A Political History of National Citizenship and Identity in Italy, 1861-1950

By Sabina Donati | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
The Armistice of 8 September,
Brindisi and Salò

Refections on Citizenship Issues (1943–1945)

On 8 September 1943, in the midst of the Second World War, the octogenarian institution of Italian national citizenship—which, as we saw, first united the people of the peninsula in 1861—was profoundly and seriously shaken. National citizenship, a special spiritual link vertically binding all citizens to a head of a state and horizontally creating a well defined group of co-citizens, was questioned from a variety of fronts, giving rise to some of the most fundamental, and ever since controversial, issues within the entire history of Italian post-unification civic tradition. Several defining tenets underlying the notion of citizenship, such as the concept of allegiance, the idea of patria (homeland), the principle of solidarity among co-nationals and the ideal of sacrificing one’s life for the country if necessary, were completely upset.

The purpose of this chapter, ending Part Two of the book, is to focus on the two dramatic years that followed this crucial phase of the Second World War—1943 through 1945—by using the lens of citizenship and identity and by taking the whole peninsula as our geographic and political point of analysis. In this way, citizenship issues will be studied by integrating the history of “the Italians who won” (i.e., the antifascist Resistance movement) with the history of “the Italians who lost” (the fascists of the Republic of Salò) without forgetting “the Italy of all the others.”1 These two contentious years of Italian national history have been the subject of polemical debates among the protagonists as well as extensive research by academics, triggering a rich and growing literature.2 No study, though, has looked at those unique months by placing special emphasis on the important prism of national citizenship; hence, this chapter is intended to cast new and different light on old and often politicized

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