Today, April 25th, is Italian Liberation Day, Festa della Liberazione. Not only that, but it’s the 70th anniversary of Italian Liberation from the Germans in WWII (1945 – 2015). There are a bunch of events happening throughout Milan today including a procession (parade?) from Porta Venezia to Piazza Duomo, where there will be a ceremony held. I have to say, not having paid all that much attention in World History in high school, I was a bit confused about what this holiday is actually about.
I mean, a simple explanation is pretty easy to understand – it’s the day Italy liberated itself from German occupation. But… weren’t they on the same side? What about Mussolini? And wasn’t there a king involved, too?
After some very confusing reading in which one source required another reference which required another reference, I think I have the gist:
October 27-28, 1922: Benito Mussolini led a Fascist force of 30,000 to Rome where they demanded the institution of a Fascist government. King Vittorio Emanuele III, supposedly fearing civil war, refused a decree of martial law, leading Prime Minister Luigi Facta to resign. The King then set up Mussolini as the new Prime Minister.
June 10, 1940: Mussolini decided to enter Italy into WWII on the side of the Nazis.
July 10, 1943: The Allies invaded Sicily
July 19, 1943: Rome is bombed for the first time in history, increasing the public’s dissatisfaction with the current regime.
July 24-25, 1943: The Grand Council of Fascism was called to meet by Count Dino Grandi and King Vittorio Emanuele III (the first time it was ever called by someone other than Mussolini himself – he nor any of his representatives were present) and passed a vote of no confidence against Mussolini. He was arrested but shortly thereafter rescued by the Germans. The King and the new Prime Minister, Pietro Badoglio, though still publicly supporting the Germans, began secret negotiations to surrender to the Allied forces.
September 3, 1943: The Armistice of Cassibile was signed by Walter Bedell Smith, Dwight Eisenhower’s Chief-of-Staff at Allied Headquarters, and General Giuseppe Castellano of Italy (at the direction of the King and Prime Minister), stating the terms under which Italy would surrender to Allied forces.
September 8, 1943: The Armistice of Cassibile was made public and many Italian troops, not expecting the announcement, were left in confusion about how to deal with German troops still in Italy. Some of them were overwhelmed and Germans forcefully occupied some areas of the country, with no orders of how to leave.
September 9, 1943: The National Liberation Committee (Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale) was formed. A multi-party organization supported by the King and Prime Minister and united by their anti-Fascist views, it was officially recognized as the main representative of the Italian resistance movement with the goal of ousting Germany from Italian land.
Late September, 1943: The Germans set up Mussolini on Lake Garda where he formed the Italian Socialist Party. Though he publicly claimed he was in total control, in reality this Fascist group that controlled much of Northern Italy for the next two years was simply a puppet government for the Nazis.
April 1944: Swayed by poor public opinion and the lack of confidence of the Italian people, King Vittorio Emanuele III transferred his political power to his son, Umberto II, while keeping his royal title.
April 25, 1945: LIBERATION DAY. The National Liberation Committee made a radio announcement proclaiming the insurgency, the seizing of power in all Italian lands and a death sentence for all Fascists.
April 28, 1945: After being captured as they tried to escape to Spain the day before, Benito Mussolini and his mistress were executed in the small village of Giulino di Mezzegra.
By May 1, 1945: All of Italy was liberated from the Germans.
April 22, 1946: April 25th is declared an Italian National Holiday.
June 2, 1946: Italians opt to dissolve the monarchy and form a republic (but “Republic Day” is a whole other post…)
So there you have it. Sure, there was a LOT more to it – like how exactly the National Liberation Committee pulled it off – but that’s the general idea. I hope it helps you celebrate this day properly, no matter where in the world you might be!
Stay tuned to my Instagram account (@JustToJess) for photos from around Milan today!
(Header photo courtesy PSM)