This Day In History: Report That Italian Resistance To Hitler Was Spreading (1944)

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On this day in history in 1944, Allied intelligence receives information that, the Italian Resistance was expanding its activities in the country. The Germans had inflicted heavy casualties on the anti-Nazi, Italian Resistance, but despite this, the movement was actually growing. This was a reflection of the widespread hatred of the Italian Fascists and their German allies among the Italian population.

Since the official Italian surrender in the summer of 1943, German troops, on Hitler’s orders had occupied much of the country. This was to ensure that the country could not be used as a base for the Allies to attack other German strongholds elsewhere, such as France or the Balkans. The Germans did not want the Allies to use Italian airbases to bomb German cities, especially those in Southern Germany such as Munich.  The Allies progress was very slow in the Italian Peninsula partly because of the mountainous terrain and stiff German resistance, such as that at the Battle of Monte Cassino. The Nazis under Kesselring used the mountainous terrains to slow and halt the Allied advanced up the ‘Boot’ of Italy.

However, as the Allies moved farther and farther north. The  Italian resistance fighters also known as partisans helped them greatly. The Italian Resistance had long been fighting Mussolini and his regime and they now turned their guns on the Germans.  The partisans now fought German and Italian fascism.  The freedom fighters wanted a democratic republic—not a return to a country ruled, by a king and the army

The partisans were very effective and they attacked German supply lines and isolated units. The Germans had some 27 divisions in the Peninsula in central and northern Italy and at one point in 1944,  8 of them are assigned to anti-partisan campaigns. The Germans, especially the SS often used brutal tactics to suppress the partisans.

1200px-Monumento_ai_Caduti_Montù_Beccaria
Monument to dead partisans in Beccaria, Italy.

In one incident, German soldiers killed 382 Italian men, women, and children as revenge for a partisan attack that killed three dozen Germans. There were German “sweeps” for  partisans in remote areas and villages and many innocent people were killed during these operations.  The German tactics did not end the partisan threat but rather made the resistance even stronger. Ordinary Italians sickened by German atrocities supported the Italian freedom fighters, in ever greater numbers.

On this day in 1944, a report by the Japanese ambassador to Tokyo stated that the Italian partisans are active all over Northern Italy. The British intercepted this and it proved to them that the Italian resistance was not only strong but was actually helping the allies to defeat the Nazis in Italy.

This information was intercepted by British intelligence and decoded, reassuring the British forces fighting in Italy that they were not alone in fighting the Germans.

By May 1945 and the German surrender in Italy, Italian guerillas controlled regions such as Venice, Milan, and Genoa, but at considerable cost. It is believed that some 50,000 Italian fighters lost their lives fighting the Germans.

 

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