Italian Social Republic

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Italian Social Republic

Repubblica Sociale Italiana
1943–1945
Motto: Per l'onore d'Italia
"For the honour of Italy"
Anthem:  Giovinezza [1]
Italian Social Republic within Europe 1943.svg
Location of the Italian Social Republic within Europe in 1943
  Territory nominally administered by the Italian Social Republic
  German Operational Zones (OZAV, OZAK)
Italian Social Republic 1943 Map.png
Administrative divisions of the Italian Social Republic
Status Ally of Nazi Germany [2] [3]
Capital Salò ( de facto )
Rome ( de jure )
Common languages Italian
Religion
Roman Catholicism
Government Fascist one-party republic under a totalitarian dictatorship
Plenipotentiary  
 1943–1945
Rudolf Rahn
Duce  
 1943–1945
Benito Mussolini
Historical era World War II
Italian Civil War
12 September 1943
23 September 1943
25 April 1945
Currency Italian lira
ISO 3166 code IT
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg Kingdom of Italy (Fascist)
Kingdom of Italy Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg

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.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a regional or a traditional language in these countries, where Italians do not represent a historical minority. In the case of Romania, Italian is listed by the Government along 10 other languages which supposedly receive a "general protection", but not between those which should be granted an "advanced or enhanced" one. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Diplomatic recognition in international law is a unilateral political act with domestic and international legal consequences whereby a state acknowledges an act or status of another state or government in control of a state. Recognition can be reaccorded either de facto or de jure. Recognition can be a declaration to that effect by the recognizing government, or an act of recognition such as entering into a treaty with the other state. A vote by a country in the United Nations in favour of the membership of another country is an implicit recognition of that country by the country so voting, as only states may be members of the UN.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Contents

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.

Italian Fascism Fascist ideology as developed in Italy

Italian Fascism, also known as Classical Fascism or simply Fascism, is the original fascist ideology as developed in Italy. The ideology is associated with a series of three political parties led by Benito Mussolini, namely the Revolutionary Fascist Party (PFR) founded in 1915, the succeeding National Fascist Party (PNF) which was renamed at the Third Fascist Congress on 7–10 November 1921 and ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943 and the Republican Fascist Party that ruled the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945. Italian Fascism is also associated with the post-war Italian Social Movement and subsequent Italian neo-fascist movements.

<i>Duce</i> Italian title, derived from the Latin word dux, and cognate with duke

Duce is an Italian title, derived from the Latin word dux, and a cognate of duke. National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini was identified by Fascists as Il Duce of the movement. In 1925 it became a reference to the dictatorial position of Sua Eccellenza Benito Mussolini, Capo del Governo, Duce del Fascismo e Fondatore dell'Impero. Mussolini held this title together with that of President of the Council of Ministers: this was the constitutional position which entitled him to rule Italy on behalf of the King of Italy. Founder of the Empire was added for the exclusive use by Mussolini in recognition of his founding of an official legal entity of the Italian Empire on behalf of the King in 1936 following Italy's victory in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. The position was held by Mussolini until 1943, when he was removed from office by the King and the position of "Duce" was dismantled, while Marshal The 1st Duke of Addis Abeba was appointed Presidente del Consiglio.

Benito Mussolini Duce and President of the Council of Ministers of Italy. Leader of the National Fascist Party and subsequent Republican Fascist Party

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy from his golpe in 1922 to 1943, and Duce of Fascism from 1919 to his execution in 1945 during the Italian civil war. As dictator of Italy and founder of fascism, Mussolini inspired several totalitarian rulers such as Adolf Hitler.

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. [3] [4] [ page needed ] Although the RSI claimed sovereignty over most of Italian territory, its de facto jurisdiction only extended to a vastly reduced portion of Italy. [5] The RSI received diplomatic recognition from only Germany, Japan and their puppet states.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the "United Nations" from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

North Africa Northernmost region of Africa

North Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Morocco in the west, to Egypt's Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the east. Others have limited it to the countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, a region that was known by the French during colonial times as "Afrique du Nord" and is known by Arabs as the Maghreb. The most commonly accepted definition includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan, the 6 countries that shape the top North of the African continent. Meanwhile, "North Africa", particularly when used in the term North Africa and the Middle East, often refers only to the countries of the Maghreb and Libya. Egypt, being also part of the Middle East, is often considered separately, due to being both North African and Middle Eastern at the same time.

Sicily Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

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.

Italy's Liberation Day, also known as the Anniversary of the Liberation, Anniversary of the Resistance, or simply 25 April is a national Italian holiday commemorating the end of Nazi occupation of the Country during World War II and the victory of the Resistance. This is distinct from the Republic Day which takes place on 2 June.

Italian resistance movement Italian combatant organizations opposed to Nazi Germany and Mussolini

The Italian resistance movement 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, and the brutal conflict they took part in is referred to as the Italian Liberation War or as the Italian Civil War. The modern Italian Republic was declared to be founded on the struggle of the Resistance.

Spring 1945 offensive in Italy Allied attack into the Lombardy Plain during WWII

The spring 1945 offensive in Italy, codenamed Operation Grapeshot, was the final Allied attack during the Italian Campaign in the final stages of the Second World War. The attack into the Lombardy Plain by the 15th Allied Army Group started on 6 April 1945, ending on 2 May with the formal surrender of German forces in Italy.

Context of creation

Benito Mussolini rescued by German troops from his prison in Campo Imperatore on 12 September 1943 Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-567-1503A-07, Gran Sasso, Mussolini mit deutschen Fallschirmjagern.jpg
Benito Mussolini rescued by German troops from his prison in Campo Imperatore on 12 September 1943

On 24 July 1943, after the Allied landings in Sicily on a motion by Dino Grandi the Grand Fascist Council voted a motion of no confidence in Mussolini. Mussolini's position had been undermined by a series of military defeats from the start of Italy's entry into the war in June 1940, including the bombing of Rome, the loss of the African colonies and the Allied invasions of Sicily and the southern Italian Peninsula.

Allied invasion of Sicily major World War II campaign

The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major campaign of World War II, in which the Allies took the island of Sicily from the Axis powers. It began with a large amphibious and airborne operation, followed by a six-week land campaign, and initiated the Italian Campaign.

Dino Grandi Italian politician

Dino Grandi, 1st Conte di Mordano, was an Italian Fascist politician, minister of justice, minister of foreign affairs and president of parliament.

A motion of no-confidence, alternatively vote of no confidence, or confidence motion, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility is no longer deemed fit to hold that position, perhaps because they are inadequate in some respect, are failing to carry out obligations, or are making decisions that other members feel detrimental. As a parliamentary motion, it demonstrates to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in the appointed government. In some countries, if a no confidence motion is passed against an individual minister they have to resign along with the entire council of ministers.

The next day, King Victor Emmanuel III dismissed Mussolini from office and ordered him arrested. By this time, the monarchy, a number of Fascist government members and the general Italian population had grown tired of the futile war effort which had driven Italy into subordination and subjugation under Nazi Germany. The failed war effort left Mussolini humiliated at home and abroad as a "sawdust Caesar". Under Marshal Pietro Badoglio, the new government began secret negotiations with the Allied powers and made preparations for the capitulation of Italy. These surrender talks implied a commitment from Badoglio not only to leave the Axis alliance but also to have Italy declare war on Germany.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Julius Caesar 1st-century BC Roman politician and general

Gaius Julius Caesar, known by his nomen and cognomen Julius Caesar, was a populist Roman dictator, politician, military general, and historian who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He also wrote Latin prose.

Marshal is a term used in several official titles in various branches of society. As marshals became trusted members of the courts of Medieval Europe, the title grew in reputation. During the last few centuries, it has been used for elevated offices, such as in military rank and civilian law enforcement.

While the Germans formally recognised the new status quo in Italian politics, they intervened by sending some of the best units of the Wehrmacht to Italy. This was done both to resist new Allied advances and to face the predictably imminent defection of Italy. While Badoglio continued to swear loyalty to Germany and the Axis powers, Italian government emissaries prepared to sign an armistice at Cassibile in Allied-occupied Sicily, which was finalized on 3 September.

On 8 September, Badoglio announced Italy's armistice with the Allies (although termed an "armistice", its terms made it akin to an unconditional surrender). German Führer Adolf Hitler and his staff, long aware of the negotiations, acted immediately by ordering German troops to seize control of Northern and Central Italy. The Germans disarmed the Italian troops and took over all of the Italian Army's materials and equipment. The Germans also dissolved the Italian occupation zone in southeastern France and forced Italian troops stationed there to leave. The Italian armed forces were not given clear orders to resist the Germans following the armistice and so resistance to the German takeover was scattered and of little effect. King Victor Emmanuel made no effort to rally resistance to the Germans, instead of fleeing with his retinue to the safety of the Allied lines.

The new Italian government had moved Mussolini from place to place while he was in captivity in an attempt to foil any attempts at rescue. Despite this, the Germans eventually pinpointed Mussolini at the Campo Imperatore Hotel at Gran Sasso. On 12 September, Mussolini was liberated by the Germans in Operation Eiche in the mountains of Abruzzo, while the Italian carabinieri were allegedly placed under orders to not fire their weapons at the raiders, rendering them defenseless. [6] After being liberated, Mussolini was flown to Bavaria. Gathering what support he still had among the Italian population, his liberation made it possible for a new German-dependent Fascist Italian state to be created.

Part of a series on the
History of Italy
1839 Monin Map of Ancienne Italy Atlas Universel de Geographie Ancienne and Moderne.jpg

Timeline

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Foreign relations

Establishment by Nazi Germany

Italian Social Republic propaganda poster saying: "Germany is truly your friend" Germaniamica.jpg
Italian Social Republic propaganda poster saying: "Germany is truly your friend"

Three days following his rescue in the Gran Sasso raid, Mussolini was taken to Germany for a meeting with Hitler in Rastenburg at his East Prussian headquarters. While Mussolini was in poor health and wanted to retire, Hitler wanted him to return to Italy and set up a new Fascist state. When Mussolini balked, Hitler threatened to destroy Milan, Genoa and Turin unless he went along. Reluctantly, Mussolini agreed to Hitler's demands. [7]

The Italian Social Republic was proclaimed on 23 September, with Mussolini as both head of state and prime minister. [3] [4] [ page needed ] The RSI claimed Rome as its capital, but the de facto capital became the small town of Salò on Lake Garda, midway between Milan and Venice, where Mussolini resided along with the foreign office of the RSI. While Rome itself was still under Axis control at the time, given the city's proximity to Allied lines and the threat of civil unrest, neither the Germans nor Mussolini himself wanted him to return to Rome. [8]

On 18 September, Mussolini made his first public address to the Italian people since his rescue, in which he commended the loyalty of Hitler as an ally while condemning Victor Emmanuel for betraying Italian Fascism. [7] He declared: "It is not the regime that has betrayed the monarchy, it is the monarchy that has betrayed the regime". He also formally repudiated his previous support of the monarchy, saying: "When a monarchy fails in its duties, it loses every reason for being...The state we want to establish will be national and social in the highest sense of the word; that is, it will be Fascist, thus returning to our origins". [7]

From the start, the Italian Social Republic was little more than a puppet state dependent entirely upon Germany. [8] Mussolini himself knew this; even as he stated in public that he was in full control of the RSI, he was well aware that he was little more than the Gauleiter of Lombardy. [4] [ page needed ] The SS kept Mussolini under what amounted to house arrest; it monitored his communications and controlled his travel. [9]

The RSI had no constitution or organized economy, and its financing was dependent entirely on funding from Berlin. [10] German forces themselves had little respect for Mussolini's failed fascist movement, and saw the regime merely as a tool for maintaining order, such as repressing the Italian partisans. [11] This work was also carried out by the infamous Pietro Koch and the Banda Koch on Germany's behalf. [12]

The RSI received diplomatic recognition from only Germany, Imperial Japan and their puppet states. Even the otherwise sympathetic Spain refused to establish formal diplomatic relations with the RSI. [8]

The RSI took revenge against the 19 members who had voted against Mussolini on the Grand Council with the Verona trial (processo di Verona) which handed down a death sentence to all of the accused but one. Only six of the 19 were in RSI custody (Giovanni Marinelli, Carlo Pareschi, Luciano Gottardi, Tullio Cianetti, Emilio De Bono and Mussolini's own son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano). They (except for Tullio Cianetti who received a life sentence) were all executed on 11 January 1944 in the fort of San Procolo in Verona.

Territorial losses

The changing political and military situation re-opened questions regarding the status of Italian territories, particularly those with German-speaking majorities that were formerly under Austrian rule. Previously, Hitler had vigorously suppressed any campaigning for the return of lands such as South Tyrol in order to maintain good relations with his Italian ally. In the aftermath of the Kingdom of Italy's abandonment of the Axis on 8 September 1943, Germany seized and de facto incorporated some Italian territories. [5] On the other hand, Hitler refused to officially annex South Tyrol in spite of urging by local German officials and instead supported having the RSI hold official sovereignty over these territories and forbade all measures that would give the impression of official annexation of South Tyrol. [13] However, in practice the territory of South Tyrol within the boundaries defined by Germany as Operationszone Alpenvorland that included Trento, Bolzano and Belluno were de facto incorporated into Germany's Reichsgau Tirol-Vorarlberg and administered by its Gauleiter Franz Hofer. [5] [14] The region identified by Germany as Operationszone Adriatisches Küstenland that included Udine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pola and Fiume were de facto incorporated into Reichsgau Kärnten and administered by its Gauleiter Friedrich Rainer. [15]

On 10 September 1943, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) declared that the Treaties of Rome of 18 May 1941 with the Kingdom of Italy were null and void and annexed the portion of Dalmatia that had been annexed from Yugoslavia to the Kingdom of Italy in the Treaties of Rome. [16] The NDH attempted to annex Zara that had been a recognized territory of Italy since 1919, but Germany did not allow the NDH to do so. [16] Because of these actions by the NDH, the RSI held the NDH in contempt and refused to have diplomatic relations with the NDH or to recognize its territorial claims. [16]

After the Italian capitulation, the Italian Aegean Islands were occupied by the Germans (see Dodecanese campaign). During the German occupation, the islands remained under the nominal sovereignty of the RSI but were de facto subject to the German military command. [17]

The Italian concession of Tientsin in China was ceded by the RSI to the Japanese puppet Wang Jingwei regime.

Economy and war effort

War flag of the Italian Social Republic.svg
War flag of the Italian Social Republic
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-316-1175-25, Italien, Benito Mussolini bei Inspektion.jpg
Mussolini inspecting fortified positions, 1944
Italian-social-republic-and-civil-war.svg
Territory of the Italian Social Republic throughout its lifespan

During the existence of the Italian Social Republic, Mussolini, whose government had banned trade unions and strikes, began to make increasingly populist appeals to the working class. He claimed to regret many of the decisions made earlier in supporting the interests of big business and promised a new beginning if the Italian people would be willing to grant him a second chance. Mussolini claimed that he had never totally abandoned his left-wing influences, insisting he had attempted to nationalize property in 1939–1940 but had been forced to delay such action for tactical reasons related to the war. [18] With the removal of the monarchy, Mussolini claimed the full ideology of Fascism could be pursued and to gain popular support reversed over twenty years of Fascist support of private property and relative economic independence by ordering the nationalization of all companies with over 100 employees. [19] Mussolini even reached out to ex-communist Nicola Bombacci to help him in spreading the image that Fascism was a progressive movement. [19] The economic policy of the RSI was given the name "Socialization" and Mussolini had even considered the idea of calling his new republic the “Italian ‘Socialist’ Republic”. [20] In practice, little resulted from the declared socialization of the economy. Unions did not exert real control of their management and took no part in state planning (as they had the power to do on paper after the socialization). The Italian industrial sector was excluded from the new reforms by the Germans and Italian industrialists were opposed to the changes in any case. The Italian labor force (large parts of which had remained leftist despite fascist rule) regarded socialization as a sham and responded with a massive strike on 1 March 1944. [8]

In Greece, while the government of the Kingdom of Italy surrendered and many Italian soldiers in the Aegean were tired of the war and had become opposed to Mussolini, Italian Fascist loyalists remained allied to Germany in the Greek campaign. In September 1943, General Mario Soldarelli rallied Fascist Blackshirts and Italian soldiers loyal to Mussolini to continue the war, along with military men who felt it was dishonorable to turn on an ally and with those who had developed comradely feelings toward the Germans. German forces in Greece convinced 10,000 Italians in the Aegean to continue to support their war effort. [21]

In 1944, Mussolini urged Hitler to focus on destroying Britain rather than the Soviet Union, as Mussolini claimed that it was Britain which had turned the conflict into a world war and that the British Empire must be destroyed in order for peace to come in Europe. [22] Mussolini wanted to conduct a small offensive along the Gothic Line against the Allies with his new RSI Divisions; in December 1944, the Alpine Division "Monte Rosa" with some German battalions fought the Battle of Garfagnana with some success. As the situation became desperate with Allied forces in control of most of Italy and from February 1945 resumed to pushing the Axis forces to North of Gothic Line, [23] Mussolini declared that "he would fight to the last Italian" and spoke of turning Milan into the "Stalingrad of Italy", where Fascism would make its last glorious fight. [24] Despite such strong rhetoric, Mussolini considered evacuating Fascists into Switzerland, although this was opposed by Germany, which instead proposed that Mussolini and key Fascist officials be taken into exile in Germany. [24] Further disintegration of support for his government occurred as fascist and German military officials secretly tried to negotiate a truce with Allied forces, without consulting either Mussolini or Hitler. [25]

RSI military formations

Women volunteers served in uniform as noncombatants in paramilitary units and police formations (Servizio Ausiliario Femminile). The commander was the brigadier general Piera Gatteschi Fondelli. [26] [27]

Army

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-311-0926-07, Italien, italienische Soldaten.jpg
RSI soldiers, March 1944
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-311-0926-04, Italien, italienische Soldaten.jpg
RSI soldiers deployed to the Battle for Anzio
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-307-0768-20A, Italien, italienischer Soldat.jpg
RSI soldier with signature "M" monogram on lapels and wearing a "samurai" magazine-holding vest for his Beretta MAB SMG (1943)
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-316-1198-11, Italien, italienischer Soldat beim Waffenreinigen.jpg
RSI soldier cleaning his weapon (Gothic line, 1944)

Smaller units like the Black Brigades (Brigate nere) led by Alessandro Pavolini and the Decima Flottiglia MAS led by Junio Valerio Borghese (called "principe nero", the Black Prince) fought for the RSI during its entire existence. The Germans were satisfied if these units were able to participate in anti-partisan activities. While varying in their effectiveness, some of these units surpassed expectations.

In March 1944, the bulk of the 1st Italian volunteers Storm Brigade were sent to the Anzio beachhead where they fought alongside their German allies, receiving favorable reports and taking heavy losses. In recognition of their performance, Heinrich Himmler declared the unit to be fully integrated into the Waffen SS. [28]

On 16 October 1943, the Rastenburg Protocol was signed with Nazi Germany and the RSI was allowed to raise division-sized military formations. This protocol allowed Marshal Rodolfo Graziani to raise four RSI divisions totalling 52,000 men. In July 1944, the first of these divisions completed training and was sent to the front.

Recruiting military forces was difficult for the RSI as most of the Italian Army had been interned by German forces in 1943, many military-aged Italians had been conscripted into forced labour in Germany and few wanted to participate in the war. The RSI became so desperate for soldiers that it granted convicts freedom if they would join the army and the sentence of death was imposed on anyone who opposed being conscripted. [29] Autonomous military forces in the RSI also fought against the Allies including the notorious Decima Flottiglia MAS of Prince Junio Valerio Borghese. Borghese held no allegiance to Mussolini and even suggested that he would take him prisoner if he could. [29]

During the winter of 1944–1945, armed Italians were on both sides of the Gothic Line. On the Allied side were four Italian groups of volunteers from the old Italian army. These Italian volunteers were equipped and trained by the British. On the Axis side were four RSI divisions. Three of the RSI divisions, the 2nd Italian "Littorio" Infantry Division, the 3rd Italian "San Marco" Marine Division and the 4th Italian Monterosa Alpine Division were allocated to the LXXXXVII "Liguria" Army under Graziani and were placed to guard the western flank of the Gothic Line facing France. The fourth RSI division, the 1st Italian "Italia" Infantry Division, was attached to the German 14th Army in a sector of the Apennine Mountains thought least likely to be attacked. [30]

On 26 December 1944, several sizeable RSI military units, including elements of the 4th Italian "Monterosa Division" Alpine Division and the 3rd Italian "San Marco" Marine Division, participated in Operation Winter Storm. This was a combined German and Italian offensive against the 92nd Infantry Division. The battle was fought in the Apennines. While limited in scale, this was a successful offensive and the RSI units did their part.

The RSI military was under the command of General Alfredo Guzzoni while Field Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, the former governor-general of Italian Libya, was the RSI's Minister of Defense and commander-in-chief of the German Army Group Liguria. Mussolini, as Duce and head of state of RSI assumed supreme command over all military forces of the RSI.

In February 1945, the 92nd Infantry Division again came up against RSI units. This time it was Bersaglieri of the 1st Italian "Italia" Infantry Division. The Italians successfully halted the United States division's advance.

However, the situation continued to deteriorate for the Axis forces on Gothic Line. [31] By mid-April, the final Allied offensive in Italy had led German defenses to collapse. In the end of that month, the last remaining troops of RSI were bottled up along with two Wehrmacht Divisions at Collecchio by 1st Brazilian Division being forced to surrender after some days of fighting. [32] [33] [34]

On 29 April, Graziani surrendered and was present at Caserta when a representative of German General Heinrich von Vietinghoff-Scheel signed the unconditional instrument of surrender for all Axis forces in Italy, but since the Allies had never recognised the RSI Graziani's signature was not required at Caserta. [35] The surrender was to take effect on 2 May; Graziani ordered the RSI forces under his command to lay down their arms on 1 May.

Air Force

The National Republican Air Force ( Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana or ANR) was the air force of Italian Social Republic and also the air unit of National Republican Army in World War II. Its tactical organization was: 3 Fighter Groups, 1 Air Torpedo Bomber Group, 1 Bomber Group and other Transport and minor units. The ANR worked closely with German Air Force ( Luftwaffe ) in Northern Italy, even if the Germans unsuccessfully tried to disband the ANR forcing its pilots to enlist in the Luftwaffe.

In 1944, after the withdrawal of all German fighter units in the attempt to stop the increased Allied offensive on the German mainland, ANR fighter groups were left alone and heavily outnumbered to face the massive Allied air offensive over Northern Italy. In the operation time of 1944 and 1945, the ANR managed to shoot down 262 Allied aircraft with the loss of 158 in action. [36] [37] [38]

Little of the Regia Marina (Royal Italian Navy) joined the RSI. This was because the bulk of the Italian navy was ordered to steam to Malta at the time of the armistice, out of reach of the Germans and the RSI. The RSI's National Republican Navy (Marina Nazionale Repubblicana or MNR) only reached a twentieth the size of the co-belligerent Italian fleet. [39] The RSI Navy largely consisted of nine motor torpedo boats (two large and seven small), dozens of MTSM small motor torpedo boats and MTM explosive motorboats. [40] The National Republican Navy also operated fifteen CB-class midget submarines (ten in the Adriatic and five in the Black Sea) and one larger submarine, CM1. [41]

Troops of the Decima Flottiglia MAS (elite Italian frogman corps) fought primarily as a land unit of the RSI.

Some of the naval personnel at the BETASOM submarine base in Bordeaux remained loyal to Mussolini.

Paramilitaries

The fall of the Fascist regime in Italy and the disbandment of the MVSN saw the establishment of the Republican National Guard (Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana or GNR), the Republican Police Corps (Corpo di Polizia Repubblicana) and the emergence of the Black Brigades (brigate nere). The GNR consisted of former MVSN, carabinieri, soldiers, Italian Africa Police and others still loyal to the Fascist cause, while the Republican Police Corps was the successor agency of the Public security complex formed by the Directorate of Public Security and the Public Security Agents Corps. The Black Brigade was formed from the new fascist party members both young and old. Both units fought alongside Nazi and Schutzstaffel (SS) counterparts in an extensive anti-partisan war. The Black Brigades committed many atrocities in their fight against the Italian resistance movement and political enemies. On 15 August 1944, the GNR became a part of the Army.

List of RSI ministers

Eagle with fasces, symbol of the Italian Social Republic Eagle with fasces.svg
Eagle with fasces, symbol of the Italian Social Republic

Many RSI ministers did not live past the end of World War II.

Undersecretary, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Serafino Mazzolini from 1943 to 1945 (died of a blood infection on 23 February 1945); Filippo Anfuso
1945 RSI passport, consular issue from Berlin 1945 RSI passport - consular issue from Berlin.jpg
1945 RSI passport, consular issue from Berlin

Legacy

In post-war Italian politics

While the RSI supported Nazi Germany, it allowed the Italian Fascist movement to build a completely totalitarian state. During the preceding twenty years of Fascist association with the Savoy monarchy of the Kingdom of Italy, the Fascists had been restricted in some of their actions by the monarchy. The formation of the RSI allowed Mussolini to at last be the official head of an Italian state and it allowed the Fascists to return to their earlier republican stances. Most prominent figures of post-war Italian far-right politics (parliamentary or extraparliamentary) were in some way associated with the experience of the RSI. Among them were Filippo Anfuso, Pino Romualdi, Rodolfo Graziani, Junio Valerio Borghese, Licio Gelli and Giorgio Almirante.

Stamps

A number of postage stamps were issued by the Republic of Salò. Initially, existing Italian issues were overprinted with a fasces, or the initials "G.N.R." for the Republican National Guard. Later the government designed and printed three series, all of which are very common. [42]

Currency

Banknotes in 50, 100, 500, and 1000 lire denomination were printed by the Republic. As issuer, the country was not mentioned on them, but rather only the Bank of Italy. [43]

In the arts

Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1975 film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom is an adaptation of Marquis de Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom , set in the Republic of Salò instead of 18th century France. It uses the source material as an allegory; the atrocities in the movie did not actually happen, while most of the choices of milieus, clothing, uniforms, weapons and other details are historically correct.

Roberto Benigni's 1997 Life is Beautiful is also set in the Republic of Salò. Bernardo Bertolucci's 1976 Novecento set his story in Emilia, being at the time a province of the Italian Social Republic, even though this is never mentioned in the movie. Wild Blood tells the true story of the Fascist film stars Luisa Ferida and Osvaldo Valenti and their support for the Republic.

Futurist writer/poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, a Mussolini loyalist who had helped shape Fascist philosophy, remained in the RSI as a propagandist until his death from a heart attack at Bellagio in December, 1944. [44]

See also

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References

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  22. Smith 1983 , p. 316.
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  25. Smith 1983 , pp. 317–318.
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  28. The 29th Waffen Divisionen der SS (Italianishe Nr. 1)
  29. 1 2 Smith 1983 , p. 308.
  30. Blaxland, p243
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  33. Giannasi, Andrea. "Il Brasile in guerra: la partecipazione della Força Expedicionaria Brasileira alla campagna d'Italia (1944–1945)" ‹See Tfd› (in Italian) Prospettiva Editrice, 2004. ISBN   8874182848. Pages 146–48.
  34. Bohmler, Rudolf "Monte Cassino: a German View" Cassell, 1964. ASIN B000MMKAYM. Chapter IX (final).
  35. The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Hans Dollinger, Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 67-27047
  36. Italian Air Forces 1943–1945 - The Aviazone Nazionale Repubblicana by Richard J. Caruana, 1989 Modelaid International Publication
  37. Aircraft of the Aces 34 Apostolo: Italian Aces of World War 2
  38. Italian biplane fighter aces - Ugo Drago
  39. Page 100, "The Armed Forces of World War II", Andrew Mollo, ISBN   0-517-54478-4
  40. Spencer C. Tucker, World War II at Sea: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia, p. 389
  41. Jack Greene, Alessandro Massignani, The Black Prince and the Sea Devils: The Story of Valerio Borghese and the elite units of the Decima MAS, p. 42
  42. Stamps of the Italian Social Republic
  43. "Barbetti" Type with Bank of Italy (BI) Seal on Back 1943-45 Issue
  44. Ialongo, Ernest - Filippo Tommaso Marinetti: The Artist and His Politics; Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2015; ISBN   1611477565 ISBN   978-1611477566

Further reading