Naples is the only Italian city that received a Gold Medal of Honour, this is due to its heroic resistance and liberation from the Nazi army.
It was September 1943. Italy had just signed the unconditional surrender to the Allied forces. The war is finished, shouted the Italians.
They accused Mussolini and Fascism of all the damage, forgetting that some 30 million Italians had supported the regime during the last twenty years.
The Allied had landed in Sicily, then in Salerno e the next move would be Anzio.
Naples was one of the most hit cities for more reasons. Being one of the largest port in the Mediterranean Sea, it was a centre of distribution of good, weapons and troops. Naples was also the belly of Italy, with its always excited inhabitants, ready to revolt, and asking for food, a lively picture of the hot tempered Southern Italians.
If Naples could be put on its knees, the rest of Italy would follow, thought the Allied generals.
But on 8th September, 1943 the Armistice stopped any aggressive move between the Italians and the Allied. But this was not the idea of the Germans. They did not surrendered and continued to fight the Americans and the British armies. The most dramatic moment of the Italian campaign was the battle for Montecassino, were the two armies were blocked in a quagmire for months.
The joy for the end of the war was a short one for the Neapolitans. The occupying German forces took quickly all the strategic places of the city, the port, the castles, the hills around Naples, the barracks with thousands of prisoners.
Just to give an example to the population, the Germans killed some sailors.
Then quickly captured all the men they found and started to load the trucks with them, to deport to Germany. This was the spark that started the fire: the women of the popular quarters (the “Quartieri”) attacked with their hands the German soldiers, freeing their husbands and sons.
It was the beginning of an incredibly violent uprising: boys from the City Reformatory, sailors, women, lawyers and merchants, all contributed to fight the scared German soldiers. When the occupants tried to take the control of the city back, it was a nightmare for them: everything was thrown at them from the windows of the tall popular houses.
Many civilians died, also children, but this only raised the rage of the common people.
After four days of guerrilla, the Germans asked a meeting with the commanders of the Resistance. “There are not commanders”, was the answer. The disciplined and formal Germans had no hope to resist to a fluid and spontaneous revolt like that.
“They are leaving!” Naples has been the only European city to free itself without any help from an armed force.