Italian resistance movement
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|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Italian Wikipedia. (November 2011)|
The Italian resistance movement (in It. Resistenza italiana or simply Resistenza) is the umbrella term for a collection of various partisan forces formed by pro-Allied Italians to fight against the German Nazis and the Fascist Italian puppet regime during the later years of World War II, following the Allied invasion, the armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces, and the German military occupation of the north of the country in 1943. It is also known as the Italian resistance and Italian partisans.
Resistance by the Italian Armed Forces 
The earliest acts of armed resistance to the German occupation must be credited to Italian regulars, although technically they cannot be defined as "partisans", i.e. paramilitary forces, since they were part of the formal Italian Armed Forces and the Carabinieri national police.
The best known battle of those days broke out in the capital Rome on the same day the armistice was announced. Regio Esercito units such as the Sassari Division, the Granatieri di Sardegna, the Piave Division, the Ariete II Division, the Centauro Division, the Piacenza Division, the "Lupi di Toscana" Division, besides Carabinieri, infantry and coastal artillery regiments, were deployed around the city and along the roads leading to it. Fallschirmjäger and Panzergrenadiere were initially repelled but, despite being outnumbered and enduring heavy losses, they slowly got the upper hand, aided by their experience and superior Panzer component. Moreover, the defenders were decisively hampered by the escape of King Victor Emmanuel III, Marshal Pietro Badoglio and their staff to Brindisi, which left the Generals in charge of the city without a coordinated defence plan. This also caused Allied support to be called off at the last minute, since the Fallschirmjäger were not prevented from taking the DZs where the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division was scheduled to be airdropped (Brig. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor crossed the lines and went to Rome in person to supervise the operation himself). The Centauro II Division not participating in the battle also contributed to the defeat: the German-made tanks it was equipped with could have easily turned the tables of the battle. But, given its dubious allegiance (it was mostly formed by ex-Blackshirts), it was not fielded. By 10 September, the Germans had penetrated into downtown Rome. Granatieri, aided by civilians, made their last stand at Porta San Paolo. At 4 pm, General Giorgio Carlo Calvi di Bergolo signed the surrender. The Italian divisions were disbanded and their members captured. Although some of the officers participating in the battle later joined the resistance, the clash was not motivated by anti-German sentiment but only by the necessity to defend the Italian capital and resist the Italian soldiers' disarmament. For instance, General Raffaele Cadorna, Jr. (commander of Ariete II) and Giuseppe Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo (later shot in the Ardeatine massacre), joined the underground; General Gioacchino Solinas (commander of the Granatieri) instead opted for the Italian Social Republic.
In the days following 8 September 1943 most servicemen, left without orders from the higher echelons were disarmed and shipped to POW camps in the Third Reich, often by much smaller German outfits. However some garrisons stationed in the occupied Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia and in Italy proper, engaged in armed fighting against the Germans. Admirals Inigo Campioni and Luigi Mascherpa led an attempt at defending Rhodes, Kos, Leros and other Dodecanese islands from their former allies. With reinforcements from SAS, SBS and British Army troops under the command of Generals Francis Gerrard Russell Brittorous and Robert Tilney, the defenders held on for a month, but the Wehrmacht ultimately managed to take hold of the islands through air and sea landings performed by infantry and Fallschirmjäger supported by Luftwaffe aircraft. Both Campioni and Mascherpa were captured and later executed at Verona under the charge of high treason. On 13 September 1943, the Acqui Division stationed in Cefalonia was ordered by Comando Supremo to attack the Germans in spite of negotiations going on between the Italian headquarters and Wehrmacht senior officers. After the battle raged for ten days, the Germans executed thousands of officers and enlisted men as a retaliation. The death toll of the massacre of the Acqui Division included the division commander, General Antonio Gandin.
More Italian forces remained stuck in Yugoslavia when the armistice was announced. Elements of the Taurinense Division, the Venezia Division, the Aosta Division and the Emilia Division were assembled in the Italian Garibaldi Partisan Division, part of the Yugoslav People's Liberation Army. When the unit finally returned to Italy, at the end of the war, half of its members had been killed or were listed as missing in action.
The Italian soldiers captured by the Germans numbered around 700,000. Most of them chose to refuse cooperation with the Third Reich, chiefly to maintain their oath of fidelity to the King, in spite of being subject to all kinds of hardships, both direct and subtle. Their former allies designated them Italienische Militär-Internierte ("Italian military internees"), to deny them prisoner of war status and the consequent benefits granted by the Geneva Convention. After decades of oblivion, theirs has been recognized as an act of unarmed resistance on a par with the armed confrontation sustained by other Italian servicemen.
Partisan resistance 
Partisan movement 
The movement was initially composed of independent troops, spontaneously formed by members of political parties previously outlawed by the Fascist regime, or by former officers of the Royal Italian Army. Later, the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (CNL; Committee of National Liberation) created by the Italian Communist Party, the Italian Socialist Party, the Partito d'Azione (a republican liberal socialist party), Democrazia Cristiana and other minor parties took control of the movement, in accordance with King Victor Emmanuel III's ministers and the Allies. The Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale Alta Italia (CLNAI or National Liberation Committee for Northern Italy) was setup by partisans behind German lines and enjoyed the loyalty of most groups in the region.
The formations were eventually divided between three main groups, the communist Garibaldi Brigades, Giustizia e Libertà Brigades (related to Partito d'Azione), and socialist Matteotti Brigades. Smaller groups included Catholics and monarchists, like the Fiamme Verdi (Green Flames), Di Dio, Mauri, Franchi (founded by Edgardo Sogno), besides some anarchist and apolitical formations. Relations between the different groups were not always good. For example, in 1945 in the province of Udine, Garibaldi Brigade partisans under Yugoslav command attacked and killed partisans of the Catholic and azionista Osoppo band.
While the largest contingents operated in mountainous districts of the Alps and the Apennine Mountains, there were also large formations in the Po River plain area; in the main towns of Northern Italy, like Piacenza and surroundings valleys next to the Gothic line, where in Montechino castle there was an important partisan headquarters, the Gruppi di Azione Patriottica (G.A.P., Patriotic Action Groups) regularly carried out acts of sabotage and guerrilla warfare, and the Squadre di Azione Patriottica (S.A.P., Patriotic Action Squads) arranged massive strike actions and campaigns of propaganda. Not unlike the French Resistance, women were important leaders and couriers both in the armed groups as well as in the industrial areas.
1944 uprising 
In 1944, with the Allied forces nearby, the partisan resistance in Italy staged an uprising behind German lines, led by the CLNAI. This rebellion led to the establishment of a number of provisional partisan governments throughout the mountainous regions of northern Italy, of which Ossola was the most important and received recognition from the neutral Switzerland and from Allied consulates in Switzerland. By the end of 1944, German reinforcements and Benito Mussolini's remaining forces had crushed the uprising, and the area's liberation had to wait until the final offensives of 1945.
The nature of the partisans meant that unit sizes varied with bands reaching 450 men and women. The size of units also depended on logistics, such as the ability to arm, clothe, and feed the members as well as the amount of local support. The basic unit was the squadra or squad with three or more, usually five, making a distaccamento or detachment. Three or more detachments made a brigata or brigade of which two or more made a divisione or division. In some places several divisions formed a gruppo divisione or divisional group. These divisional groups would be responsible for an zona d'operatione or operational group.
Just like their European counterparts, Italian partisans seized whatever guns they could find. The first weapons were brought by ex-soldiers willing to carry on the fight against the Germans and Italian Fascists, and came from the Regio Esercito inventory: Carcano rifles, Beretta M 1934 and M1935 pistols, Bodeo M1889 revolvers, SRCM and OTO hand grenades, Fiat-Revelli Modello 1935, Breda 30 and Breda M37 machine guns. As time went by, captured K98ks, MG34s, MG42s and of course the iconic potato mashers, Lugers and Walther P38s were added to partisan kits. Submachine guns such as the MP 40 were initially scarce and, usually, reserved to squad leaders. Automatic weapons became more common as they were captured in combat, or RSI soldiers started to defect to the underground bringing in their own gear. The much beloved Beretta MABs started to appear in larger numbers since October 1943, when they were spirited away en masse from the Beretta factory which was producing them for the Wehrmacht.
Additional weapons, chiefly of British origin, were airdropped by the Allies: PIATs, Lee-Enfield rifles, Bren light machine guns, and above all Sten guns. U.S.-made weapons were provided in a smaller scale courtesy of the Office of Strategic Services: mostly Thompson submachine guns (both M1928 and M1), M3 Grease Guns, United Defense M42s, and some scarce examples of folding stock M1 Carbines. Besides this, supplies included explosives, clothing, boots, food rations and even money that the partisans would use to pay for their weapons or hand over to civilians as a compensation for the confiscations they had made for their survival.
Nazi and Fascist retaliation 
The resistance showed the world that not all Italians agreed with the Fascist rule. It proved that Italians were prepared to fight against Fascist rule at high cost. Casualties from the resistance mounted to tens of thousands of Italian partisans, civilians and prisoners of war killed. During the war, German and Italian Fascist forces committed numerous crimes including summary executions, rape of female prisoners, ransacking, and retaliations against civilians; most of these were common practices. Some of the most notorious events were the Ardeatine massacre, the Marzabotto massacre, and the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre. Captured partisans or civilians were often tortured. The Decima Flottiglia MAS, an Italian unit under German command, the Black Brigades, and the National Republican Guard were ruthless collaborationist formations of the war.
Foreign contribution 
Not all members of the Italian resistance were of Italian nationality. There were also many foreign soldiers who had escaped POW camps or had joined guerrilla bands as leaders of the so-called "military missions". Among them Yugoslavs, Russians, Ukrainians, Dutch, Spaniards, Greeks, Poles, as well as some Germans disillusioned by national socialism. And of course British and Americans, either ex-prisoners or advisors deployed by SOE, SAS and OSS. Some of them later became well-known to the public, such as climber and explorer Bill Tilman, reporter and historian Peter Tompkins, former RAF pilot Manfred Czernin, and architect Oliver Churchill.
On April 19, 1945, concurrent with the renewal of the Allied offensive, the CLN called out a general insurrection, the April 25 uprising. Bologna was liberated on April 21 by the Italian Co-Belligerent Army and the Polish II Corps under Allied command. Parma and Reggio Emilia were liberated on April 24. Turin and Milan were liberated on April 25 through a general insurrection. Over 14,000 German and Fascist troops were captured in Genoa on April 26 and 27, when General Meinhold surrendered to the CLN.
On the morning of 27 April 1945, Umberto Lazzaro (nom de guerre "Partisan Bill"), a partisan of the 52nd Garibaldi Brigade was checking lorries at Dongo on Lake Como carrying retreating German troops to the Swiss border, in an agreement with the Partisans that the convoy would be given safe passage providing no Italians were being concealed among the Germans. In one of the trucks, Lazzaro discovered Benito Mussolini (Il Duce). The task of carrying out the execution of Mussolini was given to 'Colonel Valerio', conventionally identified as Walter Audisio and sometimes as Luigi Longo. The corpses of Mussolini and Petacci were later taken to Milan and hung up-side down in Piazzale Loreto, a square not far from the Milano Centrale railway station; the square was chosen because it had been the site of a massacre of anti-fascists by Fascist militia under German orders the previous year. Fifteen prominent Fascists, included Mussolini, Clara Petacci, Fernando Mezzasoma, Luigi Gatti, Alessandro Pavolini and Achille Starace, were executed and displayed in the square; this number had significance seeing as 15 anti-fascists had been displayed in the square in 1944.
Shortly after World War II, it was said that the modern Republic of Italy was founded on the collective achievements of the Partisan leaders, whose political allegiance was mixed and sometimes caused friction.
Other resistance activities 
Another task carried out by the Italian resistance was the assistance of escaping POWs (an estimated 80,000 were interned in Italy up until 8 September 1943): they were assisted in reaching Allied lines or were escorted to Switzerland through paths previously used by smugglers. Sometimes fugitives were hidden in safe houses, usually by women (the less likely to arise suspicion), even several at a time. After the war, Field Marshal Harold Alexander issued a diploma to those who did this at the risk of their lives.
Jews were aided by DELASEM, a secret network which extended throughout occupied Italy and included Jews and non-Jews alike, Roman Catholic bishops, clerics, laity, policemen and even some German soldiers. Since Jews were considered "enemy aliens" by the new Fascist government, they were left with little or nothing to live on, DELASEM contributed to their survival by offering food, shelter, and even money, of which vast amounts were donated. Many of its members would be later designated Righteous among the Nations.
See also 
||This article uses bare URLs for citations. (January 2013)|
- Sanna, Daniele (2005). Da Porta San Paolo a Salò. Gioacchino Solinas comandante antitedesco. AM&D. ISBN 88-86799-86-1.
- Natta, Alessandro (1997). L'altra Resistenza. I militari italiani internati in Germania. Einaudi. ISBN 978880614314 Check
- The Italian Army 1940-45 (3) Osprey Men-at-Arms 353 ISBN 978-1-85532-866-2
- H-Net Review: Andrea Peto <email@example.com> on Women and the Italian Resistance, 1943–45
- Balbo, Adriano (2005). Quando inglesi arrivare noi tutti morti. Blu Edizioni. ISBN 88-7904-001-4.
- Incerti, Matteo (2011). Il Bracciale di Sterline - Cento bastardi senza gloria. Una storia di guerra e passioni. Aliberti Editore. ISBN 978-88-7424-766-0.
- Basil Davidson, Special Operations Europe: Scenes from the Anti-Nazi War (1980), pp. 340/360
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Italian Resistance|
- (Italian) ANPI – Associazione Nazionale Partigiani d'Italia
- (Italian) ANCFARGL – Associazione Nazionale Combattenti Forze Armate Regolari Guerra di Liberazione
- (Italian) INSMLI – Istituto Nazionale per la Storia del Movimento di Liberazione in Italia
- (Italian) Il portale della guerra di Liberazione
- Articles on Anarchist resistance to Italian Fascism
- 1943–1945: Anarchist partisans in the Italian Resistance
- European Resistance Archive
- Book: War In Italy: By Richard Lamb
- E-Book: Il Partigiano D’Artagnan: By Alberto Cotti
- The Life of Basil Davidson by James Currey