Italian-occupied France

Italian-occupied France

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Italian-occupied France was an area of south-eastern France
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

 occupied by Fascist
Italian Fascism
Italian Fascism also known as Fascism with a capital "F" refers to the original fascist ideology in Italy. This ideology is associated with the National Fascist Party which under Benito Mussolini ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943, the Republican Fascist Party which ruled the Italian...

 Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 in two stages during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The occupation lasted from June 1940 until the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces on September 8, 1943, when Italian troops on French soil retreated under pressure from the Germans.

Description


The Italian occupation of France occurred in two different periods during World War II: the first in June 1940 and the second in November 1942.

  • On 10 June 1940, the Italian army under Benito Mussolini invaded France
    Italian invasion of France
    The Italian invasion of France in June 1940 was a small-scale invasion that started near the end of the Battle of France during World War II. The goal of the Italian offensive was to take control of the Alps mountain range and the region around Nice, and to win the colonies in North Africa...

    . The Italian gains were minimal, in the few days of fighting. The Italians lost 631 men in these skirmishes compared to France's 40 casualties.
  • On 25 June 1940, after the Fall of France
    Battle of France
    In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

    , France and Italy signed an armistice
    Armistice
    An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

     and an Italian zone of occupation was agreed upon. This initial zone of occupation was 832 km² and contained 28,500 inhabitants. The largest town contained within the initial "Italian zone of occupation" was Menton
    Menton
    Menton is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.Situated on the French Riviera, along the Franco-Italian border, it is nicknamed la perle de la France ....

    , annexed officially to the Kingdom of Italy
    Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
    The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

    . The main cities inside the "demilitarized zone" of 50 km from the former border with the Italian Alpine Wall
    Alpine Wall
    The Alpine Wall was a system of fortifications along Italy's northern frontier built in the years leading up to World War II...

      were Grenoble
    Grenoble
    Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps where the river Drac joins the Isère. Located in the Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isère...

     and Nice
    Nice
    Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of...

    .
  • In November 1942, in conjunction with "Case Anton
    Case Anton
    Operation Anton was the codename for the military occupation of Vichy France carried out by Germany and Italy in November 1942.- Background :...

    ," the German occupation of most of Vichy France
    Vichy France
    Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

    , the Royal Italian Army
    Royal Italian Army (1940–1946)
    This article is about the Italian Royal Army which participated in World War II.The Italian Royal Army was reformed in 1861 and lasted until 1946. The Royal Army started with the unification of Italy and the formation of the Kingdom of Italy . It ended with the dissolution of the monarchy...

     (Regio Esercito) expanded its occupation zone. Italian forces took control of Toulon
    Toulon
    Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

     and all of Provence up to the Rhône
    Rhône
    Rhone can refer to:* Rhone, one of the major rivers of Europe, running through Switzerland and France* Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

    , with the island of Corsica (claimed by the Italian irredentists). Nice and Corsica were to be annexed to Italy (as had happened in 1940 with Menton), in order to fulfil the aspirations of Italian irredentists (including local groups such as the Nizzardo Italians and the Corsican Italians). But this was not done because of the Italian surrender to the Allies in September 1943 when the Germans took over the Italian occupation zones.

Characteristics


Overall, the Italian forces numbered about 700,000 troops in June 1940. However, while they enjoyed a huge numerical superiority to the French, they had several deficiencies. The Italian armored regiments were from the 133 Armoured Division Littorio
133 Armoured Division Littorio
133. Armoured Division Littorio or 133. Divisione Corazzata Littorio was an armoured division of the Italian Army during World War II. The division was formed in 1939 from the Infantry Division Littorio that had taken part in the Spanish Civil War...

 and included between 150 to 250 L3/35
L3/35
The L3/35 or Carro Veloce CV-35 was an Italian tank used before and during World War II. Although designated a light tank by the Italian Army, its turretless configuration, weight and firepower make it closer to contemporary tankettes....

 tanks each. But these vehicles were often classified as "tankettes" and were little more than lightly armored machine-gun carriers not suited for modern warfare. Most Italian units had inadequate or obsolete artillery and lacked motor transport. Specific to this front, the Italians were not equipped for the cold Alpine environment, and faced the formidable fortifications of the Alpine Line
Alpine Line
The Alpine Line or Little Maginot Line was the component of the Maginot Line that defended the southeastern portion of France...

 (called the "Little Maginot").

The Italian Army of occupation in southern France in November 1942 was made up of four infantry divisions with 136,000 soldiers and 6,000 officers, while in Corsica there were 66,000 soldiers with 3,000 officers. They faced no opposition from the Vichy Army.

There was virtually no guerrilla war in France
Maquis (World War II)
The Maquis were the predominantly rural guerrilla bands of the French Resistance. Initially they were composed of men who had escaped into the mountains to avoid conscription into Vichy France's Service du travail obligatoire to provide forced labour for Germany...

 against the Italians until summer 1943.

Refuge


Many thousands of Jews moved to the Italian zone of occupation to escape Nazi persecution in Vichy France
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

. Nearly 80% of the remaining 300,000 French Jews took refuge there after November 1942. The book Robert O. Paxton's Vichy France, Old Guard, New Order describes how the Italian zone acted as a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution in Vichy France during the occupation.

The Italian Jewish banker Angelo Donati
Angelo Donati
Angelo Donati was a Jewish Italian banker and philanthropist, and a diplomat of San Marino Republic in Paris.- Biography :Donati was born in Modena...

 had an important role in convincing the Italian civil and military authorities to protect the Jews from the French persecution.

In January 1943 the Italians refused to cooperate with the Nazis in rounding up the Jews living in the occupied zone of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 under their control and in March prevented the Nazis from deporting Jews in their zone. German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

 complained to Mussolini that "Italian military circles... lack a proper understanding of the Jewish question."

However, when the Italians signed the armistice with the Allies, German troops invaded the former Italian zone (Sept. 8, 1943) and initiated brutal raids. Alois Brunner
Alois Brunner
Alois Brunner is an Austrian Nazi war criminal. Brunner was Adolf Eichmann's assistant, and Eichmann referred to Brunner as his "best man." As commander of the Drancy internment camp outside Paris from June 1943 to August 1944, Brunner is held responsible for sending some 140,000 European Jews to...

, the SS official for Jewish affairs, was placed at the head of units formed to search out Jews. Within five months, 5,000 Jews were caught and deported.

Bordeaux


The Italian Royal Navy
Regia Marina
The Regia Marina dates from the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 after Italian unification...

 (Regia Marina) established in August 1940 a submarine base at Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

, outside Italian-occupied France.

The base was code named BETASOM
BETASOM
BETASOM BETASOM BETASOM (an Italian language acronym of Bordeaux Sommergibile. was a submarine base established at Bordeaux by the Italian Regia Marina Italiana during World War II....

 and, from it, thirty-two Italian submarines participated in the Battle of the Atlantic. These submarines sank 109  Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 merchant ships (with 593,864 tons) and 18 warships (with 20,000 tons) until September 1943.

Italian territorial claims


In addition to Nice/Nizza and Corsica, the Italians projected further territorial claims for the defeated France. In 1940, The Italian Armistice Commission (Commissione Italiana d'Armistizio con la Francia, CIAF) produced two detailed plans concerning the future of the occupied French territories. Plan 'A' presented an Italian military occupation all the way to the river Rhone
Rhône
Rhone can refer to:* Rhone, one of the major rivers of Europe, running through Switzerland and France* Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

, in which France would maintain its territorial integrity except for Corsica and Nizza. Plan 'B' encompassed the Italian annexation of the Alpes Maritimes (including the Principality of Monaco) and parts of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is a French department in the south of France, it was formerly part of the province of Provence.- History :Nord-de-Provence was one of the 83 original departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, Hautes Alpes and Savoie
Savoie
Savoie is a French department located in the Rhône-Alpes region in the French Alps.Together with the Haute-Savoie, Savoie is one of the two departments of the historic region of Savoy that was annexed by France on June 14, 1860, following the signature of the Treaty of Turin on March 24, 1860...

. The territory would be administrated as the new Italian region of Alpi Occidentali with the town of Briançon
Briançon
Briançon a commune in the Hautes-Alpes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department....

 (Italian: Brianzone) acting as the provincial capital.

See also

  • Italian invasion of France
    Italian invasion of France
    The Italian invasion of France in June 1940 was a small-scale invasion that started near the end of the Battle of France during World War II. The goal of the Italian offensive was to take control of the Alps mountain range and the region around Nice, and to win the colonies in North Africa...

  • Alpine Wall
    Alpine Wall
    The Alpine Wall was a system of fortifications along Italy's northern frontier built in the years leading up to World War II...

  • Alpine Line
    Alpine Line
    The Alpine Line or Little Maginot Line was the component of the Maginot Line that defended the southeastern portion of France...

  • Military history of Italy during World War II
    Military history of Italy during World War II
    During World War II , the Kingdom of Italy had a varied and tumultuous military history. Defeated in Greece, France, East Africa and North Africa, the Italian invasion of British Somaliland was one of the only successful Italian campaigns of World War II accomplished without German support.In...

  • Italian-occupied Corsica
    Italian-occupied Corsica
    Italian-occupied Corsica refers to the military occupation by the Kingdom of Italy of the island of Corsica during World War II...


Further reading

  • Ghetti, Walter. Storia della Marina Italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale. (Volume secondo). De Vecchi editore. Roma, 2001
  • Rainero, R. Mussolini e Petain. Storia dei rapporti tra l'Italia e la Francia di Vichy. (10 giugno 1940-8 settembre 1943), Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito-Ufficio Storico, Roma, 1990
  • Rochat, Giorgio. Le guerre italiane 1935-1943. Dall'impero d'Etiopia alla disfatta Einaudi editore. Torino, 2002
  • Schipsi, Domenico. L'occupazione Italiana dei territori metropolitani francesi (1940-1943), Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito-Ufficio Storico, Roma, 2007