Romedio Thun-Hohenstein


For Hitler’s Germany 1943 began with the surrender of the 6th Army in Stalingrad, followed by the capitulation of the Italian and German armed forces in Tunisia in May. There about 270.000 soldiers became prisoners of war. Long ago the personal and material resources of the “German Reich” had not been enough to equally meet the demands of Eastern Front, aerial war, and armaments industry. For the allies the situation after the nadir of the summer of 1942 looked somewhat more promising. There was, however, no agreement on further actions. Whereas the Americans intended to advance directly into Germany as fast as possible, and for this reason pleading for disembarking in North-West France as early as in the summer of 1942, the British, on the other hand, preferred a more indirect strategy, for which a landing in Sicily would have been the obvious thing. With this they pursued several goals: splitting and wearing out the German forces, separating Italy from the alliance, and protecting the Mediterranean region. The operation “Husky”, the allied landing on 10th July 1943, was preceded by an unsuccessful paratrooper operation of the British 1st Airborne Division and the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division near Syracuse and Gela the night before, whereas the disembarking from the sea was a success. The British 8th Army under General Sir Bernard Montgomery landed in the area of Syracuse - Pachino, while the 7th U.S. Army under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton disembarked between Licata and Vittoria. On 13th July already 80.000 British and American soldiers were on Sicily fiercely fighting the German defenders, whereas most of the Italian troops quickly were eliminated as formations fit for action. Overcoming the tough resistance of the gradually driven back German-Italian defenders of Italy was rather difficult for the allies. Additionally, the relationship between the allied partners, which had been reflected by distrust, deteriorated, and as a consequence, armoured incidents happened several times. Nevertheless, the Italian units did not always surrender immediately, as the Germans liked to insist. By the end of April 1945 the German Army Group C practically had ceased to exist, and all its ammunition and fuel were nearly spent. On 29th April, on behalf of Colonel General Vietinghoff, the commander-in-chief South-West and of the Army Group C, General Staff Lieutenant Colonel von Schweinitz signed the unreserved surrender in the allies’ headquarters in Caserta, and it came into effect on 2nd May at 14 o’clock. Losses were high on both sides. As far as the Germans are concerned, the numbers are divided between 415.615 und 536.000 killed in action, injured or missing, the 5th U.S. Army lost 188.746 and the British 8th Army 123.254. According to statements by the Italian government, from 8th September 1943 to 8th May 1945 204.436 Italian soldiers were killed in action, missing, or had died. Up to 8th September already 204.436 soldiers had been killed in action, missing, or had died. In addition to that, 153.147 civilians were killed in the course of the war, 123.119 of them after the 8th September 1943, and 42.613 of those in air raids. These numbers also include 8.562 murdered Jews.