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Italy’s Sorrow – A year of war, 1944-45

By: James Holland (587/35903)
Publisher: Harper Press ISBN: 9780007176458

During the Second World War, the campaign in Italy was the most destructive fought in Europe – a long, bitter and highly attritional conflict that raged up the country’s mountainous leg. For frontline troops, casualty rates at Cassino and then along the notorious Gothic Line were as high as they had been on the Western Front in the First World War. There were further similarities too: blasted landscapes, rain and mud, and months on end with the front line barely moving,

While the Allies and Germans were slogging it out through the mountains, the Italians were fighting their own bitter battles. Partisans mounted a crippling resistance campaign against the German troops but also battled Fascist forces in what soon became a bloody civil war. Around them, innocent civilians tried to live through the carnage, terror and anarchy while, in the wake of the Allied advance horrific numbers of impoverished and starving people were left to pick their way through the ruins of their homes and country. In the German-occupied north, there were more than 700 civilian massacres by German and Fascist troops in retaliation for Partisan activities, while in the south many found themselves forced to make terrible and heart rendering decisions in order to survive.

Italy today is renowned for the beauty of its landscape and the richness of its culture, while its suffering in 1944-45 is largely forgotten. This is the first account of the conflict to tell the story from all sides and to include the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike. Offering extensive original research, it weaves together the drama and tragedy of that terrible year, including new perspectives and material on some of the most debated episodes to have emerged from the Second World War. It is a magnificent achievement by one our finest young historians.

August 2008


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