WWII Italian RSI flag, approx. 3′ x 5′
The Italian Social Republic, informally known as the Republic of Salò, was a state with limited recognition that was created during the later part of World War II (in existence from 1943 until 1945). Mussolini had originally intended to call his new republic the “Italian ‘Socialist’ Republic.” It was the second and last incarnation of the Fascist Italian state and was led by Duce Benito Mussolini and his reformed Republican Fascist Party. The state declared Rome as its capital, but was de facto centered on Salò, a small town on Lake Garda, near Brescia, where Mussolini and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was headquartered. The RSI exercised nominal sovereignty in northern and central Italy, but was largely dependent on German troops to maintain control.
In July 1943, after the Allied forces had pushed Italy out of North Africa and subsequently invaded Sicily, the Grand Fascist Council, with the support of King Victor Emmanuel III, had overthrown and arrested Mussolini. The new government began secret peace negotiations with the Allied powers. When the Armistice of Cassibile was announced in September, Germany was prepared and quickly intervened. Germany seized control of the northern half of Italy, freed Mussolini and brought him to the German-occupied area to establish a satellite regime.
The RSI was proclaimed on 23 September 1943. Although the RSI claimed most of the lands of Italy as rightfully belonging to it, it held political control over a vastly reduced portion of Italy. The RSI received diplomatic recognition from only Germany, Japan and their puppet states.
Around 25 April 1945, Mussolini’s republic came to an end. In Italy, this day is known as Liberation Day. On this day a general partisan uprising alongside the efforts of Allied forces, during their final offensive in Italy, managed to oust the Germans from Italy almost entirely. At the point of its demise, the Italian Social Republic had existed for slightly more than nineteen months. On 27 April partisans caught Mussolini, his mistress (Clara Petacci), several RSI ministers, and several other Italian Fascists while they were attempting to flee. On 28 April the partisans shot Mussolini and most of the other captives. The RSI Minister of Defense, Rodolfo Graziani, surrendered what was left of the RSI on 2 May when the German forces in Italy capitulated; this put a definitive end to the Italian Social Republic.