Italian Social Republic poster saying: "G...

Italian Social Republic poster saying: “Germany is truly your friend” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Name given to the three northern Italian provinces of Bolzano, Trento and Belluno, taken into the Third Reich in the autumn of 1943.

On 10 July 1943 Allied forces invaded Sicily.   On 25 July Mussolini was overthrown.   The Germans increased the number of their divisions in Italy from six in July to eighteen in September.   On 3 September the Allied invasion began, in the toe of Italy. On 8 September the new Italian government surrendered and on the following day Allied forces landed at Salerno, but the German army was able to secure most of Italy.   Mussolini was freed and on 9 September became the head of the new Italian Social Republic.   In reality the German military authorities provided much of the government of Italy.   As far as the routes over the Alps between Germany and Italy were concerned, the government of six provinces was entirely in German hands.   The three northeastern provinces of Gorizia, Trieste and Pola were under German military administration, pure and simple, but the northern provinces of Bolzano, Trento, and Belluno were placed under the authority of the Gauleiter of Tirol in October 1943 after the Royal Italian government had declared war on its former ally.

Belluno (Italian since 1866) bordered on East Tirol and the province was crossed by an important railway link between Germany and northern Italy.   The provinces of Bolzano and Trento had been the South Tirol until 1918, and there was a substantial German population in Bolzano and a not insignificant one in Trento.   These were Germans whom Hitler had not sought to bring into the Third Reich out of respect and affection for Mussolini.   Nor did he bring himself either in October 1943 or later to formally annex the Alpenvorland, even though it continued to be treated as part of Tirol.

At the time of Germany’s complete collapse in the spring of 1945, the civil government of the region could be said to be in the hands of the Austrians, who had again declared their independence.   The Peace Treaty with Italy in 1947 recognised the region as Italian, though the way had been paved by an agreement in 1946 between Italy and Austria in which Italy promised to create  an autonomous government for the German areas.   That promise was only gradually fulfilled.

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