With the fall of Mussolini’s reign and the appointment of General Badoglio as Prime Minister in his place, on 25 July 1943, relations between the new Government and the German Government became more pointed, and the Germans now began to pour more Forces into Italy in order to strengthen their grip on it. In September of that year they even brought about this Country’s actual division into two parts, whereby the Italian Social Republic (RSI), led by Mussolini, was established in the northern part, which they were in control of, and Badoglio’s Government, now being supported by the Allies, controlling the other part. Several Regions in the Country’s north were even subordinated to the direct control of German Forces, who started to treat the local population as an occupied People. In this framework, the Germans also transferred about 100,000 persons to Germany as forced laborers, and furthermore, they seized control of the Italian Industry so it would serve the German war effort. This action aroused great fury and opposition in the Italian population, who did not agree with the policy, ostensibly a policy of the new Republic. Counter reactions soon developed in the form mass strikes, as well as the beginnings of underground organization for action against the Germans in the Country’s northern regions.
The nucleus these Undergrounds were built around were groups of Soldiers who had served in Mussolini’s Republic and who had deserted, refusing to obey the rules of the Government and the Germans any longer. This, among other things, was a result of their opposition to the harsh, oppressive actions the Germans began to take against certain elements of the population, including Jews who were residing in the north. The phenomenon spread rapidly through the northern Cities, led by the various political Parties, especially the Communist Party, which began to initiate acts of sabotage and even assassinations of supporters of the new Fascist Regime. Large groups of Partisans organized in the northern mountains – the Communist Party’s “Garibaldi”, the Action Party’s “Justice and Liberty”, the Socialists “Matteotti”, and additional groups of Monarchists, Catholics, and others.
The Allies provided them assistance with weapons and equipment, which was parachuted down into their areas of operation, and also dispatched representatives to them to strengthen cooperation among the sides.
The Italian Underground, which was also joined by many young Jews who had been living up north and had escaped the German terror, grew larger and larger in its scope and by the autumn of 1944 it reached more than 100,000 people, among them many women. Its members knew well how to utilize their home turf, and their operations turned into a serious nuisance for the Germans. The Underground Forces were the ones who liberated the Cities of the north from the German occupation and many of their fighters became leading figures in Italian politics after the war.
It should be noted that Italian Soldiers who were stationed with their Units in Albania and in northern Greece also joined local Underground Movements, after Italy’s surrender, in 1943, and fought against the Germans within those frameworks.