The Gianfranco Moscati Collection
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As soon as Italy surrendered to the Allies in September 1943 and German troops moved in, a massive, spontaneous anti-Fascist partisan movement came into being. Its first success was the ‘Four Days in Naples’ in September 1943, which liberated that city before Allied troops arrived.
Though composed of many fractious groups, the Italian partisan movement succeeded in forming a united front under the Committee of National Liberation (CLN). The Allies supplied the CLN through air-drops, and the American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) parachuted in small radio-equipped commando forces, which allowed the partisans to give the Allies valuable intelligence.
An attempted CLN uprising in the summer of 1944 created numerous liberated enclaves, particularly in the Alps and the Appenines. The Germans and the Fascists loyal to Mussolini had crushed these statelets by December. But the resistance continued, sabotaging communications behind the German Gothic Line and staging strikes in the major industrial cities of the north. On 4 December, a co-ordinated operation by partisans and Allied troops captured Ravenna.
When Allied troops finally penetrated the Gothic Line on 19 April 1945, the CLN launched a general uprising. Two days later, Bologna, which the Germans had held doggedly for months against repeated Allied assaults, fell to combined Allied and partisan forces. The CLN then quickly captured Parma, Reggio, Milan, Turin and Genoa. Mussolini and other leading Fascists were captured trying to escape to Switzerland and executed by the Communist Garibaldi Brigades on 28 April. Four days later, German forces in Italy surrendered.
More than 300,000 Italians took part in the resistance movement, including many Jews. Nearly 46,000 were killed, along with 55,000 civilians and Italian soldiers massacred or killed in Nazi concentration camps.