In the summer of 1944, with Allied troops advancing, Italian partisans launched their largest attack on German forces from behind enemy lines.
So successful were they that they were able to establish provisional partisan governments in some mountainous areas.
The toll this uprising had on German forces was significant, with the most conservative estimate suggesting 5,000 Nazi troops were killed and another 7,000 ‘missing’ – presumed dead or captured. Other estimates put the losses much higher. In an attempt to head off the partisan attacks, the Gestapo took out acts of revenge on civilian populations.
It is estimated that 15,000 civilians were killed, and it was not uncommon for partisan fighters to be raped and tortured before being executed.
Two widows placing flowers in the Ardeatine Caves, where the Nazis massacred 335 Italian civilians in reprisal for a partisan bombing that killed 32 SS troops.