Italian resistance movement

The Italian resistance movement (Italian: Resistenza italiana or just la Resistenza) is an umbrella term for Italian resistance groups during World War II. It was opposed to the forces of Nazi Germany as well as their puppet state local regime, the Italian Social Republic, especially following the German military occupation of Italy between September 1943 and April 1945, though the resistance to the Fascist Italian government began even prior to World War II. The movement that rose among Italians of various social classes is also known as the Italian resistance and the Italian partisans (partigiani in Italian), and the brutal conflict they took part in is referred to as the Italian Liberation War (when referring to the part they took in the Italian Campaign against the Axis) or as the Italian Civil War (when referring specifically to the conflict with Italian Fascists). The modern Italian Republic was declared to be founded on the struggle of the Resistance.

Italian resistance movement
Participant in the Italian Civil War and World War II
Flag of Italian Committee of National Liberation
Partigiani Ossola
Flag of the National Liberation Committee and some members of the Italian resistance in Ossola, 1944.
ActiveMost active 1943–1945; however, the Resistance actually originated following the rise of Fascist Italy in the 1920s
Generally Anti-fascism;
Mainly various forms of communism, socialism, and anarchism;
republicanism and liberalism
To a lesser extent:
Liberal socialism
Christian democracy
Catholic anti-fascism/Catholic anti-Nazism
Catholic socialism
Social liberalism
Social democracy
Opponent(s)Axis powers (Nazi Germany and Italian Social Republic)

Resistance by Italian armed forces

In Italy

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-568-1537-04, Italien, Rom, erschossene Italiener
Italians shot by invading Germans in Barletta, 12 September 1943


Armed resistance to the German occupation following the armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces of 3 September 1943 began with Italian regular forces: the Italian Armed Forces and the Carabinieri military police. The period's best-known battle broke out in Rome the 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 and the "Lupi di Toscana" Division (in addition to Carabinieri, infantry and coastal artillery regiments) were deployed around the city and along surrounding roads.

Outnumbered German Fallschirmjäger and Panzergrenadiere were initially repelled and endured losses, but slowly gained the upper hand, aided by their experience and superior Panzer component. The defenders were 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 caused Allied support to be cancelled at the last minute since the Fallschirmjäger took the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division drop zones; Brigadier General Maxwell D. Taylor had crossed enemy lines and gone to Rome to personally supervise the operation. The Italian Centauro II Division's absence from the battle with its German-made Tanks contributed to the defeat of the Italian forces by the Germans. It was composed primarily of ex-Blackshirts and was not trusted.

By 10 September, the Germans had penetrated downtown Rome and the Granatieri (aided by civilians) made their last stand at Porta San Paolo. At 4 pm, General Giorgio Carlo Calvi di Bergolo signed the order of surrender; the Italian divisions were disbanded, and their members taken prisoner. Although some officers participating in the battle later joined the resistance, the clash was not motivated by anti-German sentiment but by the necessity to defend the Italian capital and resist the Italian soldiers' disarmament. Generals Raffaele Cadorna, Jr. (commander of Ariete II) and Giuseppe Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo (later executed by the Germans) joined the underground; General Gioacchino Solinas (commander of the Granatieri) instead opted for the pro-German Italian Social Republic.[1]


One of the most important episodes of resistance by Italian armed forces after the armistice was the battle of Piombino, Tuscany.[2] On 10 September 1943, during Operation Achse, a small German flotilla, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Karl-Wolf Albrand, tried to enter the harbour of Piombino but was denied access by the port authorities.[2] General Cesare Maria De Vecchi, in command of the Italian coastal forces (and a former Fascist Gerarca), commanded the port authorities to allow the German flotilla to enter, against the advice of Commander Amedeo Capuano, the Naval commander of the harbour.[2][3][4] Once they entered and landed, the German forces showed a hostile behaviour, and it became clear that their intent was to occupy the town; the local population asked for a resolved reaction by the Italian forces, threatening an insurrection, but the senior Italian commander, general Fortunato Perni, instead ordered his tanks to open fire on the civilians, to disperse the crowds; De Vecchi forbade any action against the Germans.[2][3][4] This however did not stop the protests; some junior officers, acting on their own initiative and against the orders (Perni and De Vecchi even tried to dismiss them for this), assumed command and started distributing weapons to the population, and civilian volunteers joined the Italian sailors and soldiers in the defense.[2][3][5]

Battle broke out at 21:15 on 10 September, between the German landing forces (who aimed to occupy the town centre) and the Italian coastal batteries, tanks, and civilian population.[3][2][4] Italian tanks sank the German torpedo boat TA11;[6][7] Italian artillery also sank seven Marinefährprahme, the péniches Mainz and Meise (another péniche, Karin, was scuttled at the harbour entrance as a blockship) and six Luftwaffe service boats (Fl.B.429, Fl.B.538, Fl.C.3046, Fl.C.3099, Fl.C.504 e Fl.C.528), and heavily damaged the torpedo boat TA9 and the steamers Carbet and Capitano Sauro (formerly Italian).[8] Sauro and Carbet were scuttled because of the damage they had suffered.[8][9] The German attack was repelled; by the dawn of 11 September, 120 Germans had been killed and about 200-300 captured, 120 of them wounded.[4] Italian casualties had been 4 killed (two sailors, one Guardia di Finanza brigadier, and one civilian) and a dozen wounded;[10][11] four Italian submarine chasers (VAS 208, 214, 219 and 220) were also sunk during the fighting.[8] Later in the morning, however, De Vecchi ordered the prisoners to be released, and had their weapons given back to them.[3][2][12] New popular protests broke out, as the Italian units were disbanded and the senior commanders fled from the city; the divisional command surrendered Piombino to the Germans on 12 September, and the city was occupied.[3][4][2] Many of the sailors, soldiers and citizens who had fought in the battle of Piombino retreated to the surrounding woods and formed the first partisan formations in the area.[3]

Outside Italy

In the days following 8 September 1943 most servicemen, left without orders from higher echelons (due to Wehrmacht units ceasing Italian radio communications), were disarmed and shipped to POW camps in the Third Reich (often by smaller German outfits). However, some garrisons stationed in occupied Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia and Italy fought the Germans. Admirals Inigo Campioni and Luigi Mascherpa led an attempt to defend 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. However, the Wehrmacht took the islands through air and sea landings by infantry and Fallschirmjäger supported by the Luftwaffe. Both Campioni and Mascherpa were captured and executed at Verona for high treason.

On 13 September 1943, the Acqui Division stationed in Cefalonia was ordered by Italian High Command to attack the Germans, despite ongoing negotiations. After a ten-day battle, the Germans executed thousands of officers and enlisted men in retaliation. Those killed in the massacre of the Acqui Division included division commander General Antonio Gandin.

Other Italian forces remained trapped in Yugoslavia following the armistice and some decided to fight alongside the local resistance. 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 its members had been killed or were listed as missing in action.

Bastia, in Corsica, was the setting of a naval battle between Italian torpedo boats and an attacking German flotilla.

Italian military internees

Italian soldiers captured by the Germans numbered around 650,000-700,000 (some 45,000 others were killed in combat, executed, or died during transport), of whom between 40,000 and 50,000 later died in the camps. Most refused cooperation with the Third Reich despite hardship, chiefly to maintain their oath of fidelity to the King. Their former allies designated them Italienische Militär-Internierte ("Italian military internees") to deny them prisoner of war status and the rights granted by the Geneva Convention. Their actions were eventually recognized as an act of unarmed resistance on a par with the armed confrontation of other Italian servicemen.[13]

Underground resistance

In the first major act of resistance following the German occupation, the city of Naples was liberated through a chaotic popular rebellion. Its people rose in the last days of September 1943. Elsewhere, the nascent movement began as independently operating groups were organized and led by previously outlawed political parties or by former officers of the Royal Italian Army. Many partisan formations were initially founded by soldiers from disbanded units of the Royal Italian Army that had evaded capture in Operation Achse, and were led by junior Army officers who had decided to resist the German occupation; they were subsequently joined and re-organized by Anti-Fascists, and became thus increasingly politicized.[14]

Later the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (Committee of National Liberation, or CLN), 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, largely took control of the movement in accordance with King Victor Emmanuel III's ministers and the Allies. The CLN was set up by partisans behind German lines and had the support of most groups in the region.[15]

The main CLN formations included three politically varied groups: the communist Garibaldi Brigades, the Giustizia e Libertà (Justice and Freedom) Brigades related to the Partito d'Azione, and the socialist Matteotti Brigades. Smaller groups included Christian democrats and, outside the CLN, monarchists such as the Brigate Fiamme Verdi (Green Flame Brigades) and Fronte Militare Clandestino headed by Colonel Montezemolo. Another sizeable partisan group, particularly strong in Piedmont (where the Fourth Army had disintegrated in September 1943), were the "autonomous" (autonomi) partisans, largely composed of former soldiers with no substantial alignment to any anti-Fascist party; an example were the 1° Gruppo Divisioni Alpine led by Enrico Martini.

Relations among the groups varied. For example, in 1945, the Garibaldi partisans under Yugoslav Partisan command attacked and killed several partisans of the Catholic and azionista Osoppo groups in the province of Udine. Tensions between the Catholics and the Communists in the movement led to the foundation of the Fiamme Verdi as a separate formation.[16]

A further challenge to the 'national unity' embodied in the CLN came from anarchists as well as dissident-communist Resistance formations, such as Turin's Stella Rossa movement and the Movimento Comunista d'Italia (Rome's largest single anti-fascist force under Occupation), which sought a revolutionary outcome to the conflict and were thus unwilling to collaborate with 'bourgeois parties'.[17]

Partisan movement

Map of Italy during the Civil War, focusing on the Italian Social Republic

Rodolfo Graziani estimated the partisan strength at around 70,000-80,000 by May 1944.[18] Some 41% in the Garibaldi Brigades and 29% were Actionists of the Giustizia e Libertà Brigades.[19] One of the strongest units, the 8th Garibaldi Brigade, had 8,050 men (450 without arms) and operated in the Romagna area.[18] The CLN mostly operated in the Alpine area, Apennine area and Po Valley of the RSI, and also in the German OZAK (the area northeast of the north end of the Adriatic Sea) and OZAV (Trentino and South Tyrol) zones.[18] Its losses amounted to 16,000 killed, wounded or captured between September 1943 and May 1944.[18] On 15 June 1944, the General Staff of the Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano estimated that the partisan forces amounted to some 82,000 men, of whom about 25,000 operated in Piedmont, 14,200 in Liguria, 16,000 in the Julian March, 17,000 in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, 5,600 in Veneto, and 5,000 in Lombardy.[20] Their ranks were gradually increased by the influx of young men escaping the Italian Social Republic's draft, as well as from deserters from the RSI armed forces.[21] By August 1944, the number of partisans had grown to 100,000, and it escalated to more than 250,000 with the final insurrection in April 1945.[22] The Italian resistance suffered 50,000 fighters killed throughout the conflict.[23][24]

An Italian partisan in Florence, 14 August 1944. TR2282
An Italian partisan in Florence on August 14, 1944
Alfredo Sforzini
Partisan Alfredo Sforzini

Partisan unit sizes varied, depending on logistics (such as the ability to arm, clothe and feed members) and the amount of local support. The basic unit was the squadra (squad), with three or more squads (usually five) comprising a distaccamento (detachment). Three or more detachments made a brigata (brigade), of which two or more made a divisione (division). In some places, several divisions formed a gruppo divisione (divisional group). These divisional groups were responsible for a zona d'operazione (operational group).

While the largest contingents operated in mountainous districts of the Alps and the Apennine Mountains, other large formations fought in the Po River flatland. In the large towns of northern Italy, such as Piacenza, and the surrounding valleys near the Gothic Line. Montechino Castle housed a key partisan headquarters. The Gruppi di Azione Patriottica (GAP; "Patriotic Action Groups") commanded by the Resistance's youngest officer, Giuseppe "Beppe" Ruffino, carried out acts of sabotage and guerrilla warfare, and the Squadre di Azione Patriottica (SAP; "Patriotic Action Squads") arranged strike actions and propaganda campaigns. As in the French Resistance, women were often important members and couriers.[25]

Like their counterparts elsewhere in Europe, Italian partisans seized whatever arms they could find. The first weapons were brought by ex-soldiers fighting German occupiers from the Regio Esercito inventory: Carcano rifles, Beretta M1934 and M1935 pistols, Bodeo M1889 revolvers, SRCM and OTO hand grenades, and Fiat–Revelli Modello 1935, Breda 30 and Breda M37 machine guns. Later, captured K98ks, MG 34s, MG 42s, the iconic potato-masher grenades, Lugers, and Walther P38s were added to partisan kits. Submachine guns (such as the MP 40) were initially scarce, and usually reserved for squad leaders.

Automatic weapons became more common as they were captured in combat and as the Social Republic regime soldiers began defecting, bringing their own guns. Beretta MABs began appearing in larger numbers in 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 Sten guns.[26] U.S.-made weapons were provided on a smaller scale from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS): Thompson submachine guns (both M1928 and M1), M3 submachine guns, United Defense M42s, and folding-stock M1 carbines. Other supplies included explosives, clothing, boots, food rations, and money (used to buy weapons or to compensate civilians for confiscations).


Colle del Lys (monumento ai partigiani)
Resistance monument at Lys Pass in the Alps (2008)
Monumento al partigiano inserito in copertina il piombo e l'argento
Partisan memorial Parma

The worst conditions and fighting took place in mountainous regions. Resources were scarce and living conditions were terrible. Due to limited supplies the resistance adopted guerrilla warfare. This involved groups of 40-50 fighters ambushing and harassing the Nazis and their allies. The size of the brigades was reflective of the resources available to the partisans. Resource limits could not support large groups in one area. Mobility was key to their success. Their terrain knowledge enabled narrow escapes in small groups when nearly surrounded by the Germans. The partisans had no permanent headquarters or bases, making them difficult to destroy.[27]

The resistance fighters themselves relied heavily on the local populace for support and supplies. They would often barter or just ask for food, blankets and medicine. When the partisans took supplies from families, they would often hand out promissory notes that the peasants could convert after the war for money. The partisans slept in abandoned farms and farmhouses. One account from Paolino 'Andrea' Ranieri (a political commissar at the time) described fighters using donkeys to move equipment at night while during the day the peasants used them in the fields. The Nazis tried to split the populace from the resistance by adopting a reprisal policy of killing 10 Italians for every German killed by the Partisans. Those executed would come from the village near where an attack took place and sometimes from captive partisan fighters.

The German punishments backfired and instead strengthened the relationship. Because most resistance fighters were peasants, local populations felt a need to provide for their own. One of the larger engagements was the battle for Monte Battaglia (lit. "Battle Mountain"), a mountaintop that was a part of the Gothic Line. On September 26, 1944, a joint force of 250 Partisans and three companies of U.S. soldiers from the 88th Infantry Division attacked the hill occupied by elements of the German 290th Grenadier Regiment. The Germans were caught completely by surprise. The attackers captured the hill and held it for five days against reinforced German units, securing a path for the Allied advance.

Urban areas

Resistance activities were different in the cities. Some Italians ignored the struggle, while others organized, such as the Patriotic Action Squads and issued propaganda. Groups such as the Patriotic Action Groups carried out military actions. A more expansive support network was devised than in the countryside. Networks of safe houses were established to hide weapons and wounded fighters. Only sympathizers were involved, because compulsion was thought to encourage betrayal. People largely supported the resistance because of economic hardships, especially inflation. Pasta prices tripled and bread prices had quintupled since 1938; hunger unified the underground and general population.[27]

Female partisans

Carla Capponi
Carla Capponi, a vice-commander in the Gruppi di azione patriottica

Women played a large role. After the war, about 35,000 Italian women were recognised as female partigiane combattenti (partisan combatants) and 20,000 as patriote (patriots); they broke into these groups based on their activities. The majority were between 20 and 29. They were generally kept separate from male partisans. Few were attached to brigades and were even rarer in mountain brigades. Female countryside volunteers were generally rejected. Women still served in large numbers and had significant influence.[28]

1944 uprising

During the summer and early fall of 1944, with Allied forces nearby, partisans attacked behind German lines, led by CLNAI. This rebellion led to provisional partisan governments throughout the mountainous regions. Ossola was the most important of these, receiving recognition from Switzerland and Allied consulates there. An intelligence officer told Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, Germany's commander of occupation forces in Italy, that he estimated German casualties fighting partisans in summer 1944 amounted to 30,000 to 35,000, including 5,000 confirmed killed.[29] Kesselring considered the number to be exaggerated, and offered his own figure of 20,000: 5,000 killed, between 7,000-8,000 missing / "kidnapped" (including deserters), and a similar number seriously wounded. Both sources agreed that partisan losses were less.[30] By the end of the year, German reinforcements and Mussolini's remaining forces crushed the uprising.

In their attempts to suppress the resistance, German and Italian Fascist forces (especially the SS, Gestapo, and paramilitary militias such as Xª MAS and Black Brigades) committed war crimes, including summary executions and systematic reprisals against civilian population. Resistance captives and suspects were often tortured and raped. Some of the most notorious mass atrocities included the Ardeatine massacre (335 Jewish civilians and political prisoners executed without a trial in a reprisal operation after a resistance bomb attack in Rome), the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre (about 560 random villagers brutally killed in an anti-partisan operation in the central mountains), the Marzabotto massacre (about 770 civilians killed in similar circumstances) and the Salussola massacre (20 partisans murdered after being tortured, as a reprisal). In all, an estimated 15,000 Italian civilians were deliberately killed, including many women and children.[31]

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-476-2051-39A, Italien, Rom, erhängte Frau, deutsche Soldaten

A woman executed by public hanging in a street of Rome, early 1944

I "tre Martiri" (Mario Cappelli, Luigi Nicolò, Adelio Pagliarani)

Three Italian partisans executed by public hanging in Rimini, August 1944

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-477-2106-08, Bei Mailand, Soldat Zivilisten kontrollierend

German soldier examining the papers of an Italian civilian outside of Milan (1944)

Santanna tafel des kreuzweges

The Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre memorial relief

Fidenza cippo alla memoria Amilcare Dallagherarda Fausto Fornaciari

Memorial stone in Soragna for two Italian partisans – killed in 1944

Foreign contribution

Arcevia monumento al partigiano
Partisan monument (Arcevia) with Italian and Yugoslav names

Not all resistance members were Italians; many foreigners had escaped POW camps or joined guerrilla bands as so-called "military missions". Among them were Yugoslavs, Czechs (deserters from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia army (in Italy for guard/patrol duty in 1944), Russians, Ukrainians, Dutch, Spaniards, Greeks, Poles, German defectors and deserters disillusioned with National Socialism[32] and Britons and Americans (ex-prisoners or advisors deployed by the SAS, SOE and OSS). Some later became well-known, such as climber and explorer Bill Tilman, reporter and historian Peter Tompkins, former RAF pilot Count Manfred Beckett Czernin, and architect Oliver Churchill. George Dunning recorded his experiences of fighting with the partisans in his book "Where bleed the many".[33]

Aid networks

Another task carried out by the resistance was assisting escaping POWs (an estimated 80,000 were interned in Italy until 8 September 1943),[34] to reach Allied lines or Switzerland on paths previously used by smugglers. Some fugitives and groups of fugitives hid in safe houses, usually arranged by women (less likely to arouse suspicion). After the war, Field Marshal Harold Alexander issued a certificate to those who thereby risked their lives.

Italian Jews were aided by DELASEM, a network extending throughout occupied Italy that included Jews and Gentiles, Roman Catholic clergy, faithful/sympathetic police officers and even some German soldiers. Since Jews were considered "enemy aliens" by the Social Republic regime, they were left with little or nothing to live on, and many were deported to Nazi concentration and extermination camps where about 7,000 died. DELASEM helped thousands of Jews by offering food, shelter and money. Some of its members would later be designated Righteous Among the Nations.


1945 uprising

Monumento ai Caduti Montù Beccaria
Monument to the fallen at the burial place of partisans killed on April 26, 1945 at Montù Beccaria (2007)

On April 19, 1945, the CLN called for an insurrection (the April 25 uprising). Bologna was attacked by partisans on April 19 and was liberated on April 21 by the Italian Co-Belligerent Army and the Polish II Corps under Allied command; Parma and Reggio Emilia were freed on April 24. Turin and Milan were liberated on April 25 through an insurrection following a general strike that commenced two days earlier; over 14,000 German and Fascist troops were captured in Genoa on April 26–27, when General Günther Meinhold surrendered to the CLN.[35] Many of the defeated German troops attempted to escape from Italy and some partisans units allowed the German columns to pass through if they turned over any Italians who were travelling with them. The forces of German occupation in Italy officially capitulated on May 2. Fascists attempted to continue fighting, but were quickly suppressed by the partisans and the Allied forces.

The April insurrection brought to the fore issues between the resistance and the Allies.[36] Given the revolutionary dimension of the insurrection in the industrial centers of Turin, Milan, and Genoa, where concerted factory occupations by armed workers had occurred, the Allied commanders sought to impose control as soon as they took the place of the retreating Germans. While the Kingdom of Italy was the de facto ruler of the South, the National Liberation Committee, still embedded in German territory, existed as a populist organization which posed a threat to the monarchy and property owners in a post-war Italy. However the PCI, under directives from Moscow, enabled the Allies to carry out their program of disarming the partisans and discouraged any revolutionary attempt at changing the social system. Instead, the PCI emphasized national unity and "progressive democracy" in order to stake their claim in the post-war political situation. Despite the pressing need to resolve social issues which persisted after the fall of fascism, the resistance movement was subordinated to the interests of Allied leaders in order to maintain the status quo.[36]

Revenge killings

Mussolini e Petacci a Piazzale Loreto, 1945
Mussolini - captured and executed by Italian Partisans, along with his mistress Clara Petacci and three other Fascist officials. (Milan, 1945)

A score-settling campaign (Italian: resa dei conti)[37] ensued against pro-German collaborators, thousands of whom were rounded up by the vengeful partisans. Controversially, many of those detainees were speedily court martialed, condemned and shot, or killed without trial. Minister of Interior Mario Scelba later put the number of the victims of such executions at 732, but other estimates were much higher. Partisan leader Ferruccio Parri, who briefly served as Prime Minister after the war in 1945, said thousands were killed.[38] Some partisans, such as perpetrators of the Schio massacre, were trialed by an Allied Military Court.[37]

During the waning hours of the war, Mussolini, accompanied by Marshal Graziani, headed to Milan to meet with Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster. Mussolini was hoping to negotiate a deal, but was given only the option of unconditional surrender. His negotiations were an act of betrayal against the Germans. When confronted about this by Achille Marazza, Mussolini said, "They [the Nazis] have always treated us as slaves. I will now resume my freedom of action." With the city already held by resistance fighters, Mussolini used his connections one last time to secure passage with an escaping German convoy on its way to the Brenner Pass with his mistress Claretta Petacci.[27] On the morning of 27 April 1945, Umberto Lazzaro (nom de guerre 'Partisan Bill'), a partisan with the 52nd Garibaldi Brigade, was checking a column of lorries carrying retreating SS troops at Dongo, Lombardy, near the Swiss border. Lazzaro recognized and arrested Mussolini. The task of executing Mussolini was, according to the official version, given to a 'Colonel Valerio' (identified as Walter Audisio) and the bodies of Mussolini and Petacci were later brought to Milan and hung upside down in the Piazzale Loreto square. Eighteen executed prominent Fascists (including Mussolini, Fernando Mezzasoma, Luigi Gatti, Alessandro Pavolini and Achille Starace) were displayed in the square; this place was significant because the bodies of 15 executed enemies of Mussolini's regime had been displayed in this square the previous year.


According to a book published in 1955 by an Italian ministerial committee on the tenth anniversary of the Liberation, casualties in Italy among the Resistance movement amounted to 35,828 partisans killed in action or executed, and 21,168 partisans mutilated or left disabled by their wounds.[39] Another 32,000 Italian partisans had been killed abroad (in the Balkans and, to a lesser extent, in France).[40] 9,980 Italian civilians had been killed in reprisals by the German and Fascist forces.[41] In 2010, the Ufficio dell'Albo d'Oro of the Italian Ministry of Defence recorded 15,197 partisans killed; however, the Ufficio dell'Albo d'Oro only considered as partisans the members of the Resistance who were civilians before joining the partisans, whereas partisans who were formerly members of the Italian armed forces (more than half those killed) were considered as members of their armed force of origin.[42]

Liberation Day

Festa della Liberazione - Florence, Italy - 25 April 2009
The 64th anniversary of the liberation of Italy in Florence, Tuscany (25th April 2009)

Since 1949, April 25 has been officially celebrated as Liberation Day, also known as Anniversary of the Resistance. Speaking at the 2014 anniversary, President Giorgio Napolitano said: "The values and merits of the Resistance, from the Partisan movement and the soldiers who sided with the fight for liberation to the Italian armed forces, are indelible and beyond any rhetoric of mythicization or any biased denigration. The Resistance, the commitment to reconquer Italy's liberty and independence, was a great civil engine of ideals, but above all it was a people in arms, a courageous mobilization of young and very young citizens who rebelled against foreign power."[43]

See also

In works of popular culture


  1. ^ Sanna, Daniele (2005). Da Porta San Paolo a Salò. Gioacchino Solinas comandante antitedesco. AM&D. ISBN 88-86799-86-1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Nell'anniversario della battaglia di Piombino, uno storico racconta perché la città merita l'onorificenza La medaglia d'oro, dopo 55 anni «Il massimo riconoscimento va concesso per ristabilire la verità» - Il Tirreno". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Piombino città di eroi - la". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e "8 settembre '43: la breve illusione di pace". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Interventi del Presidente - La Camera dei Deputati". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  6. ^ "FR L'Iphigénie of the French Navy - French Torpedo boat of the La Melpoméne class - Allied Warships of WWII -". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Seekrieg 1943, September". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "Penische fates". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Wrecksite – Carbet". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  10. ^ "-La Nazione - PIOMBINO- Taglio del nastro per la banchina «Giorgio Perini»". 26 July 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Marinai d'Italia" (PDF). Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  12. ^ "DE VECCHI, Cesare Maria in "Dizionario Biografico"". Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  13. ^ Natta, Alessandro (1997). L'altra Resistenza. I militari italiani internati in Germania. Einaudi. ISBN 978-8806143145.
  14. ^ Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina dall'8 settembre 1943 alla fine del conflitto, p. 424.
  15. ^ The Italian Army 1940-45 (3) Osprey Men-at-Arms 353 ISBN 978-1-85532-866-2
  16. ^ Charles T. O'Reilly; Forgotten Battles: Italy's War of Liberation, 1943-1945; Lexington Books; 2001; p.218
  17. ^ Corvisieri, Silverio (1968). Bandiera Rossa nella Resistenza romana. Rome: Samona e Savelli.
  18. ^ a b c d Moseley, Roger (2004). Mussolini: The Last 600 Days of Il Duce. Taylor Trade Publishing.
  19. ^ Longhi, Silvano (2010). Die Juden und der Widerstand gegen den Faschismus in Italien: 1943 - 1945. Berlin.
  20. ^ Roberto Battaglia, Storia della Resistenza italiana, pp. 336-339.
  21. ^ Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina dall'8 settembre 1943 alla fine del conflitto, p. 433.
  22. ^ Resistenzialismo versus resistenza
  23. ^ "This Day in History — 9/6/1944 - Italian resistance fighters persevere". Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  24. ^ “World War II: the Encyclopedia of the War Years, 1941-1945” p. 360
  25. ^ "H-Net Review: Andrea Peto on Women and the Italian Resistance, 1943–45". H-Net. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  26. ^ Balbo, Adriano (2005). Quando inglesi arrivare noi tutti morti. Blu Edizioni. ISBN 88-7904-001-4.
  27. ^ a b c Behan, Tom. The Italian Resistance: Fascists, Guerrillas and the Allies. London: Pluto, 2009. Print.
  28. ^ Slaughter, Jane. Women and the Italian Resistance: 1943-1945. Denver, CO: Arden, 1997. Print.
  29. ^ O'Reilly, Charles (2001). Forgotten Battles: Italy's War of Liberation, 1943-1945. Oxford.
  30. ^ “Italy's Sorrow: A Year of War, 1944-1945“ p. 303
  31. ^ Gia Marie Amella, Special for CNN. "Hidden archive exposes WWII slaughters -". Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Dunning, George (1955). Where bleed the many. London, UK: Elek Books Limited.
  34. ^ "British prisoners of the Second World War and the Korean War". The National Archives. Archived from the original on 20 June 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  35. ^ Basil Davidson, Special Operations Europe: Scenes from the Anti-Nazi War (1980), pp. 340/360
  36. ^ a b Ginsborg, Paul (1990). A History of Contemporary Italy. Penguin Book. pp. 57–70.
  37. ^ a b Foot, John (2009). "The Resistance". Italy’s Divided Memory. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 176–179. ISBN 978-0-230-10183-8.
  38. ^ See the interview with Ferruccio Parri, on "Corriere della Sera" 15th November 1997. (in Italian)
  39. ^ Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina dall'8 settembre 1943 alla fine del conflitto, p. 433.
  40. ^ Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina dall'8 settembre 1943 alla fine del conflitto, p. 433.
  41. ^ Giuseppe Fioravanzo, La Marina dall'8 settembre 1943 alla fine del conflitto, p. 433.
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Italy celebrates Liberation Day - Politics -". 4 June 1944. Retrieved 19 May 2014.

External links

Action Party (Italy)

The Action Party (Italian: Partito d'Azione, PdA) was a liberal-socialist political party in Italy. The party was anti-fascist and republican. Its prominent leaders were Carlo Rosselli, Ferruccio Parri, Emilio Lussu and Ugo La Malfa. Other prominent members included Leone Ginzburg, Ernesto de Martino, Norberto Bobbio, Riccardo Lombardi, Vittorio Foa and the Nobel-winning poet Eugenio Montale.

Alessandra Kersevan

Alessandra Kersevan (born (1950-12-18)18 December 1950 in Monfalcone) is an historian, author and editor living and working in Udine.

She researches Italian modern history, including the Italian resistance movement and Italian war crimes.

She is the editor of a group called Resistenza storica at Kappa Vu edizioni, an Italian publisher.

Her research have caused a huge hate campaign against her from the political right environment, both institutional and extra-parliamentary.

Angelo Del Boca

Angelo Del Boca (born May 23, 1925 in Novara) is an Italian historian. He is specialized in the study of the Italian Colonial Empire, and the involvement in Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia during the first part of 20th century. Del Boca was the first post-WWII Italian scholar to devote himself extensively to the study of Fascist Italian's expansion in Africa, and to publish information on the crimes committed by the Italian army in Ethiopia and Libya during its period of Fascism and World War II. He was editor of the Anti-Fascist newspaper Il Giorno, and professor of Contemporary History in the University of Turin's Faculty of poltiical Science. He took part in the Italian resistance movement. In 2002 Del Boca received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Lucerne.

Beppe Fenoglio

Beppe Fenoglio (Italian pronunciation: [ˈbɛppe feˈnɔʎʎo]; born Giuseppe Fenoglio 1 March 1922 in Alba (CN) – 18 February 1963 in Turin) was an Italian writer, partisan and translator from English.

The works of Fenoglio have two main themes: the rural world of the Langhe and the Italian resistance movement, both largely inspired by his own personal experiences in them; equally, the writer has two styles: the chronicle and the epos.

Fenoglio was drafted in 1943; before he completed officer school, Italy surrendered to the Allies and Germany attacked and occupied most of Italy. Like most of Italian Army, the training unit of Fenoglio collapsed; he adventurously travelled back home from Rome, and spent months in hiding before joining the partisans in January 1944. After fighting till the end of the war, he translated a number of books from English and wrote the works he is known for while working for a winery in Alba.

His first work was in the neorealist style: La paga del sabato (this was published posthumously too, in 1969). The novel was turned down by Elio Vittorini, who advised Fenoglio to carve out stories and then incorporate them into I ventitré giorni della città di Alba ("The twenty-three days of the city of Alba") (1952). These stories were a chronicle of the Italian partisans or of rural life. One such story was La malora (1954), a long story in the style of Giovanni Verga. His major works were published in a critical edition after his death; controversy remains about his novel Il partigiano Johnny (translated as Johnny the Partisan), first published in 1968, by some considered his best work, which was edited posthumously on the basis of one or both the two incomplete versions left unpublished.

Fenoglio died in Turin, at only 41 years, from cancer of the bronchus.


The Carabinieri (, also US: , Italian: [karabiˈnjɛːri]; formally Arma dei Carabinieri, "Carabineers Force"; previously Corpo dei Carabinieri Reali, "Royal Carabineers Corps") are the national gendarmerie of Italy who primarily carry out domestic policing duties. It is one of Italy's main law enforcement agencies, alongside the Polizia di Stato and the Guardia di Finanza. As with the Guardia di Finanza but in contrast to the Polizia di Stato, the Carabinieri are a military force. As the fourth branch of the Italian Armed Forces, they come under the authority of the Ministry of Defence. In practice, there is a significant overlap between the jurisdiction of the Polizia di Stato and Carabinieri, who are contacted on separate emergency telephone numbers. Unlike the Polizia di Stato, the Carabinieri have responsibility for policing the military, and a number of members regularly participate in military missions abroad.

Carabinieri have policing powers that can be exercised at any time and in any part of the country, and they are always permitted to carry their assigned weapon as personal equipment (Beretta 92FS pistols). They were originally founded as the police force of the Kingdom of Sardinia, the forerunner of the Kingdom of Italy. During the process of Italian unification, the Carabinieri were appointed as the "First Force" of the new national military organisation. Although the Carabinieri assisted in the suppression of opposition during the rule of Benito Mussolini, they were also responsible for his downfall and many units were disbanded during World War II by Nazi Germany, which resulted in large numbers of Carabinieri joining the Italian resistance movement. In 2001, they were separated from the Army to become a separate branch of the Italian Armed Forces.

Enrico Silvestri

Enrico Silvestri (b. May 12, 1896 – d. 1977) was an Italian Alpini officer and skier.

Silvestri, born in Turin, was the leader of the military patrol team, which placed 4th at the 1928 Winter Olympics. In 1934 he was transferred to the new founded mountain warfare school of the Italian Army called Scuola Militare di Alpinismo (today: Centro Addestramento Alpino). At the Trofeo Mezzalama in 1935 he and his team colleagues Carlo Ronc and Attilio Chenoz finished first. In the rank of a capitano he led again the military patrol team at the 1936 Winter Olympics, which won the gold medal.

In the end of World War II, tenente colonnello Silvestri joined the Italian resistance movement and served in the partisan Division Garibaldi, from the middle of January 1944 to the end of 1944 in the 6th S.A.P. brigade, and from January until July 7, 1945 in the 19th Garibaldi brigade "Eusebio Giambone".

Gianni Oliva

Giovanni Oliva (short Gianni, born in Torino) is an Italian historian and politician.

Oliva specialises in Italian modern history, and in particular subjects related to the history of Italy during World War II.

He has written books about the Italian resistance movement, Italian war crimes, German and fascist war crimes in Italy during the 1943-1945 period, the Italian Social Republic, the 1945 anti-fascist epuration, the foibe massacres and the Istrian exodus.

Oliva has also been active in politics, and has held several public offices, first as a member of the Italian Communist Party, then of the Democratic Party of the Left.

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.

Giorgina Madìa

Giorgina Madìa (born December 27, 1904 in Naples) was an Italian physicist and electrical engineer, specializing in electrical communications. She worked at the National Research Council and later as a professor at the Università degli studi di Napoli. She was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1928 at Bologna and gave a talk I trasformatori telefonici.During World War II, she worked in a telephone office in Milan, where she joined the Italian resistance movement. She built and operated a radio station that sent intelligence on German troop movements to other parts of the resistance in southern Italy.She is the author of the Italian textbook Elettronica (Electronics, Rome: Del Bianco, 1963).

Giovanni Spagnolli

Giovanni Spagnolli (October 26, 1907 – October 5, 1984) was an Italian Christian Democrat politician. He was a graduate of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. During World War II, he was a member of the Italian resistance movement. He was President of the Senate of Italy (1973–1976). He was a senator in Legislature II (1953–1958), Legislature III, Legislature IV, Legislature V and Legislature VI (1972–1976).

Giulio Cesare Uccelini

Giulio Cesare Uccelini (Milan, March 11, 1904 - Milan, 23 March 1957) was a leading figure in Catholic Scouting in Lombardy and in the Italian resistance movement through the end of World War II.Uccellini joined Scouting around 1917, when, despite the opposition of his father, he entered the Milan group II ASCI (Associazione Scouts Cattolici Italiani). Driven by a strong civic and religious sense, he renounced his professional career in the Bank of Italy and the creation of a family to dedicate his life to Scouting, even after 1928, when the fascist laws outlawed the Scout movement.

Giuseppe Di Salvo

Giuseppe Di Salvo (19 April 1902 – 27 August 1988) was an Italian-born Australian merchant naval captain and campaigner for immigrants.

He was born on Lipari off Sicily to builder Sebastiano Di Salvo and Annunziata Virgona. He became a merchant captain, travelling widely and spending four years (1928–32) in the United States. He married Elena Maria Rampolla at Palermo on 30 October 1934. He opposed fascism during World War II and was exiled to Lipari, where he joined the Italian resistance movement. He later fought with the Americans during the Allied invasion at Salerno and Anzio. He moved to Melbourne in 1951 and taught English to immigrants before returning to sea in 1954.Naturalised in 1958, Di Salvo joined the Australian Labor Party and founded Il Progresso (Italo-Australiano), an Italian-language labour newspaper. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1966 in an unwinnable position. In 1972 he founded the Instituto Nazionale Assistenza Sociale, which served as the Australian branch of Italian labour organisations; he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1975. He died in Thornbury in 1988.

Italian Communist Party

The Italian Communist Party (Italian: Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI) was a communist political party in Italy.

The PCI was founded as Communist Party of Italy on 21 January 1921 in Livorno by seceding from the Italian Socialist Party (PSI). Amadeo Bordiga and Antonio Gramsci led the split. Outlawed during the Fascist regime, the party played a major role in the Italian resistance movement. It changed its name in 1943 to PCI and became the second largest political party of Italy after World War II, attracting the support of about a third of the vote share during the 1970s. At the time, it was the largest communist party in the West, with peak support reaching 2.3 million members, in 1947, and peak share being 34.4% of the vote, in 1976.

In 1991, as it had travelled from doctrinaire communism to democratic socialism by the 1970s or the 1980s, the PCI evolved into the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), which joined the Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists. The more radical members of the organization formally departed to constitute the new Communist Refoundation Party (PRC).

National Liberation Committee

The National Liberation Committee (Italian: Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale, CLN) was a political umbrella organization and the main representative of the Italian resistance movement fighting against the German occupation of Italy in the aftermath of the armistice of Cassibile. It was a multi-party entity, whose members were united by their anti-fascism.

Paolo Grassi

Paolo Grassi (30 October 1919 – 14 March 1981) was an Italian theatrical impresario.

Grassi was born in Milan, Italy. As a young man, he worked in magazines and discovered a passion for the theater. It led him in 1937 to create a Bertoldissimo (musical work), which he oversaw and directed. He organized the theater company Ninchi-Dori-Tumiati and founded the avant-garde group Palcoscenico (Stage). Grassi was a Socialist. During the Second World War, he was conscripted into the army but went over to the Italian resistance movement, including working with the socialist newspaper Avanti!. In 1947, with Giorgio Strehler, friend and associate, Grassi founded the Piccolo Teatro di Milano, the first Italian civic theater. It was later renamed, in his honor, the Teatro Paolo Grassi.

In 1964, he purchased the Teatro San Ferdinando with Strehler, renaming it Teatrale Napoletana. From 1972 to 1977 he was superintendent of the La Scala theatre, while from 1977 to 1980 held the post of president of Italy's state broadcaster RAI. He later became director of the Electa publishing house.

Grassi died in London in 1981 following heart surgery and is buried at the Monumental Cemetery of Milan. The Scuola d'arte drammatica Paolo Grassi ("School of Dramatic Arts Paolo Grassi") in Milan is named in his honour.

Patriot's Certificate

The Patriot’s Certificate (in Italian Certificato al Patriota) is a document that was given to the partisans of the Italian resistance movement during and after the Second World War, firmed by the British field marshal Harold Alexander, commander of Allied forces in Italy, attestating the active collaboration with the Allied forces against the Axis forces.

One of first of them was awarded to Nello Iacchini who, on August 26, 1944, saved the life of the Marshal himself and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during a visit to Italy.Among those who received the certificate are Raffaele Cadorna, Jr., a World War I veterans who commanded Italian resistance forces against Wehrmacht forces in northern Italy in World War II.

Renata Viganò

Renata Viganò (1900–1976) was an Italian writer best known for her neo-realist novel L'Agnese va a morire, published in 1949. Viganò was an active participant in the Italian Resistance movement during World War II and featured fictionalized accounts of her experiences as a partisan in her written work.

Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre

The Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre was a Nazi German war crime committed in the hill village of Sant'Anna di Stazzema in Tuscany, Italy, in the course of an operation against the Italian resistance movement during the Italian Campaign of World War II. On 12 August 1944 the Waffen-SS, with the help of the Brigate Nere, murdered about 560 local villagers and refugees, including more than a hundred children, and burned their bodies. These crimes have been defined as voluntary and organized acts of terrorism by the Military Tribunal of La Spezia and the highest Italian court of appeal.

Tina Anselmi

Tina Anselmi Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI (25 March 1927 – 1 November 2016) was a member of the Italian resistance movement during World War II who went on to become an Italian politician. She was the first woman to hold a ministerial position in an Italian government.

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