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THE OTHER ITALY: Italian Resistance in World War II by Maria de Blasio Wilhelm

THE OTHER ITALY: Italian Resistance in World War II


Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Norton

Italy's WW II resistance movement has attracted comparatively little attention--perhaps in part because the country was a member of the Axis until its unconditional surrender to the Allies on September 8, 1943. In the event, Wilhelm fills many of the gaps in the record with this concise, anecdotal account of the loosely organized patriots who waged underground wax against the nation's Nazi captors and their Fascist collaborators. Drawing on archival sources in Italy and interviews with surviving veterans of the resistance, the author offers a series of short-take briefings on those who opposed the occupation regime. At most, she reckons, there were 225,000 partisans under arms (from a population approximating 42 million). Tens of thousands of peasants, professionals, workers, ecclesiastics, and others nonetheless lent at least silent support to the irregulars' military incursions and sabotage efforts. Wilhelm has scores of grimly humorous stories about Italians who battled the enemy with their wits--e.g., a doctor who sheltered Jews in a tubercular ward shunned by the Germans, housewives whose response to being pressed into involuntary agricultural servitude was to plant all seedlings upside down, and a village priest who got SS officers so drunk they left him a list of locals slated for deportation. More often, though, the general populace suffered terrible reprisals for casualties and damage inflicted by the activists. Toward the end, the struggle did become a broadly based people's war; local uprisings and strikes helped partisans claim much of the credit for liberating Rome, Florence, Genoa, Milan, and other of Italy's great cities. Frequently inspiring if episodic perspectives on one of Western history's less familiar chapters. The 197-page text includes photographs (not seen).