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Italy in the 1940s


Ivanoe Bonomi
Ivanoe Bonomi

The announcement of the armistice set off a furious race between the Allies and the Germans for possession of the territories, bases, arms and supplies, communications, and other war facilities formerly under Italian control. A large Anglo-American amphibious force landed on the beaches of Salerno just south of Naples, hoping to drive inland and trap the German units. The Germans, however, held off the invasion force long enough to enable German units in southern Italy to withdraw. In the meantime the Germans also seized the cities and strategic centers of northern and central Italy. On September 10 they occupied Rome, from which King Victor Emmanuel III and Badoglio had fled two days earlier. The Germans retained the support of pro-Fascist Italians by announcing in September that a Fascist National Government had been established in opposition to the Badoglio government and was functioning in the name of Mussolini. The former dictator had been rescued from prison by German parachute troops, thus foiling Badoglio’s promise to deliver him to the Allies. The Germans installed Mussolini as the leader of a new fascist state in northern Italy.

Prime Minister Badoglio declared war on Germany on October 13. He and the king had escaped to Bari in the south, where they established a new government. But the leaders of six political parties disbanded by Mussolini formed a National Liberation Front and demanded that Victor Emmanuel abdicate.

In April 1944 the king withdrew from public affairs and appointed his son Humbert, later King Humbert II, as lieutenant general of Italy. When the Allied armies liberated Rome on June 4, Victor Emmanuel transferred all royal authority to Humbert.

The leaders of the Committee of National Liberation refused to serve in the Badoglio government, and the position of prime minister was given to Ivanoe Bonomi, who formed a coalition government. The new government’s actions were closely controlled by American and British officials, who were opposed to anything that might impede the Allied war effort.

They vetoed all proposals for social and economic change. Allied authorities were suspicious of Italian anti-Fascist volunteers and resistance fighters, most of whom were radicals, and they believed that the communists were planning a revolution. For that reason the Allies preferred to rely on the monarchy and Badoglio, despite the fact that both had been ardent supporters of Mussolini’s dictatorship. In September and October 1943 the Germans rushed troops and equipment into Italy to secure the so-called Gustav Line south of Rome, where the Allied advance was held at Monte Cassino through the winter. Italy north of the Gustav Line became a Nazi-occupied territory, and on October 16 thousands of Jews were rounded up in the Rome ghetto and deported to Nazi death camps. Mussolini’s puppet regime was under German control. Italy by late 1943 was the scene of civil war as well as military occupation. Many Italians rallied to Mussolini in the belief that they were defending their country. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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