The Corpo Ausiliario delle Squadre d'azione di Camicie Nere (Italian: Auxiliary Corps of the Black Shirts' Action Squads), most widely known as the Black Brigades (Italian: Brigate Nere) was one of the Fascist paramilitary groups, organized and run by the Republican Fascist Party (Partito Fascista Repubblicano, PFR) operating in the Italian Social Republic (in northern Italy), during the final years of World War II, and after the signing of the Italian Armistice in 1943. They were officially led by Alessandro Pavolini, former Minister of Culture (MINCULPOP) of the fascist era during the last years of the Kingdom of Italy.
|Auxiliary Corps of the Black Shirts' Action Squads|
Corpo Ausiliario delle Squadre d'azione di Camicie Nere
Emblem of the RSI and the Black Brigades
|Active||June 30, 1944–April 25, 1945|
|Country||Italian Social Republic|
|Allegiance||Republican Fascist Party|
|Role||Auxiliary Police, Anti-Guerrilla Gendarmerie|
|Garrison/HQ||Cesano Maderno, Milan|
|Motto(s)||"Belli come la vita, neri come la morte"|
(Beautiful as life, black as death)
|March||"Stornelli delle Brigate Nere"|
(Stornello of the Black Brigades)
|Engagements||World War II|
|Insignia||A skull with a dagger in its mouth|
On 26 July 1943 Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, was arrested after the Italian Grand Council of Fascism (Gran Consiglio del Fascismo), with the support of King Vittorio Emanuele III, overthrew him and began negotiations with the Allies for Italy's withdrawal from the war. The Italian government was taken over by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, who outlawed the National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascista, PNF) and confiscated all of its assets.
On 12 September Mussolini was rescued in the Gran Sasso raid by German Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) led by General Kurt Student and the Waffen-SS Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel), Otto Skorzeny. He was then installed by the Germans as the President of the Italian Social Republic (RSI). The RSI was to be an Italian regime which was to nominally administer the German-occupied northern Italy. As the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (MVSN, also known as "Blackshirts", Camicie Nere) had been disbanded in August by the terms of the armistice, the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana was formed on 24 November 1943, and was to constitute the new fascist police force. The Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana was formed out of local police, ex-army, ex-Blackshirts and others still loyal to the fascist cause. Anti-fascist political forces in Northern Italy, on their side, decided to oppose in arms against the RSI and the German occupants, and began to recruit armed clandestine formations for guerrilla and urban warfare, with support from the Allies. Soon, a bloody civil war started in northern Italy.
However, as soon as the fascist party in the RSI was reopened and reorganized as Republican Fascist Party (Partito Fascista Repubblicano - PFR), its members began to organize "private" armed units, to protect themselves and party officials from attacks by Italian resistance fighters, who actually started very soon to target RSI authorities and supporters. RSI manpower proved to be insufficient, and Italian authorities decided to organize all fascist party volunteer units in a dedicated structure, and to raise new forces. The Black Brigades were formed from members of the Republican Fascist Party. Formation of the Black Brigades was sanctioned by a Fascist Republican Party decree issued personally by Benito Mussolini, head of PFR and of the RSI government, dated 30 June 1944, stating that all existing fascist armed units were to be enlisted into a military organization called Corpo Ausiliario delle Squadre d'Azione di Camicie Nere, and that every local Federation of the PFR (there was one in every Italian province) had to raise a military unit drafting personnel from its members. Units so formed were to be called "Black Brigades", and were to be commanded by the local Federal Secretary of the PFR, with the rank of Major or Colonel.
Their duties were:
This measure was to be both a response to resistance attacks against fascist members, and to turn the PFR into a fighting force to cope with shortage of manpower for internal security. Moreover, Mussolini and other fascist leaders felt that the Fascist Party was more true to its ideology if brought back to its original spirit, when it was manned mainly by soldiers and veterans and was above all a fighting organization. In this optic, they decided to mobilize it for war duties, under the concept that every fascist was to be first of all a combatant, and had to take arms for the defense of Italy and fascism. Black Brigades membership was compulsory for all members of the PFR deemed fit for such duties. Members were officially called Squadristi (Squad-men) (like the very first fascist Black Shirts of 1920s), and were divided into three categories: Squadristi Permanenti (Full-time squad-men), Ausiliari di pronto impiego (Ready Response Auxiliaries), Ausiliari (Auxiliaries). Only full-time personnel were required to be on duty daily, while other two categories were to be mobilized only in case of emergency. Black Brigade members were entitled to police powers, to carry firearms and to circulate freely even during curfew. Full-time personnel received a monthly wage of ITL 200.00.
Police effectiveness of Black Brigades was, in best terms, feeble. Aside from particularly strong and well equipped Brigades (such as VIIIth "Aldo Resega" of Milan, 2000 strong) that were exceptions, the average Black Brigades were at most 2-300 men strong, poorly equipped and armed, with little if any military training, and were hardly in conditions to defend themselves from partisan attacks, not to mention provide support to military authorities.
Many of their members were obscure figures evicted from police or army, and conspicuous were also the hardline fascists who were pushed by resentment and revenge towards that part of Italian population who, in their eyes, betrayed the Fascist regime. Many were also old "Squadristi" fascists who had served in the '20s, and who were eager to retake a first-place role in the ranks of the Fascist Party. In general terms, poor average discipline made all these individuals difficult to control, and prone to abuses. As the military situation worsened, German mistrust towards the RSI military grew, and even Social Republic authorities looked at the Black Brigades with contempt. All these factors contributed to push the Black Brigades into political radicalization and an increasingly hostile behaviour towards the population itself, among which they gained a fearsome reputation of fanatical brutality and summary procedures. Apart from a few Black Brigades who had been found reliable enough to be committed in regular combat against Partisans and Allies, most of these formations had poor military or even police capabilities and were mainly employed in static guard duties, patrols, and were often unleashed in brutal reprisals and retaliations against Partisans' attacks and ambushes to RSI military personnel. There, they usually performed well enough, displaying undeniable bravery but also brutality (which the Partisans promptly reciprocated), in the merciless guerrilla warfare that ravaged northern Italy in 1944-45. Therefore, they were an important law enforcement instrument for German and Italian authorities.
The Brigade members not only fought the Allies and the Italian partisans, but they also fought against political opponents and other Black Brigade members whose support of "the cause" was deemed less than exuberant. Many Black Brigade members were killed in this type of in-fighting.
After the armistice (April 25th, 1945) and the end of the war in Italy, many members of the Black Brigades suffered harsh reprisals from Partisan forces. To this day, the number of Black Brigades soldiers who fell victim of summary executions remains unknown.
The Black Brigades were frequently involved in support of German units during anti-partisan operations which resulted in massacres of the Italian civilian population, like at the Vinca massacre where 162 civilians were executed where the 40. Brigata nera “Vittorio Ricciarelli” di Livorno was invovled.
Members of Black Brigades were issued standard Italian army uniforms, and they tended to wear them with a black turtleneck sweater, or (in summer) the famous black shirt, as the symbol of loyalty to Mussolini and membership of the Republican Fascist Party. They sometimes wore this uniform with a windproof jacket in solid or camouflage colors. Members of Black Brigades tended to wear the grey-green uniform pants, but a wide array of uniforms were issued and, especially in closing stages of the war, Black Brigades members used just anything they could obtain: army camouflaged one-piece suits, smocks and pants, paratroopers' collarless jump jackets (very popular), tropical Italian army uniforms, German pants and feldjacken, and frequently local produced uniforms and gear.
The badge or insignia of the Black Brigades was the jawless death's head, with a dagger in its teeth, or one of assorted Italian versions. Collar tabs were issued, unique to the Black Brigades, consisting in square-shaped tabs with pointed tip, of solid black cloth, on which was pinned a bright red republican fascio, in the lower part. In the upper part, every Brigade chose its own insignia: either one of the many variants of skulls (with or without crossbones) or coloured facing. Regulations prescribed for all members of the Black Brigades to wear a metal enamelled breast badge, of roundel shape, showing a golden fascio amidst Italian national colours in vertical stripes, and surrounded by a black enamel rim with the inscription: "Corpo Ausiliario delle Squadre d'Azione di Camicie Nere", in capital letters, and in the lower part the identification number of the Brigade. Contemporary pictures show that this badge however, although certainly issued on large scale, was not so often worn.
Many Black Brigades adopted sleeve badges, following Italian military tradition, both cloth and metal. These were usually of very fine workmanship, often minted and enamelled, and are today high-priced collectors items. Rank insignias were the same of those prescribed for the Italian army; however, were rarely worn. Towards the end of the war a specific rank system was introduced for the Black Brigades, unique to them, but it does not seem to have ever been implemented.
The majority of Black Brigade members wore Italian army ski caps or berets dyed black. Some photos show members also wearing black German-style caps. Some were Italian made, some were supplied by Germany. Combat headgear was the ubiquitous M33 olive-green helmet, sometimes adorned with Black Brigades' skull insignia. German M35 helmets were also used, ando so were M33 black MVSN helmets. Helmets were often sprayed with various camouflage pattern, as was very common in that period. Combat gear and carrying equipment was the same of army soldiers. Samurai magazine vest, originally intended for elite army units, was widely used and so were a vast sorting of pouches, magazine-holders, holsters, both official issue (Italian or German) and privately made, carried on Italian M1908 olive-green leather carrying equipment.
The Black Brigades were not actually brigade-sized units. The Italian word brigata has a looser meaning as a synonym of "group" or "assembly". The Black Brigades were typically weak battalions or strong companies, each comprising 200 to 300 men. There were 41 territorial brigades. The territorial brigades were numbered 1 through 41. There were also seven "independent" and eight "mobile" brigades. The mobile brigades were numbered 1 through 7, plus the Second Arditi Brigade.
Other Axis nations:
The 12th SS Police Regiment (German: SS-Polizei-Regiment 3) was initially named the 12th Police Regiment (Polizei-Regiment 12) when it was formed in 1942 from existing Order Police units (Ordnungspolizei) in Germany. It was redesignated as an SS unit in early 1943. The regimental headquarters was disbanded in early 1944, but its battalions remained in service.20th SS Police Regiment
The 20th SS Police Regiment (German: SS-Polizei-Regiment 20) was initially named Police Regiment Bohemia (Polizei-Regiment Böhmen) when it was formed in 1939 after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia from existing Order Police (Ordnungspolizei) units for security duties in Bohemia. It was redesignated as the 20th Police Regiment in mid-1942 before it received the SS title in early 1943.2nd Division "Littorio"
The 2nd 'Littorio' ("Lictor") Division was one of four divisions raised by Mussolini's Italian Social Republic. Although an infantry formation, it was often referred to as a "Grenadier" formation for morale purposes.Army Group Liguria
Army Liguria (Armee Ligurien, or LXXXXVII Army) was an army formed for the National Republican Army (Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano, or ENR). The ENR was the national army of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana, or RSI). Formation of this RSI army started in 1943 and the army was disbanded in 1945. Army Group Liguria included several German units and its Italian units were sometimes transferred to German formations.Black Brigade
Black Brigade may refer to:
Black Brigades, Fascist paramilitary groups operating in northern Italy during the final years of World War II, and after the signing of the Italian Armistice in 1943
Certain Polish military units in World War II, including:
10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade (Poland)
10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade (Poland)
1st Armoured Division (Poland)
Racially segregated military units in United States history, including:
The Black Brigade, a 1778 combat unit of 24 elite commandos consisting of Black Loyalists, or formerly enslaved African Americans or Free Negroes who escaped, to the British, during the American Revolutionary War
Black Brigade of Cincinnati, a military unit made up of African Americans organized during the Civil War to protect the city of Cincinnati in 1862FictionalBlack Brigade (film), the DVD release title of the 1970 television movie Carter's Army about a squad of all black troops charged with securing an important hydro dam in Nazi GermanyBlackshirts
The Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale (MVSN, "Voluntary Militia for National Security"), commonly called the Blackshirts (Italian: Camicie Nere, CCNN, singular: Camicia Nera) or squadristi (singular: squadrista), was originally the paramilitary wing of the National Fascist Party and, after 1923, an all-volunteer militia of the Kingdom of Italy under Fascist rule. Its members were distinguished by their black uniforms (modelled on those of the Arditi, Italy's elite troops of World War I) and their loyalty to Benito Mussolini, the Duce (leader) of Fascism, to whom they swore an oath. The founders of the paramilitary groups were nationalist intellectuals, former army officers and young landowners opposing peasants' and country labourers' unions. Their methods became harsher as Mussolini's power grew, and they used violence and intimidation against Mussolini's opponents. In 1943, following the fall of the Fascist regime, the MVSN was integrated into the Royal Italian Army and disbanded.Borgo San Dalmazzo concentration camp
The Borgo San Dalmazzo concentration camp (German: Polizeihaftlager Borgo San Dalmazzo) was a Nazi concentration camp in Borgo San Dalmazzo, Piedmont, Italy.
The camp operated under German control from September to November 1943 and, following that, under the control of the Italian Social Republic from December 1943 to February 1944. Approximately 375 Jews, including Italian nationals, 119 refugees from Poland, and refugees from France, the Soviet Union, Germany, Austria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia and Greece, were held at Borgo San Dalmazzo until deported to Auschwitz and other German camps where all but a few were murdered.Fascist paramilitary
A fascist paramilitary is a fighting force - whether armed, unarmed, or merely symbolic - that is independent of regular military command and is established for the defence and advancement of a movement that adheres to the radical nationalist ideology of fascism. Since fascism is such a militarist ideology, there are very few varieties of fascism where paramilitaries do not play a central role, and some kind of paramilitary participation is almost always a basic requirement of membership in fascist movements. Fascist paramilitaries have seen action in both peacetime and wartime. Most fascist paramilitaries wear political uniforms, and many have taken their names from the colours of their uniforms.
The first fascist paramilitary was the Blackshirts of Italian Fascism led by Benito Mussolini. While many of the Blackshirts were former members of the Arditi who had fought in World War I or the Fascio of the immediate post-war years, the most direct inspiration for the first fascist paramilitary was Giuseppe Garibaldi's Redshirts.
A number of other fascist movements established paramilitaries modelled after the Italian original, most notably Nazism with its Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel. Others include:
in Ireland, in the 1930s, the Blueshirts under Eoin O'Duffy
the gold shirts and the Red Shirts of 1930s Mexico
the Greenshirts of Brazilian Integralism
the Heimwehr in Austria, in the 1920s and 1930s
the Legionary Greenshirts of the Romanian Iron Guard
Iron Wolf (organization)
National Union (Portugal)Several fascist movements took their cue from the Sturmabteilung rather than the Blackshirts, such as the Greyshirts in South Africa and the Silver Legion of America. Following the Axis invasion of Albania, the occupation forces formed the Albanian Militia under the Blackshirts. Several fascist paramilitaries were active in Romania including the Lăncieri.
Some fascist movements have also established paramilitary youth organizations such as the Hitler Youth or the Mocidade Portuguesa.
A number of fascist paramilitaries have been deployed in conventional warfare. For example, in the later years of World War II the Italian Blackshirts developed into the Black Brigades. Likewise, the combat wing of the Schutzstaffel, the Waffen-SS, fought in many major battles of World War II. The Einsatzgruppen were death squads active in Eastern Europe which carried out the Holocaust and other political killings. In an act of desperation, the Nazis deployed remnants of the Hitler Youth and Sturmabteilung against the Red Army in the Battle of Berlin. At the eleventh hour of the war, the Nazis laid plans for a guerrilla resistance movement they called the Werwolf. However, these plans amounted to little more than a handful of sabotages and assassinations which were ineffective.
Neo-Nazis have used the white power skinhead scene as a recruitment base for neofascist paramilitaries like Combat 18. Soccer hooliganism throughout Europe is another source of recruits. Some groups in the white supremacist wing of the militia movement in the United States can be seen as neofascist paramilitaries.Ginetta Sagan
Ginetta Sagan (June 1, 1925 – August 25, 2000) was an Italian-born American human rights activist best known for her work with Amnesty International on behalf of prisoners of conscience.
Born in Milan, Italy, Sagan lost her parents in her teenage years to the Black Brigades of Benito Mussolini. Like her parents, she was active in the Italian resistance movement, gathering intelligence and supplying Jews in hiding. She was captured and tortured in 1945, but escaped on the eve of her execution with the help of Nazi defectors.
After studying in Paris, she attended graduate school in child development in the US and married Leonard Sagan, a physician. The couple then resettled in Atherton, California, where Sagan founded the first chapter of Amnesty International in the western US. She later toured the region, helping to establish more than 75 chapters, and organized events to raise money for political prisoners.
In 1984, Sagan was elected the honorary chair of Amnesty International USA. US President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, and Italy later awarded her the rank of Grand Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (Grand Official Order of Merit of the Italian Republic). Amnesty International founded an annual Ginetta Sagan Award for activists in her honor.Italian Civil War
The Italian Civil War (Italian: La guerra civile) is the period between September 8, 1943 (the date of the armistice of Cassibile), and May 2, 1945 (the date of the surrender of German forces in Italy) in which the Italian Resistance and the Italian Co-Belligerent Army joined the allies fighting Axis forces including continuing Italian Fascist Italian Social Republic.Italian Social Republic
The Italian Social Republic (Italian: Repubblica Sociale Italiana, pronounced [reˈpubblika soˈtʃaːle itaˈljaːna]; RSI), popularly and historically known as the Republic of Salò (Italian: Repubblica di Salò [reˈpubblika di saˈlɔ]), was a German puppet state with limited recognition that was created during the later part of World War II, existing from the beginning of German occupation of Italy in September 1943 until the surrender of German troops in Italy in May 1945.
The Italian Social Republic was the second and last incarnation of the Italian Fascist state and was led by Duce Benito Mussolini and his reformed anti-monarchist Republican Fascist Party which tried to modernise and revise fascist doctrine into a more moderate and sophisticated direction. The state declared Rome its capital, but was de facto centered on Salò (hence its colloquial name), a small town on Lake Garda, near Brescia, where Mussolini and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were headquartered. The Italian Social Republic exercised nominal sovereignty in Northern and Central Italy, but was largely dependent on German troops to maintain control.
In July 1943, after the Allies had pushed Italy out of North Africa and subsequently invaded Sicily, the Grand Fascist Council—with the support of King Victor Emmanuel III—overthrew and arrested Mussolini. The new government began secret peace negotiations with the Allied powers. When the Armistice of Cassibile was announced 8 September, Germany was prepared and quickly intervened. Germany seized control of the northern half of Italy, freed Mussolini and brought him to the German-occupied area to establish a satellite regime. The Italian Social Republic was proclaimed on 23 September 1943. Although the RSI claimed sovereignty over most of Italian territory, its de facto jurisdiction only extended to a vastly reduced portion of Italy. The RSI received diplomatic recognition from only Germany, Japan and their puppet states.
Around 25 April 1945–nineteen months after the RSI's founding–it all but collapsed. In Italy, this day is known as Liberation Day (festa della liberazione). On this day a general partisan uprising, alongside the efforts of Allied forces during their final offensive in Italy, managed to oust the Germans from Italy almost entirely. On 27 April, partisans caught Mussolini, his mistress (Clara Petacci), several RSI ministers and several other Italian Fascists while they were attempting to flee. On 28 April, the partisans shot Mussolini and most of the other captives. The RSI Minister of Defense Rodolfo Graziani surrendered what was left of the Italian Social Republic on 1 May, one day after the German forces in Italy capitulated, putting a definitive end to the Italian Social Republic.Leonardo de Benedetti
Leonardo de Benedetti (born September 15, 1898 in Turin, Italy; died October 16, 1983) was an Italian Jew and physician who was interned in the Auschwitz concentration camp from February 1944 until its liberation in January 1945. After the end of the Second World War he and fellow inmate Primo Levi wrote Auschwitz Report, a factual report of conditions inside the camp.National Republican Army
The National Republican Army (Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano, or ENR) was the army of the Italian Social Republic (Italian: Repubblica Sociale Italiana, or RSI) from 1943 to 1945 that fought on the side of Nazi Germany during World War II.
The ENR was officially formed 28 October 1943, by merging former Royal Army (Regio Esercito) units still loyal to fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and Italian pro-Nazi units raised by the Germans after the occupation of southern Italy.Piazza Tasso massacre
The Piazza Tasso massacre (Italian: Eccidio in Piazza Tasso) was a massacre that occurred on July 17, 1944, at Piazza Tasso in Florence, Tuscany, Italy.Puccio Pucci (lawyer)
Puccio Pucci (12 April 1904 – 1985) was an Italian athlete (middle-distance runner), lawyer and sports official.Republican Fascist Party
The Republican Fascist Party (Italian: Partito Fascista Repubblicano, PFR) was a political party in Italy led by Benito Mussolini during the German occupation of Central and Northern Italy and was the sole legitimate and ruling party of the Italian Social Republic. It was founded as the successor of former National Fascist Party as an anti-monarchist party. It considered King Victor Emmanuel III to be a traitor after he had signed the surrender to the Allies.SPA Dovunque 35 protetto
The SPA Dovunque 35 prottetto (Italian for anywhere and protected) is a wheeled armored troop carrier, produced in Italy and employed by the Black Brigades of the Italian Social Republic during World War II.Stazzema
Stazzema is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Lucca in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Florence and about 25 km (16 mi) northwest of Lucca.Vinca massacre
The Vinca massacre (Italian: Eccidio di Vinca) was a massacre carried out near Fivizzano, Tuscany, by the German 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division from 24 to 27 August 1944 in which 162 Italian civilians were killed.
It was one of a large number of war crimes the division was involved in while stationed in Italy during the war.
Armed Forces of the Italian Social Republic
|National Republican Guard|
Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana di Frontiera · GNR Division Etna
|National Republican Army|
1ª Divisione bersaglieri "Italia" · 2nd Division "Littorio" · 3ª Divisione fanteria di marina "San Marco" · 4ª Divisione alpina "Monterosa" · Reggimento alpini "Tagliamento" · 63ª Legione CC.NN. d'Assalto "Tagliamento" · Battaglione volontari di Sardegna "Giovanni Maria Angioy"
|Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana|
1º Gruppo caccia "Asso di bastoni" · 2º Gruppo caccia "Gigi Tre Osei" · 3º Gruppo caccia "Francesco Baracca" · Gruppo Aerosiluranti "Buscaglia-Faggioni" · Squadriglia complementare d'allarme "Montefusco-Bonet"
|Marina Nazionale Repubblicana|
Xª Flottiglia MAS (Repubblica Sociale Italiana)
|Republican Police Corps|
Legione Autonoma Mobile Ettore Muti · Banda Carità
Black Brigades · Female Auxiliary Service
See also: The Holocaust in Italy