The paradox of mixed-blood people in Eritrea, the only Italian colony where they reached considerable numbers, was that at first they represented a resource that would help increase the overall population, as Corrado Gini, the demography expert, suggested; later, after the creation of the empire, their considerable presence acted as a triggering factor for Fascist racial policy, culminated in the 1938 laws against the Jews. Up to the 1930s, children born of mixed unions were tolerated; many had been acknowledged by their fathers, partly because the number of Italian women in the colony was very low. A 1931 survey recorded only 500 of them (11%) out of a population of 4,500 Italians, but according to some estimates, the number of illegitimate mixed-blood children (i.e. those not officially acknowledged by their fathers ) was about 1,000. Many of these children had been entrusted to catholic missionaries. A first turning point could be seen as early as 1933, when new legislation decreed that Italian citizenship could be granted only to those exhibiting prevalently European racial characteristics. During the war in Ethiopia, which resulted in the influx of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and workers into the colony, the situation precipitated: sexual intercourse and cohabitation between Italian men and African women increased dramatically. Mussolini strongly believed this behaviour to be an insult to the prestige of the Italian race, as well as running counter to the myth of the new Fascist Empire. New laws where consequently issued, which prohibited common-law marriages, mixed unions and any kind of sexual intercourse between Italians and Africans, thus practically establishing a kind of apartheid. On the basis of what had happened in Eritrea, and convinced that Italians did not possess a true racial consciousness, Mussolini decided in 1938 to start Italy's anti-Semitic policy, which was to become one of the crucial tenets of Fascist totalitarianism. According to some sources, after the Second World War there were about 20,000 mixed-bloods in Eritrea (on a population of 70,000 italians and of 600,000 Eritreans in 1939). The new democratic Italian government granted citizenship to all those who put forth an application for it, also in order to obtain their consensus to prolonged Italian domination.
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