25 April 1945-2015: literature and history on the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day

On 25 April this year Italy celebrates the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day, now a national holiday commemorating the end of the Nazi occupation and of the Second World War.

21 April 1945, Liberation of Bologna – American tank taken from Wikimedia commons

21 April 1945, Liberation of Bologna – American tank taken from Wikimedia commons

The Nazi occupation of Italy followed the armistice between Italy and the Allied armed forces on 8 September 1943. Whilst the German army was fighting to get control of the main cities of the Italian peninsula, the antifascist movements, which had been secretly operating against Mussolini’s regime for over 20 years, gathered under the umbrella of the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale or CNL (National Liberation Committee). The CNL eventually represented the Italian Resistance movement: all the partisan forces active on mountains, in the countryside and in urban areas, for a total of 70,000-80,000 people by May 1944. These groups were all moved by different ideologies – communists, monarchists, socialists, liberals, republicans, anarchists, Catholics – but they were all antifascist. They took the form of underground movements in cities and of guerrilla on mountainous regions and carried out actions of various kinds such as sabotages, armed attacks, occupations of villages and small cities, with the support of civilians and of the Allied forces through air supply dropping operations.

Meanwhile, the Allies organised an invasion of the Italian mainland (they had already taken Sicily in July) and by October 1943 they gained the whole of Southern Italy; they liberated Rome in June 1944, and Florence in August. The North of Italy officially became a satellite state of Germany (Repubblica Sociale Italiana) led by Benito Mussolini, while the Italian royal family fled south. The long winter of 1944-45 led to the offensive of spring 1945 and finally to April 25, when two of the main cities in the North, Milan and Turin, were liberated. The rest of the country was free by 1 May, although 25 April was later chosen as a day representing the end of the war, the end of fascism and the beginning of the path that led to the referendum of 2 June 1946 in which Italians voted for the end of the monarchy and in favour of the creation of the Italian Republic.

The Italian Resistance movement, or Resistenza, was made up of hundreds of young men and women who voluntarily decided to put their lives at risk between September 1943 and April 1945. The Resistenza is the subject of countless novels, often written by those who had been partisans themselves, depicting the tragic experience of the civil war. The UL holds many of those novels which became classics such as:

The Library has recently acquired In territorio nemico, a novel on the Resistenza published in 2013. In territorio nemico was written with a technique called scrittura collettiva, or collaborative fiction: with its 115 participants, it has more authors than any other novel.

The Italian resistance movement and the partisan war is a chapter of Italian history which is not free from controversies. Not only was the Resistenza a fight against the German invaders but also a civil war amongst Italians, between fascists and anti-fascists: this is one of the reasons why it is still at the centre of historical research. The bibliography on this subject is vast, but it’s worth having a look at the latest trends. Among the books published in 2014 the UL holds items on:

If you feel like you want to know more on the Resistenza but don’t know where to start, Philip Cooke’s The legacy of the Italian Resistance is a good introduction; an excellent interpretation of Italy’s approach to its own history is provided by John Foot in his Italy’s divided memory.

Federica Signoriello

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s