L’esperienza dell’occupazione: I soldati italiani nei territori occupati in Europa (1941-1943)

D. Rodogno (St. Andrew’s University)

Though during the last sixty years historians have thoroughly studied various aspects of the Fascist regime, the history of Italian occupations, has gone unnoticed but for few and excellent exceptions. Very little attention has been devoted to the occupations, and no attention at all has been devoted to Italian soldiers’ experiences of the occupation, despite the fact that they lasted for more than two years, and that more than 500,000 Italian soldiers stayed in the Balkans from April 1941 to September 1943. My presentation intends to shed some light upon the forgotten history of the Fascist conquerors, the dominators of the ‘vital space’, as they were referred to in Fascist propaganda, a history of contradictions and ambiguity that should not be oversimplified. I intend to assess the extent to which these soldiers incarnated the superiority of the Italian, and Fascist race, what was peculiarly Fascist about their experience, and how they perceived occupied populations. This is a premiere, for though historians have extensively dealt with the perceptions the occupied societies had of the occupiers, little consideration has been given to the latter’s perception of the formers. Finally I attempt at illustrating fragments of the soldiers’ everyday life in the Balkan territories annexed and occupied by the Italians.  My presentation will be far from being exhaustive, for many documents have been lost and many others are not yet accessible to historians.