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Pietro Badoglio

Pietro Badoglio

Pietro Badoglio was born in Italy in 1871. He joined the Italian Army and was a junior officer in Ethiopia (1896-97) and Tripolitania (1911-12). During the First World War he rose from captain to general and became chief of staff to the commander in chief of the army.

After the war remained in the army but also entered politics as a senator. After expressing opposition to Benito Mussolini he was exiled as ambassador to Brazil (1924-25). Badoglio later changed his political views and returned to Italy and became head of the armed forces. He was governor of Libya (1928-33) and in 1935 led the invasion of Ethiopia.

Badoglio was opposed to Italy joining Germany against the Allies in the Second World War. He resigned as head of the armed forces after the defeat of the Italian Army in Greece.

The loss of Sicily created serious problems for Benito Mussolini. It was now clear that the Allies would use the island as a base for invading Italy. A meeting of the Fascist Grand Council was held on 24th July and Galaezzo Ciano got support for his idea that Italy should sign a separate peace with the Allies. The following day Victor Emmanuel III told Mussolini he was dismissed from office. The king now appointed Badoglio as head of the government. Soon afterwards he declared martial law and placed Mussolini under arrest.

Badoglio began negotiating an armistice with the Allies. When General Albrecht Kesselring heard the news he rushed in German troops. In danger of being captured by the German forces, Badoglio and the Italian royal family were forced to escape to Pescara where a government was set up under the protection of the Allies. On 13th October the Italian government declared war on Germany.

On 23rd September 1943, Badoglio and General Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Italian surrender aboard Nelson off Malta. On 13th October the Italian government declared war on Germany.

Badoglio was replaced by Invanoe Bonomi in June 1944. In an attempt to unite the country against Benito Mussolini, Bonomi's government included long-time campaigners against fascism such as Carlo Sforza , Benedetto Croce and Palmiro Togliatti, the leader of the Italian Communist Party. Pietro Badoglio died in 1956.

Pietro Badoglio - History of World War I - WW1 - The Great War

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The First 45 Days Of Badoglio’s Government – 25 July 1943

The appointment of Marshal Pietro Badoglio as head of the government after the fall of Mussolini on July 25, 1943, was a disgrace for a country now brought to its knees.

He was authorized to govern the affairs of the state with the sole purpose of ending the war. However, he was mainly concerned with public order. He established police control of the territory, instituted a curfew, and forbade demonstrations and public meetings.

There were arrests, trials, and intimidation. He also imposed censorship of the press.

The peaceful demonstrations for the fall of the dictatorship in Turin, Milan, and Bari were tragically suppressed, further exacerbating the general situation.

He employed the army as part of the police and did not bother to block the borders, a move which would have caused the Germans difficulties in moving their tanks. He did not bother to recall any of the military units in the Balkans, Greece, USSR, and France to the homeland. Instead, he left them without supplies and air support.

He started the procedure for obtaining an armistice with the Allied Nations by arranging for his emissary to meet Allied representatives. The agreement was finalized on September 3, 1943, at Cassibile after long negotiations. Italy requested that less harsh conditions be imposed on it in return for ceasing all war activities.

Marshal Pietro Badoglio

The Allies required the withdrawal of troops, the transfer of military and merchant ships to a defined base, and the release of all prisoners. These conditions were accepted but General Castellano, an emissary of Badoglio, stated it was impossible to move the ships due to lack of fuel.

Castellano requested the intervention of at least 15 Allied divisions which should be landed north of Rome and north of Rimini. This would split Italy into two sections, with the southern part incorporating Rome in the liberated zone. He also wanted a guarantee that the king and the current government could move to the south of Italy.

Giuseppe Castellano

General Eisenhower was prepared to authorize the use of an airborne division in defense of Rome against German retaliation at the same time as the mass landing on the peninsula, so long as military control of the two airports around the capital was ensured.

When he returned to Rome, Castellano reported on the results of the mission. He suggested the probable date of the landing would not be before September 12th. However, there was great concern when an Allied radio broadcast about the armistice went out on September 8, 1943. The King, Vittorio Emanuele III di Savoia, and the Council were worried about German reprisals.

King Victor Emmanuel III in his uniform as Marshal of Italy.

The King summoned the Council. He placed responsibility for this dangerous confusion of dates on Badoglio. General Eisenhower’s phone call during the excited meeting worked to stir up the situation even further.

In fact, worried and exasperated by the delay in launching the announcement on the radio by the Italians, Eisenhower said: “To further delay in the observance of the commitments assumed… would follow, consequently, the dissolution of your Government and your Nation.”

But despite being stripped of his responsibilities, Badoglio was later reinstated. After that, he went to the broadcasting headquarters of the EIAR (Ente Italiano per le Audizioni Radiofoniche) to read a message to the nation which had been approved by the King.

“The Italian government, recognizing the impossibility of continuing the unequal struggle against the overwhelming enemy power… asked General Eisenhower for the armistice… the request was accepted… they [the Armed Forces] will react to any attacks from any other source.”

Castellano (in civilian attire) shakes hands with Dwight Eisenhower after the signing of the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces in Cassibile on September 8, 1943

Marshal Badoglio did not specify from whom. He did not order the blockade of borders to avoid German divisions descending on Italy, nor did he declare war on Germany. Badoglio did this only on October 13, 81 days from his appointment and under instructions from Eisenhower.

This is why Italian soldiers who were captured by the Germans were considered traitors and treated as internees not covered by the clauses of the Geneva Convention. He was responsible for the massacres on Kefalonia island (22 September – 390 out of 525 officers) and Cos (on 3 October – 103 out of 148 officers). Badoglio feared the German reprisals that manifested violently against civilians (just to name one: Sant’Anna di Stazzema, Tuscany, 12 August 1944, 560 victims of which 130 were children) and soldiers.

Italian soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans in Corfu, September 1943.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-177-1459-32 Cuno CC-BY-SA 3.0

General Maxwell Taylor and Colonel William Gardiner arrived in Rome on September 7 to agree on the arrival of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. They met General Carboni (commander of one of the three Army Corps in defense of the capital). Later in the evening, they met Marshal Badoglio.

He lied and painted the situation in such a dramatic way that he suggested postponing the American intervention and the notification of the armistice. He did not assure the defense of the Rome airports (Furbara, Cerveteri, Guidonia, and Centocelle) because the movements of troops would have alarmed the Germans.

Pietro Badoglio during World War II.

Yet in the Rome area, there were eight divisions: one for the internal defense of the capital (Sassari), four for the perimeter defense (Granatieri, Piacenza, Lupi di Toscana, and Re) and three armored (Ariete, Centauro and Piave) with a Bersaglieri regiment as a maneuvering body.

The two Americans returned to Sicily with nothing.

Despite the adequate defenses in place, the King, the government, and other members of the royal family fearfully fled Rome on the night of the 8th of September. They went to Pescara, where the Navy corvette Baionetta was ready to take them to Brindisi, which had already been freed by the Allied forces.

Italian corvette Baionetta

A film by the director Luigi Comencini, entitled Tutti A Casa, paints a dramatic picture of what was happening in Italy during that dark period. Among other things, the presence of a comedian, Alberto Sordi, among the protagonists makes that terrible story even more tragic.

It represents an Italy divided into two: to the north, the Repubblichini, followers of Mussolini to the south, the Repubblicani, faithful to the King and the scene of a ruthless civil war. The film shows the living conditions of the already exhausted population, suffering harassment, hunger, and seized by despair for long months.

It also mentions the actions of the partisans who counteracted German activities wherever possible and the violent reactions to the detriment of unarmed civilians. It lingers on the armed forces left without orders and at the mercy of their own destiny while dissolving to the cry of “at home.”

In one scene, the actor Sordi, who plays a lieutenant in command of a platoon, is going to replace another unit. The next moment, he comes under German fire. He then leaves a sergeant in command and rushes to a telephone post to ask his superiors for instructions.

“The Germans are now allied with the Americans. They shoot at us,” he says. He is ordered to reach another command and is abandoned by his soldiers along the way. He remains alone and decides to move away from the front.

Bolzano, disarmed Badoglio units marching through the city.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J15358 / Rieder, Fred / CC-BY-SA 3.0

After many ups and downs, he arrives in Naples while the population is engaged with “the four days “ struggle against the Germans.

He sees a group of boys in the rubble fumbling with a machine gun. He decides to join them. He picks up the weapon, begins to fire it, and takes part in the fight. Pride and honor find him at last.

In August 2009, at San Mauro Pascoli, in Romagna, a historical process was held with a popular jury to establish Badoglio’s behavior as head of government. The judgment of the almost 300 people present came out as 219 for condemnation and 77 for acquittal.

The verdict took into account the fact that not enough time had passed for those present to reach a judgment that was free from personal resentment but nevertheless established that Marshal Pietro Badoglio was the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.


Aga-Rossi, Elena. Una nazione allo sbando. L'armistizio italiano del settembre 1943 e le sue conseguenze. Bologna, 2003.

Badoglio, Pietra. Italy in the Second World War: Memories and Documents. Translated by Muriel Currey. London and New York, 1948 reprint Westport, Conn., 1976. Translation of L'Italia nella seconda guerra mondiale. Milan, 1946.

Biagini, Antonello, and Alessandro Gionfrida. Lo stato maggiore generale tra le due guerre: Verbali delle riunioni presiedute da Badoglio dal 1925 al 1937. Rome, 1997.

Pieri, Piero, and Giorgio Rochat. Pietro Badoglio. Turin, 1974.

Rainero, Roman, ed. Otto settembre 1943: L'armistizio italiano 40 anni dopo. Rome, 1985.

Vailati, Vanna. Badoglio racconta. Turin, 1955. Memoirs told toarelative.

Italy's bloody secret

The footnotes of Italian history record Giovanni Ravalli waging war on criminals. He was a police prefect who kept the streets safe and pursued gangs such as the one which stole Caravaggio's The Nativity from a Palermo church in 1969. An adviser to the prime minister, a man of the establishment, he retired on a generous pension to his home at 179 Via Cristoforo Colombo, south Rome, to tend his plants and admire the view. He died on April 30 1998, aged 89.

The footnotes do not record a Greek policeman called Isaac Sinanoglu who was tortured to death over several days in 1941. His teeth were extracted with pliers and he was dragged by the tail of a galloping horse. Nor do they mention the rapes, or the order to pour boiling oil over 70 prisoners.

After the war Ravalli, a lieutenant in the Italian army's Pinerolo division, was caught by the Greeks and sentenced to death for these crimes. The Italian government saved him by threatening to withhold reparations unless he was released. Ravalli returned home to a meteoric career that was questioned only once: in 1992 an American historian, Michael Palumbo, exposed his atrocities in a book but Ravalli, backed by powerful friends, threatened to sue and it was never published.

His secrets remained safe, just as Italy's secrets remained safe. An audacious deception has allowed the country to evade blame for massive atrocities committed before and during the second world war and to protect the individuals responsible, some almost certainly still alive. Of more than 1,200 Italians sought for war crimes in Africa and the Balkans, not one has faced justice. Webs of denial spun by the state, academe and the media have re-invented Italy as a victim, gulling the rest of the world into acclaiming the Good Italian long before Captain Corelli strummed a mandolin.

In reality Benito Mussolini's invading soldiers murdered many thousands of civilians, bombed the Red Cross, dropped poison gas, starved infants in concentration camps and tried to annihilate cultures deemed inferior. "There has been little or no coming to terms with fascist crimes comparable to the French concern with Vichy or even the Japanese recognition of its wartime and prewar responsibilities," says James Walston, a historian at the American University of Rome.

The cover-up lasts to this day but its genesis is now unravelling. Filippo Focardi, a historian at Rome's German Historical Institute, has found foreign ministry documents and diplomatic cables showing how the lie was constructed. In 1946 the new republic, legitimised by anti-fascists who had fought with the allies against Mussolini, pledged to extradite suspected war criminals: there was a commission of inquiry, denunciations, lists of names, arrest warrants. It was a charade. Extraditions would anger voters who still revered the military and erode efforts to portray Italy as a victim of fascism. Focardi's research shows that civil servants were told in blunt language to fake the quest for justice. A typical instruction from the prime minister, Alcide De Gasperi, on January 19 1948 reads: "Try to gain time, avoid answering requests."

Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Ethiopia and Libya protested to no avail. "It was an elaborate going through the motions. They had no intention of handing over anybody," says Focardi. Germans suspected of murdering Italians - including those on Cephalonia, Corelli's island - were not pursued lest a "boomerang effect" threaten Italians wanted abroad: their files turned up decades later in a justice ministry cupboard in Rome.

Britain and the US, fearful of bolstering communists in Italy and Yugoslavia, collaborated in the deception. "Justice requires the handing over of these people but expediency, I fear, militates against it," wrote a Foreign Office mandarin. The conspiracy succeeded in frustrating the United Nations war crimes investigation. There was no Nuremberg for Italian criminals.

Given the evidence against them, it must rank as one of the great escapes. General Pietro Badoglio's planes dropped 280kg bombs of mustard gas over Ethiopian villages and strafed Red Cross camps. He died of old age in his bed, was buried with full military honours and had his home town named after him. General Rudolfo Graziani, aka the butcher of Libya, massacred entire communities his crimes included an infamous assault on the sick and elderly of Addis Ababa. His men posed for photographs holding severed heads. General Mario Roatta, known to his men as the black beast, killed tens of thousands of Yugoslav civilians in reprisals and herded thousands more to their deaths in concentration camps lacking water, food and medicine. One of his soldiers wrote home on July 1 1942: "We have destroyed everything from top to bottom without sparing the innocent. We kill entire families every night, beating them to death or shooting them."

Italy's atrocities did not match Germany's or Japan's in scale and savagery, and it is no myth that Italian soldiers saved Jews and occasionally fraternised with civilians. Glows of humanity amid the darkness yet over time they have suffused the historic memory with blinding light.

The distortion can partly be blamed on British prejudices about Italian soldiers being soft and essentially harmless, says Nic Fields, a military historian at the University of Edinburgh: "Many British historians liked to focus on the luxury items found in Italian barracks. It reinforced the image of opera buffoons. Your average Tommy tended to caricature the Italians as poor sods caught up in the war."

The crimes have been chronicled in specialist journals but never became part of general knowledge. Ask an Italian about his country's role in the war and he will talk about partisans fighting the Ger mans or helping Jews. Ask about atrocities and he will talk about Tito's troops hurling Italians into ravines. Unlike France, which has deconstructed resistance mythology to explore Vichy, Italy's awareness has evolved little since two film-makers were jailed in the 1950s for straying off-message in depicting the occupation of Greece.

When Japanese or Austrians try to gloss over their shame there is an outcry, but the Italians get away with it. The 1991 film Mediterraneo, about occupiers playing football, sipping ouzo and flirting with the locals on a Greek island, was critically acclaimed. Captain Corelli's sanctification of Italian martyrdom was not challenged. Ken Kirby's 1989 BBC Timewatch documentary, Fascist Legacy, detailing Italian crimes in Africa and the Balkans and the allies' involvement in the cover-up, provoked furious complaints from Italy's ambassador in London. The Italian state broadcaster, Rai, agreed to buy the two one-hour programmes, but executives got cold feet and for 11 years it has sat in a vault in Rome, too controversial to broadcast. "It's the only time I can remember a client shelving a programme after buying it," says a BBC executive.

Kirby did manage to show it at a film festival in Florence. The reaction was toxic. "They put security on me. After the first reel the audience turned around and looked at me, thinking 'what a bastard'."

A brief storm of publicity engulfed Michael Palumbo, the documentary's historical consultant. "I was practically assaulted by several Italian journalists. There was a sackful of death threats, some from former soldiers."

The documentary gave a voice to Italian historians such as Giorgio Rochat, who have provoked disapproval from colleagues by attacking the myth. "There remains in Italian culture and public opinion the idea that basically we were colonialists with a human face."

Another historian, Angelo Del Boca, says those guilty of genocide were honoured. "A process of rehabilitation is being organised for some of them by sympathetic or supportive biographers." He says that for decades his research was obstructed - an accusation echoed by Focardi. Vital documents are "mislaid" or perpetually out on loan. Just one example: 11 years ago a German researcher found documents and photographs of Italian atrocities in Yugoslavia in the central state archive, a fascist-built marble hulk south of Rome. No one has been able to gain access to them since.

Such scholars are few, but thanks to their work a tentative reappraisal may be under way. While paying homage last march to the Italian troops massacred by Germans on Cephalonia, President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, noting that Italy invaded Greece, asked forgiveness. Newspapers such as La Stampa and Manifesto have reported new research, and a weekly magazine, Panorama, confronted Ravalli before he died. But Italy remains entranced by its victimhood. Television commentary for a military parade in Rome earlier this month hummed the glory and sacrifice of the armed forces. Newspapers splashed on the possibility that a 92-year-old former Nazi SS officer living in Hamburg, Friedrich Engel, may be prosecuted for crimes in Genoa. Other former Nazis accused of murdering Italians are being pursued now that the fear of a "boomerang" effect against Italian criminals has evaporated.

Last month workers digging in northern Ethiopia stumbled on yet another Italian arms depot suspected of containing mustard gas. Addis Ababa asked Rome to respect an international weapons treaty by revealing the location of stockpiles and helping to clear them. Like all other requests over past decades, it was rebuffed. "All efforts on Ethiopia's side to convince Italy to live up to its responsibilities have failed," lamented the government.

That week Italy's media did indeed delve into the evils of fascism: Italians forced to work in Adolf Hitler's factories were campaigning for compensation.

World War II Database

ww2dbase Pietro Badoglio was born in Grazzano Monferrato (later renamed Grazzano Badoglio for him) in the province of Asti in Italy. He studied in the military academy in Turin and joined the Italian Army in 1892. He served in Africa early on in his career, and was promoted to the rank of general in May 1916, during WW1. During the inter-war years he became active in politics while holding military positions, a combination that would follow him for many years. In the 1920s, he was a leader in the Italian Army, a senator, and later the ambassador to Brazil. From 4 May 1924 through the next five years, he was the Army Chief of Staff. From 1929 to 1933 he was the governor of Libya. In 1936, he headed up the Italian forces during the invasion of Abyssinia, and was made the Duke of Addis Ababa after being credited for the capture of that city. He was a war hero, but he voiced against the signing of the Pact of Steel with Germany. In Dec 1940, after Italy's near failure in the campaign against Greece, he resigned. In 1943, Italian King Vittorio Emanuele III appointed Badoglio to head up the Italian government as Prime Minister after removing Benito Mussolini. In Wilhelm Keitel's personal correspondence to his wife dated 3 Aug 1943, Keitel noted that Badoglio initially "reassured [Germany] that [Italy] will go on fighting, and that it was only on this condition that he accepted office." However, Badoglio soon declared martial law, ordered the arrest of Mussolini, and opened negotiations with the Allies. German forces were quick to realize this, and moved in to occupy Italy, forcing Badoglio's government to flee for southern Italy. On 3 Sep 1943, Badoglio signed the armistice with the Allies in Cassibile, and on 13 Oct Italy declared war on Germany. He was removed as Prime Minister in 1944.

ww2dbase Sources: In the Service of the Reich, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: May 2006

Pietro Badoglio Timeline

28 Sep 1871 Pietro Badoglio was born.
28 Nov 1935 Mussolini dismissed the 68-year-old General Emilio de Bono as the Italian Commander-in-Chief in East Africa and replaced him with the younger and more energetic Pietro Badoglio, one of Italy's most prestigious soldiers and the Army's Chief of Staff.
26 Jul 1943 Marshal Badoglio replaced the Fascist government in Italy and began negotiations with the Allies in secret. Upon his first actions as the head of state was to dissolve the Fascist Party.
1 Nov 1956 Pietro Badoglio passed away.

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State of East Africa Edit

The Kingdom of Italy began its attempts to establish colonies in the Horn of Africa in the 1880s. The first phase of the colonial expansion concluded with the disastrous First Italo-Ethiopian War and the defeat of the Italian forces in the Battle of Adwa, on 1 March 1896, inflicted by the Ethiopian Army of Negus Menelik II, aided by Russia and France. [19] In the following years, Italy abandoned its expansionist plans in the area and limited itself to administering the small possessions that it retained in there: the colony of Italian Eritrea and the protectorate (later colony) of Italian Somalia. For the next few decades, Italian-Ethiopian economic and diplomatic relations remained relatively stable. [20]

On 14 December 1925, Italy's fascist government signed a secret pact with Britain aimed at reinforcing Italian dominance in the region. London recognised that the area was of Italian interest and agreed to the Italian request to build a railway connecting Somalia and Eritrea. Although the signatories had wished to maintain the secrecy of the agreement, the plan soon leaked and caused indignation by the French and Ethiopian governments. The latter denounced it as a betrayal of a country that had been for all intents and purposes a member of the League of Nations. [21]

As fascist rule in Italy continued to radicalise, its colonial governors in the Horn of Africa began pushing outward the margins of their imperial foothold. The governor of Italian Eritrea, Jacopo Gasparini, focused on the exploitation of Teseney and an attempt to win over the leaders of the Tigre people against Ethiopia. The governor of Italian Somaliland, Cesare Maria de Vecchi, began a policy of repression that led to the occupation of the fertile Jubaland, and the cessation in 1928 of collaboration between the settlers and the traditional Somali chiefs.

Welwel Incident Edit

The Italo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1928 stated that the border between Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia was 21 leagues parallel to the Benadir coast (approximately 118.3 kilometres [73.5 miles]). In 1930, Italy built a fort at the Welwel oasis (also Walwal, Italian: Ual-Ual) in the Ogaden and garrisoned it with Somali dubats (irregular frontier troops commanded by Italian officers). The fort at Welwel was well beyond the 21-league limit and inside Ethiopian territory. On 23 November 1934, an Anglo–Ethiopian boundary commission studying grazing grounds to find a definitive border between British Somaliland and Ethiopia arrived at Welwel. The party contained Ethiopian and British technicians and an escort of around 600 Ethiopian soldiers. Both sides knew that the Italians had installed a military post at Welwel and were not surprised to see an Italian flag at the wells. The Ethiopian government had notified the Italian authorities in Italian Somaliland that the commission was active in the Ogaden and requested the Italians to co-operate. When the British commissioner Lieutenant-Colonel Esmond Clifford, asked the Italians for permission to camp nearby, the Italian commander, Captain Roberto Cimmaruta, rebuffed the request. [22]

Fitorari Shiferra, the commander of the Ethiopian escort, took no notice of the 150 Italian and Somali troops and made camp. To avoid being caught in an Italian–Ethiopian incident, Clifford withdrew the British contingent to Ado, about 20 mi (32 km) to the north-east, and Italian aircraft began to fly over Welwel. The Ethiopian commissioners retired with the British, but the escort remained. For ten days both sides exchanged menaces, sometimes no more than 2 m apart. Reinforcements increased the Ethiopian contingent to about 1,500 men and the Italians to about 500, and on 5 December 1934, shots were fired. The Italians were supported by an armoured car and bomber aircraft. The bombs missed, but machine gunfire from the car caused about 110 Ethiopian casualties. [23] Also, 30 to 50 Italians and Somalis were also killed and the incident led to the Abyssinia Crisis at the League of Nations. [24] On 4 September 1935, the League of Nations exonerated both parties for the incident. [25]

Ethiopian isolation Edit

Britain and France, preferring Italy as an ally against Germany, did not take strong steps to discourage an Italian military buildup on the borders of Italian Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. Because of the German Question, Mussolini needed to deter Hitler from annexing Austria while much of the Italian Army was being deployed to the Horn of Africa, which led him to draw closer to France to provide the necessary deterrent. [26] King Victor Emmanuel III shared the traditional Italian respect for British sea power and insisted to Mussolini that Italy must not antagonise Britain before he assented to the war. [26] In that regard, British diplomacy in the first half of 1935 greatly assisted Mussolini's efforts to win Victor Emmanuel's support for the invasion. [26]

On 7 January 1935, a Franco-Italian Agreement was made that gave Italy essentially a free hand in Africa in return for Italian co-operation in Europe. [27] Pierre Laval told Mussolini that he wanted a Franco-Italian alliance against Nazi Germany and that Italy had a "free hand" in Ethiopia. [26] In April, Italy was further emboldened by participation in the Stresa Front, an agreement to curb further German violations of the Treaty of Versailles. [28] The first draft of the communique at Stresa Summit spoke of upholding stability all over the world, but British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, insisted for the final draft to declare that Britain, France and Italy were committed to upholding stability "in Europe", which Mussolini took for British acceptance of an invasion of Ethiopia. [26] In June, non-interference was further assured by a political rift, which had developed between the United Kingdom and France, because of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. [29] As 300,000 Italian soldiers were transferred to Eritrea and Italian Somaliland over the spring and the summer of 1935, the world's media was abuzz with speculation that Italy would soon be invading Ethiopia. [26] In June 1935, Anthony Eden arrived in Rome with the message that Britain opposed an invasion and had a compromise plan for Italy to be given a corridor in Ethiopia to link the two Italian colonies in the Horn of Africa, which Mussolini rejected outright. [26] As the Italians had broken the British naval codes, Mussolini knew of the problems in the British Mediterranean Fleet, which led him to believe that the British opposition to the invasion, which had come as an unwelcome surprise to him, was not serious and that Britain would never go to war over Ethiopia. [30]

The prospect that an Italian invasion of Ethiopia would cause a crisis in Anglo-Italian relations was seen as an opportunity in Berlin. Germany provided some weapons to Ethiopia although Hitler did not want to see Haile Selassie win out of fear of quick victory for Italy. [31] The German perspective was that if Italy was bogged down in a long war in Ethiopia, that would probably lead to Britain pushing the League of Nations to impose sanctions on Italy, which the French almost certainly not veto out of fear of destroying relations with Britain that would cause a crisis in Anglo-Italian relations and allow Germany to offer its "good services" to Italy. [31] In that way, Hitler hoped to win Mussolini as an ally and to destroy the Stresa Front. [31]

A final possible foreign ally of Ethiopia was Japan, which had served as a model to some Ethiopian intellectuals. After the Welwel incident, several right-wing Japanese groups, including the Great Asianism Association and the Black Dragon Society, attempted to raise money for the Ethiopian cause. The Japanese ambassador to Italy, Dr. Sugimura Yotaro, on 16 July assured Mussolini that Japan held no political interests in Ethiopia and would stay neutral in the coming war. His comments stirred up a furore inside Japan, where there had been popular affinity for the fellow nonwhite empire in Africa, which was reciprocated with similar anger in Italy towards Japan combined with praise for Mussolini and his firm stance against the "gialli di Tokyo" ("Tokyo Yellows"). [32] Despite popular opinion, when the Ethiopians approached Japan for help on 2 August, they were refused, and even a modest request for the Japanese government for an official statement of its support for Ethiopia during the coming conflict was denied. [33]

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Anti-Badoglio graffito in Verbania-Pallanza (piazza del Municipio), after the whitewash painted over it had faded, reading Down with Badoglio, down with traitors to the PNF

The abandonment of Rome by the military high command, the head of government Badoglio, king Vittorio Emanuele III and the king's son Umberto, their move towards Pescara then Brindisi, and above all the proclamation's use of a format which did not give the clauses of the armistice in a clearly comprehensible form (which was largely wrongly interpreted as meaning a complete end to the war) all led to confusion. This was particularly so among the Italian armed forces on all fronts, who remained unaware of the armistice's precise content and disbanded themselves. Over 600,000 Italian soldiers were captured by the German army and sent to various prisoner of war camps under the designation I.M.I. (internati militari italiani, or Italian military internees) in the weeks immediately after the announcement. More than half of all Italian soldiers laid down their arms and returned home (as referred to in the title of the 1960 film set at the time, Tutti a casa). The Italian and German high commands intercepted the Eisenhower broadcast first Α] and so the Germans immediately put Operation Achse into effect to disarm their former allies and occupy the whole Italian peninsula, on 9 September sinking the Italian battleship Roma, which had been ordered on the night of 8 September to sail with the entire Italian fleet to Malta in accordance with the armistice's clauses, under the cover-story of attacking the Allied forces landing at Salerno in Operation Baytown.

At the same time part of the Italian armed forces decided to remain loyal to the king, giving rise to the Italian resistance (one of whose first examples ended in the annihilation of the 33 Mountain Infantry Division Acqui on Cefalonia by the Germans) and part joined the free individuals, parties and movements such as the Brigata Maiella. Other branches, especially in the north, such as the Xª Flottiglia MAS, decided to remain loyal to fascist Italy and the Germans. Despite the proclamation, the Allies thwarted a massive and immediate release of Italian prisoners of war loyal to the Italian king and the Badoglio regime, to avoid their possibly rejoining the Fascist forces in northern Italy.

Italian surrender is announced

On September 8, 1943, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower publicly announces the surrender of Italy to the Allies. Germany reacted with Operation Axis, the Allies with Operation Avalanche.

With Mussolini deposed from power and the earlier collapse of the fascist government in July, Gen. Pietro Badoglio, the man who had assumed power in Mussolini’s stead by request of King Victor Emanuel, began negotiating with Gen. Eisenhower for weeks. Weeks later, Badoglio finally approved a conditional surrender, allowing the Allies to land in southern Italy and begin beating the Germans back up the peninsula. Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of Italy, was given the go-ahead, and the next day would see Allied troops land in Salerno.

The Germans too snapped into action. Ever since Mussolini had begun to falter, Hitler had been making plans to invade Italy to keep the Allies from gaining a foothold that would situate them within easy reach of the German-occupied Balkans. On September 8, Hitler launched Operation Axis, the occupation of Italy. As German troops entered Rome, General Badoglio and the royal family fled Rome for southeastern Italy to set up a new antifascist government. Italian troops began surrendering to their former German allies where they resisted, as had happened earlier in Greece, they were slaughtered (1,646 Italian soldiers were murdered by Germans on the Greek island of Cephalonia, and the 5,000 that finally surrendered were ultimately shot).

One of the goals of Operation Axis was to keep Italian navy vessels out of the hands of the Allies. When the Italian battleship Roma headed for an Allied-controlled port in North Africa, it was sunk by German bombers. In fact, the Roma had the dubious honor of becoming the first ship ever sunk by a radio-controlled guided missile. More than 1,500 crewmen drowned. The Germans also scrambled to move Allied POWs to labor camps in Germany in order to prevent their escape. In fact, many POWS did manage to escape before the German invasion, and several hundred volunteered to stay in Italy to fight alongside the Italian guerillas in the north.

De controverse rond Pietro Badoglio (1871-1956)

Pietro Badoglio (Publiek Domein - wiki)

S amen met Benito Mussolini was Pietro Badoglio wellicht één van de meest controversiële figuren die het Italiaanse politieke landschap in de twintigste eeuw bepaalde. Een beeldvorming van een man die tot op heden nog steeds de gemoederen blijft beroeren:

Jeugdjaren en begin militaire carrière

Pietro Badoglio in 1921 (Publiek Domein – wiki) De jonge Pietro Badoglio werd op 28 september 1871 geboren in Grazzano Monferrato, een dorp in de Italiaanse provincie Asti. Na zijn middelbare studies werd hij in oktober 1888 toegelaten aan de militaire academie van Turijn waar hij vier jaar later als luitenant afstudeerde. In de daaropvolgende jaren nam hij deel aan de campagnes die Italië uitvocht in Eritrea en Libië en onderscheidde zich door zijn moed en durf.

De Eerste Wereldoorlog

In mei 1915 verklaarde Italië de oorlog aan de Oostenrijks-Hongaarse dubbelmonarchie. Badoglio wist zich als majoor opnieuw te onderscheiden en werd al snel benoemd tot kolonel. Toen een jaar later Italië ook in oorlog trad met Duitsland, had Pietro Badoglio het al tot generaal geschopt.

In oktober 1917 werd zijn tot dan toe vlekkeloze militaire carrière ontsierd door zijn aandeel in de verpletterende nederlaag die het Italiaanse leger opliep tijdens de Slag bij Caporetto. Critici verweten hem een gebrek aan tactisch inzicht getoond te hebben en hoewel een onderzoekscommissie hem nadien vrijpleitte van die beschuldigingen, bleef het gebeuren een smet op zijn blazoen.

De eerste interbellumjaren

Na de oorlog kon Badoglio zijn politieke aspiraties nauwelijks verhullen en hoewel hij als stafofficier in functie bleef bij de Italiaanse krijgsmacht, wist hij zich te laten verkiezen tot senator. Toen begin jaren twintig de parlementaire democratie in Italië op haar einde liep, deed Badoglio een gooi naar het premierschap. Het waren echter Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) en zijn Zwarthemden die na hun ‘Mars op Rome’ in oktober 1922 de macht grepen. Badoglio werd als ambassadeur naar Brazilië gestuurd maar keerde korte tijd nadien terug naar Italië waar hij zich verzoende met Mussolini die hem in juni 1926 benoemde tot maarschalk.

Eind 1929 kreeg Pietro Badoglio de opdracht om als militaire gouverneur de orde te herstellen in de opstandige provincies Tripolitanië en Cyrenaica (het huidige Libië). Ter plaatse bleek algauw dat er wel wat meer aan de hand was dan enkele lokale rebellerende bedoeïenen. Grote delen van de bevolking waren al enige tijd openlijk in het verzet tegen de Italiaanse overheersing van hun land. Badoglio, uit op een snelle en gemakkelijke overwinning, reageerde met ongezien brutaal geweld op de situatie. Iedereen waarvan hij ook maar vermoedde sympathie te koesteren voor de opstandelingen werd opgepakt en opgesloten in interneringskampen waar de meesten door allerlei ziekten en gebrek aan voedsel de dood vonden. Daarnaast aarzelde hij niet om op grote schaal tentenkampen en dorpen van de rebellen te bestoken met gifgas. Hoewel de internationale gemeenschap al vlug weet kreeg van wat er gaande was, werd niets ondernomen om de bloedige repressie te stoppen.

De Abessijnse campagne

Begin oktober 1935 vielen Italiaanse troepen onder leiding van generaal Emilio De Bono Abessinië, het huidige Ethiopië, binnen. Ondanks hun numeriek overwicht vorderde de opmars slechts moeizaam en werd De Bono al vlug als bevelhebber vervangen door Pietro Badoglio. Net zoals voorheen in Libië maakte hij niets ontziend gebruik van gifgas en de vijfde mei 1936 kon hij aan het hoofd van een militaire colonne triomfantelijk de hoofdstad Addis Abeba binnentrekken. Twee dagen later werd ondanks protesten van de Volkerenbond Abessinië officieel geannexeerd door Italië. Badoglio zelf werd in de adelstand verheven en tot vicekoning van de pas veroverde gebieden aangesteld.

De Tweede Wereldoorlog

Pietro Badoglio tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Publiek Domein – wiki) Nog voor het uitbreken van de Tweede Wereldoorlog klaagde Badoglio in een vertrouwelijk rapport aan Mussolini over de geringe militaire slagkracht aan van het Italiaans leger. Het maakte hem in fascistische kringen niet populair en na het debacle in de Grieks-Italiaanse veldtocht nam hij in december 1940 uit onvrede ontslag als senator en bleef in de eerste oorlogsjaren op de achtergrond.


Kort nadat in juli 1943 Britse en Amerikaanse troepen op Sicilië waren geland werd Mussolini gearresteerd en door Badoglio, die intussen door koning Victor Emmanuel tot premier was benoemd, gevangen gezet in een hotel te Gran Sasso in het Abruzzi gebergte. Badoglio haastte zich daarna om met grote trom te verkondigen dat hij de strijd zou voortzetten aan de zijde van de Asmogendheden, maar voerde tegelijkertijd in het geheim onderhandelingen met de geallieerden over de capitulatie van Italië. Toen in september de geallieerden ontscheepten op het Italiaanse schiereiland beval Badoglio het leger zich over te geven en verklaarde enkele dagen later de oorlog aan Duitsland. Die plotse ommezwaai zorgde bij grote delen van de bevolking voor onrust en politieke verdeeldheid. Bovendien bleek algauw dat sommige eenheden van het Italiaanse leger trouw waren gebleven aan Mussolini die ondertussen door Duitse parachutisten was ontzet uit zijn gevangenisoord en meevochten met de Duitsers terwijl andere legeronderdelen meestreden met de geallieerden. Badoglio nam het zekere voor het onzekere en vluchtte samen met enkele ministers naar Brindisi in het zuiden van Italië waar de Amerikanen inmiddels een bruggenhoofd hadden gevormd.

Hoe het Badoglio verder verging

Kort na de bevrijding van Rome In juni 1944 moest Pietro Badoglio vanwege van zijn deelname aan het fascistisch regime onder druk van de publieke opinie aftreden als premier. Ontgoocheld trok hij zich uit het openbare leven terug en overleed door de geschiedenis grotendeels vergeten op 1 november 1956 op vijfentachtigjarige leeftijd in zijn geboortedorp.

Een onbeantwoorde vraag

Voor velen blijft Pietro Badoglio nog steeds de patriot die destijds door zijn onderhandelingen met de geallieerden Italië voor een smadelijke nederlaag behoedde. Anderen zien in hem dan weer iemand die uit puur opportunisme meeheulde met Mussolini en zijn fascistisch ideeëngoed. Los van de controverse rond zijn figuur blijft het een open vraag waarom hij na de oorlog voor het gebruik van gifgas in Libië en later in Abessinië nooit enige verantwoording heeft moeten afleggen.

Rudi Schrever
Brusselse stadsgids | Rondleidingen op aanvraag | [email protected]