sponsored by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) The bill, now in the Senate as S. 1909, calls on the president on behalf of the U.S. government to acknowledge this painful episode in history. The CSJ and OSIA, the CSJ's parent organization, have been active supporters of the bill since it was introduced in July 1999.

John Dabbene, CSJ president, was at the exhibit opening in Trenton to detail some of the other positive image programs the CSJ has implemented in addition to its tactics to combat negative stereotypes and defamation of Italian-Americans. In particular, he highlighted programs related to the Holocaust and the Italian effort and sacrifice that saved thousands of Jews from extermination by Hitler and the Nazis.

The exhibit drew a capacity crowd including members of the New Jersey Assembly and Senate, various civic organizations, and Dr. R. Freda, executive director of the National Conference for Community and Justice. Members of OSIA also attended, including members from the Grand Lodges of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Many of the attendees were unaware of this tragedy.

The need for the exhibit and legislation is reflected in the tale of one woman who had vivid childhood recollections of these events; but when she told her children about it they thought it never happened because it was not in their history books.

The exhibit ends on Friday, June 23.

For more information on the exhibit and H.R. 2442 or S. 1909, contact the Commission for Social Justice® at 202/547-2900 or Coming soon, information will be available on the CSJ/OSIA Web site