The Fall of Mussolini: Italy, the Italians, and the Second World War

The Fall of Mussolini: Italy, the Italians, and the Second World War

The Fall of Mussolini: Italy, the Italians, and the Second World War

The Fall of Mussolini: Italy, the Italians, and the Second World War

Excerpt

Most continental European countries, with the exception of the neutrals Sweden and Switzerland, have lived through one or all of the experiences of fascist dictatorship, and war, defeat, and foreign occupation. Even though West European countries had not become fascist before the outbreak of war, they suffered military defeat and Nazi German occupation. Some people collaborated with the occupier, some resisted, and the reasons for collaboration and resistance varied greatly. In other Nazi-occupied countries, as in Italy, during and after liberation, the resisters and the people took sometimes bloody revenge on those who collaborated with the Nazis. One of the most encouraging signs of recent Italian writing on the war is its willingness to catch up with the more nuanced understandings of 'collaboration' and 'resistance' and of the grey zones between collaboration and resistance, which have emerged in historical studies of, say, wartime occupied France and the Netherlands. Since war, invasion, and occupation were a European and not a uniquely Italian experience, it is as well to remember that Italy's governments and people had to confront and deal with broadly similar challenges to those faced in other belligerent countries.

Governments at war, whether democratic, fascist, or communist, had to find ways of mobilizing, allocating, and making good the shortfalls in finite supplies of human and material resources, and in doing so, secure and maintain a kind of internal political and social truce, based on a popular acceptance or perception of shared misery, of equality of sacrifice. This put a real premium on political leadership, and on the inevitably closer relationships in war between government, political leaders, and their peoples. The people's continuing trust and confidence in their leaders, perhaps the most . . .

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