Monday, March 28, 2011


Regno di Napoli
Kingdom of Naples
Flag Coat of arms
Capital Naples

Italy had the strangest attitude toward treaties and wars during the first half of the 20th Century. To paraphrase Lawrence Oliver:

This is the tragedy of a country that could not make up it’s mind.

Italy begins WWI on the side of Germany (albeit before the fighting broke out) and ends up fighting with the Brits and the French.

Italy begins WWII on the side of Germany and ends up signing a peace pact with the Brits.
You can see this Italian ambiguity in the person of El Duce.

Benito Mussolini would give speeches in the 30’s denigrating the Germans for manufacturing theories about their super Arian Race. El Duce even entertained thoughts of backing the French in the years leading up to WWII and ended up as one of the Axis powers because he thought he would only lose a couple thousand troops in a war that would last a few weeks.

By July of 1943 most of the Italian people had had it with El Duce; 200,000 Italian boys had been stuck fighting on the Eastern Front; food rationing as a program was failing, spreading hunger across the land; and the Allied bombing  raids were not only killing civilians but also destroying buildings in their most ancient of cities. So Mussolini’s own party takes him down and imprisons him.

It did not help matters that Patton and Montgomery had already conquered Sicily and were landing on the Toe of the Boot!

By September of 1943 the makeshift Italian government signs an armistice with the Allies; even though El Duce had been freed by the NAZI’s and was claiming his own mobile government within the bounds of NAZI occupied Italy.


Greece and Italy, for thousands of years had no concept of ‘nation’ as we do today. City States ruled the day centuries before Christ. And to some extent, many Italians carry on their belief in the city state as their primary governmental and cultural unit.

Naples began as one of these city states established by the Greeks in the 9th century B.C.; a couple hundred years before the legendary Romulus and Remus established Rome as a city state.

I watched The Four Days of Naples (1962) last night. It was actually nominated for two academy Awards including one for Best Foreign Language Film. It has to be one of the greatest films I have ever viewed.
It begins with sailors and soldiers returning to their home in Naples. These young vets are jubilant!

We have lost the war and it is over! Hurrah!
Hitler has lost the war. Hurrah!

Then under direct orders of Der Fuhrer, the Germans arrive enforce. 

Cowardly Italian Fascist leaders simply took off for the hills ‘handing over’ the City of Naples to the NAZI troops.

Shortly after the film opens in jubilation, a German soldier claims that a returning vet attacked him and the young Neapolitan is summarily executed in a plaza after the commandant rounded up towns people to witness the event. The Italians were forced to kneel during the exhibition and applaud their new captors. It was like something out of Caesar’s Commentaries.

Other ‘round ups’ go into effect and soldiers are seen muscling their way into public buildings and private apartments.

And, all of a sudden it was like Naples was one large organism attacking a plague; a foreign bacteria that was threatening its very existence.

Five or six NAZI’s are killed by ‘terrorists’ and hundreds of Neapolitans are rounded up and led to a sports arena. Fifty are then selected by the army for summary execution.

Scores of Italians, ex-soldiers as well as citizens collect arms and begin firing on the German Soldiers and all hell breaks loose with the citizens in the arena running for their lives as the soldiers seek cover at the end of the arena.

The action all takes place between September 27th and October 1st of 1943.

The film is shot so perfectly that one barely has to glance at the subtitles to understand what is going on in each scene.

Now initially, the ‘plot’ is difficult to follow until you ‘stand back’ and understand that the actual events of those four days are difficult to follow.

This rebellion was not led by some Leninist Vanguard. No Committee was formed by the citizens of Naples to coordinate an attack upon their conquerers.

The people just rose up like they were all part of some chemical reaction.

The acting is superb.

I do not know what it is about Italian women, but their emotional make-up has got to have some genetic source. They express their jubilance, their disappointments, their pains, their sufferings and their losses in such a manner as to wake up the dead. It is like they are all starring in some Greek/Italian tragedy!

After seeing this film, I now know what Cassavetes was going for in all those independent films he made starring his wife.

In the midst of all this chaos, in the midst of all this bloodshed; there are truly comic scenes presented onto the screen.

At one point the citizen army barricades a city street with an old bus that these ad hoc soldiers will use to attack German soldiers and their tanks. An old man is standing on his balcony just over the bus and screams:

Why do you choose to fight here! Have you no consideration for other people and their property!


In another scene a group of freedom fighters is barraging NAZI soldiers with bullets. One of the fighter’s wives is literally hanging on to him, pleading for him to come home. Hahahah

Get away from me woman! Quit hanging on me. I am attempting to accomplish something here!

Oh and the tragedy!

A little boy is seen hiding from his mother throughout the film. He has found a helmet and wants to join in the fray. Later he finally accesses a rifle and finally shot dead in the street.

Oh, and not all the women are weeping and wailing in their homes over the deaths of their kin or hanging onto their menfolk. Many women join in the mayhem, fighting with their comrades.

In the final scene of the film the NAZI’s have given up and are leaving the city with white flags attached to their tanks and jeeps.

Now the reason for this withdrawal might have to do with German Intelligence telling them that the Allies were at the gate; after all the Allies arrived within hours of the Hun retreat.

But the film does not show one Allied tank; not one Allied soldier.

And Wiki recounts that the City of Naples accomplished this German surrender on its own.

The film is stupendous!

The actual historical event is unbelievable.


Alan said...


Never have I seen a more beautiful, complex, richly textured place, nor one with more of a sense of history. (We could take a lesson from them on that, as well as on many other things.)

Great food, great wine, beautiful women, amazing fast cars (and the good roads to drive them on) and a gusto that makes the fabled French "joie de vivre" look positively pallid by comparison.

And I suspect they'll be done with that annoyance Berlusconi soon enough.


Always wanted to visit; now more than ever Alan!

Healthy Herbal Therapies said...

My mother was a part of this history. As a young girl she ran from the Nazi's and was shot in her leg but mangaed to escape death. She sadly remembered the soldiers gathering mothers with their babies. They would choose one baby for their "game". Then one soldier would throw the chosen baby into the air....whoever got to bayonet the baby first won the game. The mothers and others, including my mother, were forced to watch this act of cowardice. I dont think my mother ever fully recovered from these 4 days of terror. She died a few weeks ago with terrible dementia. The only blessing is now maybe she had peace, not being able to remember the atrocities.