In 1943, Germany occupied the city of Rome, Italy after they joined the Allies. While the occupation lasted only 9 months, the devastation that came along with it was extreme. Thousands of civilians died, and those who survived were emotionally scarred from fearing for their lives. The Nazis imposed a curfew on citizens, and hung posters around the city with new rules that were punishable by death. They planned to force the government’s hand by starving them from food and much-needed supplies.
The Gestapo took over a former apartment building called Via Tasso 145, and used it as the Nazi headquarters and prison. It became known as a place where Italian people go to die. The Via Tasso was directly next to a boy’s boarding school, and the children could hear the screams of the tortured prisoners through the walls. Today, the building remains exactly as it once was, and it is the Museum of the Liberation of Rome.
Despite all of their suffering, Italians are strong and resilient people. They formed a resistance, the mafia pushed food through the black market, and even women and children fought for their freedom. The American Allied troops were able to liberate the city in 1944. Today, the story of the Roman occupation is not well-known outside of Italy, but that doesn’t make the story any less fascinating.
Goodbye Axis, Hello Allies
In 1936, Benito Mussolini was the Prime Minister of Italy, and he joined forces with Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II. Over the years of the war, the Italian people began to see through the cracks of their fascist leader, and began to seriously dislike Mussolini and all that he stood for. They just wanted the war to be over, and bring an end to death and destruction.
In 1943, the Americans bombed a section of Rome called San Lorenzo, killing between 2,000 to 3,000 civilians. Troops landed in Sicily, and Italy had no choice but to surrender. On July 25th of that year, Benito Mussolini was replaced by General Pietro Badoglio, who wanted peace with the Allies, so that the fighting could stop. There was an armistice on September 3rd, and on October 13th of that year, the country signed an agreement that they would officially become part of the Allied Forces. This was great news for the vast majority of the Italian people, who were Anti-Fascist. According to Peter Ghiringhelli, who was a child during the war, people were screaming and cheering, waving flags in the streets, because they believed that this news meant the war was going to be over soon. However, they were not allowed to be a neutral party and stop the fight. They had to continue fighting in the war.
Of course, Germany was not happy about their partners switching sides. There were already German soldiers stationed in Italy before the switch in loyalty, so they already had the upper hand. The very next day, Germany decided that they would have a hostile takeover of Rome. Italian soldiers and civilians tried to defend the city against the Germans in a battle at the Porta San Paolo. 597 Italian men and women died trying to prevent Rome from being taken over.
In his arrogance believing that they would eventually win the war, Hitler took Benito Mussolini out of Italy and gave him rule over his own puppet-government called the Italian Social Republic. When the war was over, Mussolini’s karma caught up with him. He was captured and executed, but not before Italy had to deal with the war coming to their front door.