Ora e sempre resistenza

Today it’s my favorite of Italy’s public holidays.

To keep a long story long, at the start of WW2, Italy, which was an ally of Germany, was initially neutral, in part because its armed forces were completely unprepared for war. At some point in the May of 1940, with German troops advancing into France, and British troops evacuating the continent, Italy decided to join what looked like a soon-to-end war, in order to claim some French territories and colonies.

But then, in 1941, Germany attacked Russia and Japan attacked the US, underestimating what they were getting into, and by the beginning of 1943 the tide was clearly turning against the “axis.” Italy’s king, who was definitely not the “fight until the last man” type, had Mussolini arrested, installed a general as prime minister, and started negotiating Italy’s surrender with the allies (even as Italian troops were fighting with the Germans in Russia and in Africa). Eventually, on September 8, 1943, the king announced a cease-fire. Because of the secrecy of the negotiations, nobody knew what was going in advance, and most of the Italian troops that were fighting with the Germans were taken prisoners, while the rest of the armed forces basically disbanded. German troops came into Italy from the North to occupy it, even as allied troops landed in Sicily and took control of most of Southern Italy. The king fled to the South, and the Germans freed Mussolini and installed him as head of a puppet government in the North.

With the Italian army disbanded, and with the allies neglecting the “Southern front” in Italy as they were plotting the landing in Normandy, guerilla groups were formed in Northern Italy to fight the Germans. Eventually, in April 1945 the German troops were retreating from the Eastern and Western fronts against the advancing American and Russian forces, and the allied made another push in Italy; concurrently, the resistance organizations planned an insurrection that, on April 25, liberated Torino and Milan. All the German forces in Italy surrendered on April 29.

The resistance was the training ground of some of the first generation of politicians of the new Italian Republic (a referendum to abolish the monarchy passed in 1946, and a new Republican constitution was approved in 1948), and it brought people who were willing to die for their ideals into politics. That spirit didn’t last very long, but it remains one of the few bright spots in recent Italian history.

4 thoughts on “Ora e sempre resistenza

  1. Thanks for the history lesson!

    According to Google Translate “Ora e sempre resistenza” translates into “Now and forever resistance.”

    I looked through the list of Italian prime ministers on Wikipedia and it looks like the only one who is directly listed as participating in the resistance is Carlo Azeglio Ciampi who was the 49th prime minister of Italy from 1993-1994.

    Italian politics seem much more exciting and dramatic than American politics, for example during the “Tangentopoli” scandal “At one point more than half of the members of the Italian Parliament were under indictment” 🙂

  2. Until 1981 all the prime ministers were from Democrazia Cristiana, whose members got into politics from activism in Catholic associations and who had a low profile during the occupation. But most of the prominent politicians of the other parties, especially the Communists, were involved in the resistance.

  3. To Mugizi: yes, few Italian prime ministers participated in the resistance. But, among the presidents at least Pertini, Ciampi and Napolitano were active in the resistance; and Pertini was in the Resistance way *before* there was one. Each one of them is considered among the better politicians and presidents Italy has had so far.

    To Luca: how ironic that the same communist politicians who had donned the mantle of the resistance (Togliatti, Pajetta, Amendola) didn’t utter a word when barely 10 years after their own experience, Imre Nagy led a revolution in Hungary. Such are the defenders of freedom in Italy.

  4. Pingback: TOP 20 GENNAIO 2013 | RADIOTOP100

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