At 1700 hours on 18 September, 1943, a familiar voice cracked the air waves of Radio Munich:
“Blackshirts, men and women of Italy, after a long silence, my voice calls out to you, and I am sure you recognize it. It is the voice that has been with you in difficult times, and in the triumphant days of our patriotism.”
Two months after the fall of Mussolini, the Italian Socialist Republic (RSI), or Salò Republic, emerged as an independent fascist state of Northern Italy to continue the war against the Allies. RSI was recognized as a independent state by
Germany, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia, Romania, Hungary, Japan, Denmark, Thailand and Manchuria. Curiously, Spain did not recognize this new regime. This new republic would exist for only 20 months.
On 12 September, 1943, Mussolini was swept from his prison by Otto Skorzeny and 100 of his men from Gran Sasso. Mussolini, for the first time, met Hitler in Munich on 12 September 43 with nothing to offer him. Many decisions had to be made. Northern Italy had to be controlled, but Germany did not have the manpower to fight the Allies and maintain civil order. The only credible way to maintain order in Italy was to reappoint Mussolini as head of a new State. Mussolini accepted this appointment with little eagerness. He assigned Alessadro Pavolini as party secretary; Roberto Farinacci as Minister of Interior; Renato Ricci, head of the Militia; Filippo Anfuso, ambassador to Berlin and Marshal Rodolfo Graziani as Minister of National Defense.
Mussolini realized in the months following his new appointment that the RSI was little different than the other occupied countries of Germany. Northern Italy was to support the German war effort. Mussolini was flanked by German counselors, and even protected by 30 SS men of Hitler’s personal body guards. After complaints by Mussolini, Italian troops were finally authorized to protect Mussolini to the same degree as the SS detachment. Mussolini also demanded the release of Italian military prisoners, but Hitler only counter-offered with better treatment of them. Mussolini would always push for more autonomy, but little was ever given.
The conference in Verona on 14 November 1943, discussed many factors: to established the structure and socialization of the new republic; that the acts of the Grand Council on 25 July 1943 were those of traitors and the need to stifle partisan actions. A bill of 18 articles was written by Pavolini and endorsed by Mussolini. After the conference, Pavolini organized the first of many RSI attacks on insurgents when 17 anti-fascists in Ferrara were killed. The focus of the RSI to avoid a civil war was reinforced when Farinacci commented on the 17 deaths:
“The word of law is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It has been thought that we do not posses the courage or the strength to react. The facts have now spoken”.
On 8 January 1944, a tribunal authorized by the Council of Ministers on 13 October 1943, was convened. Present were Ciano, returned to RSI police on 14 October 1943 by the Germans, along with Emilio de Bono, Giovanni Marinelli, Tullio Cianetti, Carlo Pareschi and Luciano Gottardi. The defendants explained their vote of no confidence at the Grand Council meeting on 25 July 1943. They declared that they did not intend to diminish the role of Mussolini, only to give the King authority over the military. The Tribunal concluded on 10 Jan 1944 with the sentence of death. Ciano, Marshal de Bono, Giovanni Marinelli, Carlo Pareschi and Luciano Gottardi were executed by firing squad the morning of 11 Jan 1944. Cianetti’s life was spared with a prison sentence of 30 years.
Army and Militia
In October, the Germans demanded the liquidation of the Carabinieri, a predominately monarchist armed force. Graziani, knowing this German order would cause a lot of friction with the Italian population, plotted a way to end the existence of the Carabinieri without showing it as a German order. He called on Col. Casimiro Delfini on 4 October, and gave him an impossible order…”send 9,000 Carabinieri to Zara and defend it against the Slavs”. Delfini could not oblige, most Carabinieri were not combatants and could only conduct police work. Graziani knew this could be the only response, and the Carabinieri were absorbed into the GNR, along with the MVSN and PAI.