Changing attitudes of South Africans towards Italy and its people during the Second World War, 1939 to 1945
CITATION: Delport, A. 2013. Changing attitudes of South Africans towards Italy and its people during the Second World War, 1939 to 1945. Historia, 58(1):167-190.
The original publication is available at http://www.scielo.org.za
The emphasis of this article falls on South African wartime attitudes towards Italy structured around the differentiation in attitudes between the Union government; the domestic sphere; and the armed forces. On 11 June 1940 the Union issued a declaration of war in response to Italy's new belligerent status. Attitudes towards Italy were thus altered from "unofficial" to being an "official" enemy of the Union. Less than a month later, Union soldiers embarked on their first campaign in East Africa and later North Africa. In early 1942 the fighting moved across the Mediterranean to Italy. On 8 September 1943, Italy surrendered to the Allies thus shifting Italy's domestic position from enemy to liberator. Thereafter, South Africans fought alongside anti-fascist Italian partisans against German occupation thus altering their relationship to comrades. Although the war ended on 8 May 1945, many Italian POWs interned in South Africa still awaited repatriation. Some remained in the country or returned and made South Africa their new place of residence, taking advantage of South Africa's acceptance of Italian nationals. Similarly, some South Africans formerly held in European POW camps took Italian wives and adopted a new culture as a consequence of the war. This article illustrates the changing South African attitudes towards Italy during the different phases of the war as well as the variation in attitudes between different factions in South African society.