Armistice in Italy 77 years ago

Armistice Italy being signed

The Armistice in Italy was signed on 3 September 1943.

While it was signed on the 3rd, the proclamation was postponed for an additional 5 days, until the 8th of September.

Conditions for and of the Armistice

Under its conditions

  • Italian armed forces were to cease all hostile activities immediately;
  • The Germans were to be denied facilities that could be used against the United Nations;
  • No evacuation of United Nations prisoners to Germany;
  • Turn-over of the Italian naval and air fleets to the Allied Commander in Chief, along with the free use of airfields and ports.

Room for confusion

General Castellano negotiated the run-up to the deal. The general asked the Allies to take Rome with a landing (Operation Avalanche) and an airborne operation (Operation Giant II). The latter agreed to the plan, but only in conjunction with the announcement of the Armistice. Badaglio, the acting Prime Minister, stalled on the official announcement. He had misgivings about the airports still being under German control, leaving the Italian forces powerless.

At that point, the airborne operation was cancelled. The landing operation in Salerno was already in progress however, so the official announcement was finally released on Italian radio.

The statement read:

“The Italian government recognized the impossibility of continuing the unequal struggle against the overwhelming enemy power. With the intent to save the nation from more serious disasters, it has requested an armistice of General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Anglo-American forces.

The request was granted.

Consequently, any act of hostility by the Italian forces against the Anglo-American forces must cease everywhere. However, they will react to attacks from any other source.”

The announcement of the Armistice on Italian radio

There was no indication in the announcement on how to deal with the former “German ally”. Its forces were still largely present in the country. The declaration was widely perceived as the end of the war and many soldiers returned home.

Germany took control of Rome on the 10th of September and it remained in German hands until 5 June 1944. The ambiguity of the Armistice caused confusion. Ultimately, it led to the sinking of a British battleship by the German fleet, when the Italian fleet failed to open fire on them.

The aftermath

The Armistice and subsequent replacing of the Italian troops by German occupation effectively started a different war in Italy, leading to a civil war. Those opposed to the armistice remained on the fascist side, whereas those in favour mainly joined the communist movement.

However, there were also former fascist groups who wanted to seize new opportunities and regrouped in partisan units. Not all partisan units were fascist though.

All in all, a very complex situation that even to this day is navigated very carefully for fear of being branded either one side or the other.

Memorial at the German Cemetery on the Futa Pass

After the war, the Italian population voted for the Republic over the Monarchy in a referendum. In 1948 a new constitution was drawn up with the aim of preventing the return of an unfavourable regime. To this end, the opposition can delay or speed up certain reforms, often blocking Italy’s will to reform.

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