Previous posts in this discussion:
PostItalian Deportees and Workers in Nazi Germany (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 03/28/23 4:12 am)
Commenting on my post of 23 March, our esteemed editor asked: "What can you tell us about sabotage in Italy's war industries (during the Civil War)?"
With the "Carta del Lavoro" in Italy, strikes became forbidden, as the resolution of any labor dispute was assigned to the labor judiciary system. Then strikes became obsolete under the "Socializzazione" and the entrance of the workers into the executive offices of the enterprises.
On March 1st, 1944 the Socializzazione, hated by capitalists and communists for its favorable impact on the working conditions of the producers, was not yet in full force. A great strike exploded in Milan, seeking an improvement in wages and food supply because of the deterioration caused by the war. It was pushed by the communists, even if at the time they were still a small minority.
The strike from 1 to 8 March spread through the regions of Milan and Turin, involving a total of 208,549 workers with sabotage attacks by the infiltrated communists on the electrical grid and work installations.
But the strike failed, even if the communist influence increased, with 1200 hoodlum workers deported to German labor camps following the pressure of German Ambassador Rudolph Rahn. It is said that he wanted the deportation of 70,000 workers, but such a request was flatly refused by Mussolini.
The emigration and deportation of Italian workers up to 1945 is still an obscure page of history. We can find extremely biased versions, as Nazi Germany in the mainstream opinion can only be an absolute evil.
Italians from the Middle Ages moved to Germany, but a great emigration for temporary work happened after the accords of 1937 between Italy and the Third Reich. At the time, Germany was probably the country where workers had the best wage treatment with many fringe benefits. Just remember the beautiful cruise ships for workers which ended so badly in the Baltic Sea in 1945.
On 25 September 1941, there were 216,834 Italian workers in Germany, in all fields, with contracts lasting six months followed by a vacation in Italy.
At that time in an apartment just below mine lived a family whose husband was working in Germany. The wife would brag about how much money he was sending home. He went voluntarily in a "black shirt," but when he returned in order to claim benefits from the new Italy he tried to say that he had been deported.
Work in Germany, besides the high wages, had other fringe benefits including supplies of Italian food and religious assistance by at least 200 Italian chaplains. There were also newspapers and radio programs, with the support of Fascist organizations. Furthermore for any crime or working problems, the workers were under Italian authorities!
But the workers were not monks.
Actually, not everything was roses and flowers, as the young German males were at war and many beautiful blonde German girls were left alone. The Italians tried their best to fill the void, and this fact created some problems with the local public.
An Italian fellow went around bragging that the Germans were the stupidest of all people, as they were going to war abroad living their women for the foreigners. The fellow was sent back to Italy.
With the increase in indiscriminate bombings, the number of Italian workers dwindled as they preferred to return to their comparatively safe villages in Italy.
After the unconditional surrender of 8 September 1943 with the defection of the king and Badoglio to the Victors' Bandwagon, the Italian Army, though still strong with 2 million men, essentially dissolved. Of them 94,000, mostly Camice Nere, immediately joined the Wehrmacht and then the RSI. Some joined local partisans in the Balkans but were mistreated, and many succeeded in returning home and some became partisans, especially in Piedmont. About 650,000 of these were taken prisoner and deported to Germany.
From prisoners of war, they became deported people and employed in work. The RSI tried to improve their conditions and in July 1944 obtained their liberation or better transformation into free civilian workers with the same rights, wages, and food supply as the German civilians. In the new Italy (lay-democratic-antifascist), such great achievements are forgotten or hidden. So, at least 420,000 became free workers, 61,000 joined the Flak antiaircraft batteries, while many others joined the RSI army divisions. Some 23,000 had joined the SS Waffen Division. The remaining chose to remain in the old labor camps, perhaps considered safer or for political reasons, such as the case of Giovannino Guareschi , the author of the books/movies Don Camillo e Peppone.
When I was at sea, I knew a sailor and ex-prisoner, who in July 1944 was lucky to find work on a farm owned by a beautiful blond widow, becoming her "factotum." He tried his best to remain there with her, but the wife in Italy intervened with Italian and foreign authorities, and he had to return to Italy.
JE comments: These impromptu wartime Germano-Italian "families" would make a fascinating chapter in the history of private life. I wonder if the topic has been studied in depth. Most likely, it is not politically acceptable to represent these unions in anything but the most negative light--economic desperation, sexual exploitation, and the like.