Italian occupation of France

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Italian Military Administration in France
Amministrazione Militare Italiana di Francia
Military Administration of
the Kingdom of Italy
Flag of France.svg
1940–1943 Flag of France.svg
Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg Greater coat of arms of the Kingdom of Italy (1929-1944).svg
Flag Coat of arms
Location of Italian-occupied France France map Lambert-93 with regions and departments-occupation.svg
Location of Italian-occupied France
Occupied France during World War II, showing German occupation zones (the zone occupée , the Military Administration in Belgium and Northern France, annexed Alsace-Lorraine, the zone interdites ) and the Italian Military Administration in France.
  •   Occupation zone (1940–42)
  •   Demilitarised zone (1940–42)
  •   Striped Occupation zone 1942–43
Capital Menton
Government Military Administration
Historical era World War II
   Italian invasion 1940
   Italian armistice 1943
  1940832 km2(321 sq mi)
Density 34.3 /km2  (88.8 /sq mi)
Today part ofFlag of France.svg  France

Italian-occupied France was an area of south-eastern France occupied by the Kingdom of Italy in two stages during World War II. The occupation lasted from June 1940 until the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces on September 8, 1943, when Italian troops on French soil retreated under pressure from the Germans.

French Third Republic Nation of France from 1870 to 1940

The French Third Republic was the system of government adopted in France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed during the Franco-Prussian War, until 10 July 1940 after France's defeat by Nazi Germany in World War II led to the formation of the Vichy government in France.

Fascist Italy (1922–1943)

Fascist Italy is the era of National Fascist Party government from 1922 to 1943 with Benito Mussolini as head of government of the Kingdom of Italy. The Italian Fascists imposed totalitarian rule and crushed political and intellectual opposition, while promoting economic modernization, traditional social values and a rapprochement with the Roman Catholic Church. According to Payne (1996), "[the] Fascist government passed through several relatively distinct phases". The first phase (1923–1925) was nominally a continuation of the parliamentary system, albeit with a "legally-organized executive dictatorship". The second phase (1925–1929) was "the construction of the Fascist dictatorship proper". The third phase (1929–1934) was with less activism. The fourth phase (1935–1940) was characterized by an aggressive foreign policy: Second Italo-Ethiopian War, which was launched from Eritrea and Somaliland; confrontations with the League of Nations, leading to sanctions; growing economic autarky; invasion of Albania; and the signing of the Pact of Steel. The fifth phase (1940–1943) was World War II itself with its disasters and defeats, while the sixth and final phase (1943–1945) was the rump Salò Government under German control.

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.


Italian occupation

The initial Italian occupation of France territory occurred in June 1940; it was then expanded in November 1942.

Italians in occupied France (1942) Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-6268-06A, Frankreich, Italienische Offiziere und Soldaten.jpg
Italians in occupied France (1942)

The German offensive against the Low Countries and France began on 10 May and by the middle of May German forces were on French soil. By the start of June, British forces were evacuating from the pocket in Northern France. On 10 June 1940, Italy declared war against the French and British. Ten days later, the Italian army invaded France. On 24 June 1940, after the Fall of France, Italy and France signed the Franco-Italian Armistice, two days after the cessation of hostilities between France and Germany, agreeing upon an Italian zone of occupation.

Battle of Dunkirk important battle in the Second World War between the Allies and Germany

The Battle of Dunkirk was a military operation that took place in Dunkirk (Dunkerque), France, during the Second World War. The battle was fought between the Allies and Nazi Germany. As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation to Britain of British and other Allied forces in Europe from 26 May to 4 June 1940.

Italian invasion of France Italian engagement of World War II

The Italian invasion of France, also called the Battle of the Alps, was the first major Italian engagement of World War II and the last major engagement of the Battle of France.

Battle of France Successful German invasion of France in 1940

The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.

This initial zone of occupation annexed officially to the Kingdom of Italy [1] was 832 square kilometres (321 sq mi) and contained 28,500 inhabitants. [1] The largest town contained within the initial Italian zone of occupation was Menton. The main city inside the "demilitarized zone" of 50 km (31 mi) from the former border with the Italian Alpine Wall [2] was Nice. [3]

Menton Place in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Menton is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.

Alpine Wall

The Alpine Wall was an Italian system of fortifications along the 1851 km of Italy's northern frontier. Built in the years leading up to World War II at the direction of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, the defensive line faced France, Switzerland, Austria and Yugoslavia. It was defended by the "Guardia alla Frontiera" (GaF), Italian special troops.

Nice Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Nice is the seventh most populous urban area in France and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes département. The metropolitan area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits, with a population of about 1 million on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located in the French Riviera, on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Alps, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille. Nice is approximately 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from the principality of Monaco and 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the French-Italian border. Nice's airport serves as a gateway to the region.

In November 1942, in conjunction with Case Anton , the German occupation of most of Vichy France, the Royal Italian Army (Regio Esercito) expanded its occupation zone. Italian forces took control of Toulon and all of Provence up to the river Rhône, with the island of Corsica (claimed by the Italian irredentists). Nice and Corsica were to be annexed to Italy (as had happened in 1940 with Menton), in order to fulfil the aspirations of Italian irredentists (including local groups such as the Nizzardo Italians and the Corsican Italians). [4] But this was not completed because of the Italian surrender to the Allies in September 1943 when the Germans took over the Italian occupation zones.

Case Anton

Case Anton was the military occupation of Vichy France carried out by Germany and Italy in November 1942. It marked the end of the Vichy regime as a nominally-independent state and the disbandment of its army, but it continued its existence as a puppet government in Occupied France. One of the last actions of its armed forces before their dissolution was the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon to prevent it from falling into Axis hands.

Vichy France officially the French State, was France during the regime of Marshal Philippe Pétain, during World War II

Vichy France is the common name of the French State headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain during World War II. Evacuated from Paris to Vichy in the unoccupied "Free Zone" in the southern part of metropolitan France which included French Algeria, it remained responsible for the civil administration of France as well as the French colonial empire.

Toulon Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Toulon is a city in southern France and a large port on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department.

The area of south-east France actually occupied by the Italians has been disputed. A study of the postal history of the region has cast new light on the part of France controlled by the Italians and the Germans.(Trapnell, 2014). By studying mail that had been censored by the occupying power, this study showed that the Italians occupied the eastern part up to a "line" joining Toulon - Gap - Grenoble - Chambéry - Annecy - Geneva. Places occupied by the Italians west of this were few or transitory. [5]


The Italian Army of occupation in southern France in November 1942 was made up of four infantry divisions with 136,000 soldiers and 6,000 officers, while in Corsica there were 66,000 soldiers with 3,000 officers. [6] There was virtually no guerrilla war against the Italians in France until summer 1943 and they faced no opposition from the Vichy Army. Instead, The Vichy regime that controlled southern France was friendly toward Italy, seeking concessions of the sort Germany would never make in its occupation zone. [7]

French Resistance collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime

The French Resistance was the collection of French movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy régime during the Second World War. Resistance cells were small groups of armed men and women, who, in addition to their guerrilla warfare activities, were also publishers of underground newspapers, providers of first-hand intelligence information, and maintainers of escape networks that helped Allied soldiers and airmen trapped behind enemy lines. The men and women of the Resistance came from all economic levels and political leanings of French society, including émigrés, academics, students, aristocrats, conservative Roman Catholics, and also citizens from the ranks of liberals, anarchists and communists.


Many thousands of Jews moved to the Italian zone of occupation to escape Nazi persecution in Vichy France. Nearly 80% of the remaining 300,000 French Jews took refuge there after November 1942. [8] The book Robert O. Paxton's Vichy France, Old Guard, New Order describes how the Italian zone acted as a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution in Vichy France during the occupation.

The Italian Jewish banker Angelo Donati had an important role in convincing the Italian civil and military authorities to protect the Jews from French persecution. [9]

In January 1943 the Italians refused to cooperate with the Nazis in rounding up the Jews living in the occupied zone of France under their control and in March prevented the Nazis from deporting Jews in their zone. German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop complained to Mussolini that "Italian military circles... lack a proper understanding of the Jewish question." [10]

However, when the Italians signed the armistice with the Allies, German troops invaded the former Italian zone (September 8, 1943) and initiated brutal raids. Alois Brunner, the SS official for Jewish affairs, was placed at the head of units formed to search out Jews. Within five months, 5,000 Jews were caught and deported. [11]

Mussolini even had a Jewish mistress, Margherita Sarfatti, and refused to hand over Jews in Italian-occupied Europe to the Nazis. [10] [12]


In August 1940, the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) established a submarine base at Bordeaux, outside Italian-occupied France. [13]

Operating from Bordeaux Sommergibile ("BETASOM") as it was known, thirty-two Italian submarines participated in the Battle of the Atlantic. These submarines sank 109 Allied merchant ships (593,864 tons) and 18 warships (20,000 tons) up to September 1943. [14] Eleven of these submarines were lost.

Italian territorial claims

In addition to Nice/Nizza and Corsica, the Italians projected further territorial claims for the defeated France. In 1940, The Italian Armistice Commission (Commissione Italiana d'Armistizio con la Francia, CIAF) produced two detailed plans concerning the future of the occupied French territories. [15] Plan 'A' presented an Italian military occupation all the way to the river Rhone, in which France would maintain its territorial integrity except for Corsica and Nizza. [15] Plan 'B' encompassed the Italian annexation of the Alpes Maritimes (including the Principality of Monaco) and parts of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes Alpes and Savoie. [15] The territory would be administrated as the new Italian region of Alpi Occidentali with the town of Briançon (Italian: Brianzone) acting as the provincial capital. [15]

The 2017 film A Bag of Marbles features scenes of Jewish life under Italian occupation.

See also

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  1. 1 2 Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt. Germany and the Second World War – Volume 2: Germany's Initial Conquests in Europe, pg. 311
  2. "The Underground Fortifications of The Alpine Wall" . Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  3. "Rechercher" . Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  4. "The Independent" . Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  5. "The postal history of the two-phased Italian occupation of south-east France 1940-1943" Monograph publ. France & Colonies Philatelic Society (GB)
  6. Giorgio Rochat, Le guerre italiane 1935–1943. Dall'impero d'Etiopia alla disfatta p. 376
  7. Karine Varley, "Vichy and the Complexities of Collaborating with Fascist Italy: French Policy and Perceptions between June 1940 and March 1942." Modern & Contemporary France 21.3 (2013): 317-333.
  8. Salvatore Orlando, La presenza ed il ruolo della IV Armata italiana in Francia meridionale prima e dopo l’8 settembre 1943, Ufficio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito Italiano, Roma (in Italian) [ permanent dead link ]
  9. From the French Shoah memorial : Angelo Donati’s report on the steps taken by the Italians to save the Jews in Italian-occupied France [ permanent dead link ]
  10. 1 2 Italy and the Jews – Timeline by Elizabeth D. Malissa
  11. Saving the Jews . Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  12. "Italian Fascism Didn't Practice Anti-Semitism". The New York Times . December 22, 1993.
  13. "Base de submarinos, BETASOM". 14 February 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  14. Ghetti, Walter. Storia della Marina Italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale p. 26
  15. 1 2 3 4 Davide Rodogno (2006). Fascism's European empire: Italian occupation during the Second World War. Cambridge University Press. pp. 89–92. ISBN   0-521-84515-7.

Further reading