All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943

By Jonathan Steinberg | Go to book overview

3

THE TWO ARMIES

The Wehrmacht and the Regio Esercito Italiano fought alongside each other in Africa, the Balkans and on the Russian front. As with the two regimes and the two dictators similarities tended to mask profound differences. The German army had a long tap root which reached back to the traditions of the Prussian state. It had a rich history and an exceptional record of military success. The Royal Italian Army had neither the one nor the other. Italy had been divided like Germany but none of its constituent states had been even remotely as dominant within the circle of Italian states as Prussia within Germany. The Kingdom of Piedmont under the House of Savoy had been too weak to unify Italy without foreign intervention, and the Piedmontese army had suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of the Austrians. It fought bravely during the First World War but then too had not escaped humiliation and near collapse.

Not much had changed by the 1930s. The Royal Italian Army had not distinguished itself in the Spanish Civil War and had lost a great deal of equipment as well as prestige. General von Rintelen, who visited the scuola di guerra in Turin, Italy's most famous staff college, came away depressed:

Unlike the German military academy, which gave instruction in tactics priority as the most important subject, the Italian Army placed the problem of supply in the foreground of the lessons. The procedure of instruction in tactics was very schematic. 104

Giolitti, the former Prime Minister, once called the Italian officer corps a bunch of 'black sheep and half wits'. 105 They were certainly too old. Italian senior officers were on average five to ten years older than their German counterparts. I made a comparison of the ages of the officers who appeared in the 'Events', which shows that on 1 May 1943 all the Italian army commanders and the Chief of the General Staff were in their 60s, while the German field marshalls and generals in the Balkan theatre or the Mediterranean were in their 50s. One or two German corps commanders like Hubert Lanz were still in their 40s. 106 Alberto Pirelli discovered to his horror that General Alfredo Dallolio was still at his post in 1939 as Chief of Procurement

-206-

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All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Maps and Documents x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • Introduction xvii
  • The Problem 1
  • Part I - The Events 13
  • Phase One - Unsystematic Murder: War in the Balkans 15
  • Phase Two - Systematic Murder: the Italians Obstruct the Final Solution 50
  • Phase Three - The Net Widens: the Italians Defend Jews in Greece and France 85
  • The Last Act - The Fall of Fascism to the Armistice 135
  • Part II - Explanations 165
  • 1 - The Matrix of Virtue and Vice 168
  • 2 - Two Types of Charisma 181
  • 3 - The Two Armies 206
  • 4 - Germans, Italians and Jews 220
  • Conclusion 242
  • Bibliography of Works Since 1990 245
  • Sources and Bibliography 251
  • Notes 274
  • Index 307
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