In Italy the struggle continued. Stuck in the middle of the conflict were the Italian population. In the German occupied area they suffered increasing brutality as reprisals were carried out against any form of ‘resistance’ – the partisan war would grow increasingly bitter.
Even in Allied occupied areas the resources available to help people were limited and conditions for the poorest elements of society were desperate. They had suffered under the Germans and been bombed by the Allies. Now they suffered under the Allies and were bombed by the Germans.
In Naples, the principal city so far captured by the Allies, prostitution was rife as a means of survival. For the Allied authorities it was but one difficulty amongst many when dealing with the civilian population, as Intelligence Officer Norman Lewis noted in his diary:
The war on the black market is being conducted with spurts of ferocity, but the victims who fall are always and only those who have no one to speak out for them, and cannot bribe their way out of their predicament. Whole shiploads of army stores are spirited away, and items from these can be bought by every Italian civilian who has the money to pay.
I am convinced it would be impossible to stop and search a single Neapolitan in the street without finding that he was wearing an overcoat or jacket made from army blankets, or army underclothing, army socks, or at the least had American cigarettes in his pocket.
… [he describes several cases against wealthy people that come to nothing]…
The reverse of the coin is the case of the dock-workers rounded up by the MPs and found in possession of rations. They had broken open a case and helped themselves to about half a dozen tins apiece. One of them was put in the dock to be got rid of while legal arguments were going on over the Rufos.
He was chained up in the usual way, weeping desperately, clearly knowing what was coming. It took the judge minutes to find him guilty and sentence him to ten years. ‘What’s going to happen no my poor family?’ he shrieked. He was led away sobbing loudly. A sickening experience.
Today another horrible example of what can happen to the poor when the army decides on a counter-offensive on the black market. A boy of about ten was brought into the 92nd General Hospital by his distracted mother. He’d had three fingers chopped off. These she handed over, wrapped up in newspaper, with the request that they be sewn on again. Somebody had told her that only the British were capable of this kind of surgery.
The story was that this little boy was one of a juvenile gang that specialized in jumping into the backs of army lorries when held up in traffic and snatching up anything pilferable.
We heard that they had been dealt with by having a man with a bayonet hidden under a taurpaulin in the back of every supply lorry. As soon as a boy grabbed the tailboard to haul himself in, the waiting soldier chopped down at his hands. God knows how many children have lost their fingers in this way.