History of Italy

What 8 September means for Italians

In Italy, when you say that something is “8 September”, it means that it is inherently of poor quality and doomed to failure in a partly tragic, partly ridiculous way.

But why? On 8 September 1943 the Allied High Command, via Radio Algiers, made public the armistice which had been signed in secret by the new Italian Government, appointed by the King after the demise of dictator Benito Mussolini.

The Government tried desperately to delay the announcement, but to no avail. The consequences of the radio massage were catastrophic. In Italy and abroad, the Wehrmacht started ruthlessly attacking the Italian units. The Italian soldiers were massacred or sent to labor camps in Germany.

In Rome, the Royal Family and the Government escaped to Southern Italy, which was already under Allied control, while the Wehrmacht occupied the Holy City. Hitler had ordered to occupy the Vatican, too, and the Papal Swiss Guard was ready to oppose a symbolic resistance not with pikes, but with machine guns. Pope Pius XII was reportedly ready to abdicate and order the Roman Curia to reform abroad, perhaps in Spain.

Germany sent a commando to free Mussolini, who was put at the head of a revamped fascist puppet Government in Northern Italy, the Italian Social Republic. The escape of the Royal Government and its armed struggle against the fascist one destroyed any prestige of the Italian Institutions, which had never been great anyway. That’s why 8 September 1943 is referred as “the day the Motherland died”.


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