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THE RESISTANCE FIGHTERS IN ITALY

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BRIGATE GARIBALDI - GARIBALDI BRIGADES 

Also known as the Garibaldi assault brigades, these were the men and women of the Communist Party (and some smaller socialist parties). They called themselves ‘Brigade’, allegedly, to overcome the term ‘band’ which was loosely associated with bandits and also in homage to internationalism and the International Brigades that fought in Spain. 

Brigada Garibaldi
Brigada Garibaldi

As in other countries, the communists had long been organised against the fascists and in 1943 organised themselves as an unofficial Italian army using the name of the great Italian nationalist and unifier Giuseppe Garibaldi. The communists understood that the liberation of Italy from fascism and Nazism should be seen as a patriotic duty and task. The communists wore red scarves to distinguish themselves in battle. 

By the end of the war, when the military divisions were disarmed, it is estimated there were some 100,000 members of the Garibaldi Brigades, many of them women who had joined the communists in the mountains in 1943 when the great call to resist was made in underground newspapers. 

Perhaps the most disciplined and organised of the partisan armies, the communists were long shunned by the Allies of weapons and materials and in some cases, they had to rely on purloining materials from small armies or groups that were more favoured by the Allies.

GRUPPI DI AZIONE PATRIOTTICA - PATRIOTIC ACTION GROUPS [GAP] 

(Wrongly) labelled by some as anarcho-Communists, the Patriotic Action Groups were also set up by the Italian Communist Party. Mainly based in urban centres in the occupied North where it was easier to organise but less easy to arm, GAP carried out a series of spectacular bomb blasts and other acts of sabotage against Nazis and fascists between 1943-1945. As well as guerrilla attacks, GAP hid wounded soldiers/partisans, recruited resistance fighters, moved weapons and also fought the Nazis hand to hand in the final days of the occupation. GAP were considered integral in the battle to drive the Nazis out of Northern Italy.

DELASEM - DELEGATION FOR THE ASSISTANCE OF JEWISH EMIGRANTS 

An organisation initially allowed by the fascists to execute the swift and ‘painless’ emigration from Italy of Jews, but was declared illegal in 1942 when Italy began deporting Jews to Nazi death camps. 

Lelio Vittorio Valorba
Lelio Vittorio Valorba

DELASEM quickly became a spy network, moving messages and people to Switzerland and Spain- sharing many of the routes and networks of the early resistance to Mussolini. They also helped arm the resistance by using passages in and out of the country – although some refute this and prefer to focus on DELASEM’s humanitarian work. 

DELASEM was also instrumental in warning Italian clergy of the genocide being carried out elsewhere in Europe, their reports going as far as the pontiff at the time who also assisted the group benevolently.

BRIGATE FIAMME VERDI - THE GREEN FLAME BRIGADE 

Because there could often be tensions in communist militias, the Christian ‘Green Flames’ organised, which allowed members to attend mass and have their confessions heard in church. By 1944 the Germans had begun murdering priests to “punish” not just Catholic Italy, but to also silence growing anger from the church over the behaviour of Nazi Germans. 

Not only did the Green Flames receive clerical support, they were favoured by the Allies who were reticent about arming communists

The Cardinal of Turin was a frequent visitor to the mountains to hear the confession of partisans. Not only did the Green Flames receive clerical support, they were favoured by the Allies who were reticent about arming communists – particularly when the war appeared won. Because the Green Flames were known as ‘Christian Democrats’ their ranks were filled with partisans who were also non-communist, many of them socialists that found it difficult (as in Spain) to work alongside or under communists. 

Although the Green Flames shared with the communists their abundance of supplies from the Allies, tensions between Green Flames and anarchists were often noted in records. It is also worth noting that pro-fascist clerics were also shot by partisans.

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