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The Allies and the Italian Social Republic (1943-1945)

Anglo-American Relations with, Perceptions of, and Judgments on the RSI during the Italian Civil War

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Oreste Foppiani

Italy’s change of camp during World War II marked a turning point in the lives of all Italians, causing the «death of the fatherland» and the collapse of a two-decade long, dictatorial régime. Also, this switch triggered a bloody civil war, which increasingly divided an already fragmented country into two separate territories: the Salò Republic (RSI), occupied and controlled by the Germans, and the Southern Kingdom, occupied and administered by the Anglo-Americans.
This book is about the British and American relations with, perceptions of, and judgments on the RSI. The period examined runs from September 1943 through April 1945 with some incursions into the immediate post-war period, when the Allied Control Commission and, after the fall of 1944, the Allied Commission and the Advisory Council for Italy, were still functioning. During this time frame Anglo-American troops were still occupying Italian soil, and some republican fascists remained in hiding, waiting to appear again on the political scene as turncoats, diehard fascists or «gladiators». While the first part of the monograph deals specifically with the relations between the latter and the Allies, the second deals with American and British journalists and/or intellectuals who wrote about or worked for the RSI. The last section is dedicated to the different categories of post-9/8 Prisoners of War.

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PART III - Post-9/8 Prisoners of War 237

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237 PART III Post-9/8 Prisoners of War Una salus victis nullam sperare salutem†† 14. Post-9/8 Prisoners of War: Sowing the Tares with the Wheat After the armistice with Italy, the British Government, and in minor part the American one,621 had to deal with the urgent problem of post-9/8 POWs. In fact, because of the unprecedented co-belligerent status as- signed to Italy, the “United Nations” had to deal with a huge mass of prisoners belonging to a country that was neither an enemy nor an ally. This ambiguous and unclear status obliged Britons and Americans to keep all around the world hundreds of thousands of Italian soldiers, who could not be shipped back home, in their Lagers. The official reason was the lack of maritime transportation, but the real motive, especially as far as the UK and its Commonwealth are concerned, was a desperate need for manpower to support the war economy: cooperation became the Brit- ish, then Allied, key-solution to keep the prisoners and exploit cheap la- bour. In addition, the Italian POWs represented a good-will token that Premier Badoglio had to pay to enter the Allied club as a full member. †† Virgil, Aeneid, II, 354. 621 Although most of the Italian POWs were in British hands, and such was the pres- sure on British military resources, the Anglo-Americans agreed on a division of prisoners under the so-called “Fifty-Fifty Agreement,” which involved the US act- ing as detaining power for some Italians nominally under British control. See Bob Moore...

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