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The Forces of Repression

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The Rebirth of Italian Communism, 1943–44
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This chapter focuses on the effect of Nazi and Fascist repression on the Roman Resistance, focusing on the counterinsurgency that struck in February‑March 1944 as the Allies’ march towards the city was halted. In particular, it highlights the contested place of terrorist tactics in communist strategy, and the increased opposition to their use in the face of devastating Nazi reprisals. It argues that this wave of repression played a decisive role in demobilising the Roman Resistance’s insurrectionary plans.

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  1. 1.

    Rosario Bentivegna discusses his agonising over this question, and indeed the killing of Wehrmacht conscripts, in Bentivegna, Rosario. 1983. Achtung Banditen. Milan: Mursia, pp. 91–2.

  2. 2.

    Bocca, Giorgio. 1966. Storia dell’Italia partigiana. Bari: Laterza, pp. 165–6.

  3. 3.

    Kurzman, Dan. 1975. The Race for Rome. New York: Pinnacle, p. 103.

  4. 4.

    Operti, Piero. 1963. Lettere aperte. Rome: Volpe, p. 135.

  5. 5.

    Saper attendere’. Bandiera Rossa, 15.10.1943; ‘L’Azione’. Bandiera Rossa, 5.1.1944.

  6. 6.

    Ranzato, Gabriele. 2019. La liberazione di Roma. Alleati e Resistenza. Bari: Laterza, 2019.

  7. 7.

    Much to the detriment of his line of argument, Ranzato ignores the movement’s core leaders in favour of dubious figures like Guzzo and Vincenzo Guarniera.

  8. 8.


  9. 9.

    ‘Pogrom a Roma’. l’Unità, XX/21, 26.10.1943, hence described ‘a general proof of the sinister design to remove not just the Jews, but all Romans from Rome’, an end for the ‘illusions of those who do not today believe in the barbarous plan to depopulate Rome of all men able to fight and work’.

  10. 10.

    Quoted in Majanlahti, Anthony and Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi 2010. Roma occupata 1943–1944: itinerari, storie, immagini. Milan: Il Saggiatore, p. 137.

  11. 11.

    See Sect. 3.4.

  12. 12.

    Both Roddi and Cipolla were jailed after the war, and their German interpreter executed. The case records, including extensive interviews with MCd’I militants, appear in Archivio di Stato di Roma (henceforth ASR)/CAP/Corte d’Assise Speciale 177/b. 1590.

  13. 13.


  14. 14.

    See Fifth Zone report in MSdL/FSC/28/59.

  15. 15.

    See Saracino, Lello. 2015. Il tenore partigiano. Roma: Alegre.

  16. 16.

    See MCd’I. 1944. I nostri martiri. Rome: Bandiera Rossa.

  17. 17.

    Govoni, Corrado 1946. Aladino. Milan: Mondadori.

  18. 18.

    ‘I fatti di via Rasella’. Disposizioni Rivoluzionarie, pp. 1–2, 29.3.44.

  19. 19.


  20. 20.


  21. 21.

    ‘Gloria eterna ai 320 fucilati di Roma! Vendicare i nostri martiri—Liberare la nostra Patria’. L’Unità, XX/8, 30.3.1944.

  22. 22.

    ‘I fatti di via Rasella’. Disposizioni Rivoluzionarie, pp. 1–2, 29.3.44.

  23. 23.


  24. 24.


  25. 25.

    Quoted in Chilanti, Felice. 1969. Ex. Milan: Pesce d’Oro. p. 49.

  26. 26.

    A subsequent article (‘Attenzione’. Disposizioni Rivoluzionarie, p. 3, 13.4.44) criticised PCI ‘adventurism’ in even sharper terms: ‘No one can say what the Badoglio-Communists are capable of doing to get a mention on the BBC. But sadly, we all know what horrific acts the Teutonic criminal madness is capable of’.

  27. 27.

    Bentivegna himself recognised that this ‘action also had suicidal characteristics’; ‘not because we wanted to die … but because we were so enraged that we did not care’. See his discussion in Bentivegna, Achtung Banditen, p. 172.

  28. 28.


  29. 29.

    See the discussion of the destruction of the MCd’I by police measures in Archivio Centrale dello Stato (henceforth ACS)/MI/RSI (Gabinetto, 10), ‘Panorama della situazione dei partiti politici antifascisti’, cited in Gremmo, Roberto 2015. I partigiani di Bandiera Rossa. Biella: ELF. Second edition, p. 110.

  30. 30.

    Ammonimenti’. Disposizioni Rivoluzionarie, p. 1, 30.4.1944.

  31. 31.

    ‘1 maggio’. Disposizioni Rivoluzionarie, p. 1, 30.4.1944.

  32. 32.

    Ammonimenti’. Disposizioni Rivoluzionarie, p. 1, 30.4.1944.

  33. 33.


  34. 34.


  35. 35.

    ‘La lotta clandestina’. Disposizioni Rivoluzionarie, p. 1, 30.4.1944.

  36. 36.

    ‘La cellula’. Disposizioni Rivoluzionarie, pp. 2–3, 30.4.1944.

  37. 37.


  38. 38.


  39. 39.

    The Foligno V Brigade Garibaldini. See Museo Storico della Liberazione, Fondo Silverio Corvisieri (henceforth MSdL/FSC)/28/66/’Raggruppamento bande “Bandiera Rossa”’, pp. 4, 7.

  40. 40.

    Reconstructed in Corvisieri, Silverio 1968, Bandiera Rossa nella Resistenza romana, Rome: Samonà e Savelli.

  41. 41.

    Relazione sull’attività svolta dalla banda Rossi—Porta Furba’, ASR/CAP/Cd’A/1665.

  42. 42.

    MSdL/FSC/28/60/‘Relazione Chilanti al CE sull’attività della cellula stampa’.

  43. 43.


  44. 44.

    ‘Sottoscrizione’. Bandiera Rossa, 11.5.1944 was also the first appeal for funds in its pages.

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Broder, D. (2021). The Forces of Repression. In: The Rebirth of Italian Communism, 1943–44. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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