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Bielefeld Graduate School
in History and Sociology
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Stefan Laffin

Penetration and Replacement of Political Spaces in Italy after 1943

When on the 25th of July Benito Mussolini was brought down by the decision of the Grand Council of Fascism and the ensuing dismissal by the King, it meant much more than only the sweeping break with the (fascist) past. It (also) prefigured an incalculable future, in which the invading Allies and the German Wehrmacht seemed to participate in shaping Italian policies to a large extent. The Italian state, however, was not only in proverbial retreat with its move to Brindisi; in a lot of ways it ceased to function in terms of enforcing the state monopoly. This opened up political free zones for other collective actors. Among those actors -- which often usurped governmental functions -- institutions or social movements could be found. Both the mafie and the partisans served as a quasi-government in their respective ways, performing many of the tasks usually corresponding to the state's sphere of duties. In a lot of ways, it was as much a usurpation of state power as it was a necessity to ensure common weal's public preservation. While the role of the mafie is especially relevant for the Italian South and the partisans likewise bear particular meaning for the North, the Catholic Church should not be neglected either. Oftentimes the respective priest was the only well-respected figure in local authority. Based on these assumptions, I would like to elaborate on how the allied military campaign evolved; in particular I want to discuss the conjectures as it relates to the interaction and communication between the USA and actors like the mafie and partisans (which will be defined also as unarmed resistance).

Which specific scopes ensued for the United States as well as for the local authorities and the declining Italian state? And to what extent -- if beforehand needs to be tackled too, that is -- were these specific scopes the outcome of strategic war planning and not just the aftermath of haphazard configurations? I would therefore like to expound on the social and political negotiation processes happening in a transforming state framework, preferably using the example of the Allied invasion of Sicily.


M.A. in History, Bielefeld University
Thesis: Giuseppe Renzetti and the Fascist Parallel Diplomacy in the Interwar Period (written in German)
Study abroad: Dipartimento di Storia Cultura Civiltà (DiSCi), Università di Bologna
B.A. in History and British and American Studies. Bielefeld University
Thesis: The View on Fascism in Weimar Republic (written in German)


April 2014 - present
Research Associate (Ph.D.) at the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology (BGHS), project's working title: "Penetration and Replacement of Political Spaces during the US-American occupation of Italy 1943-1945"(written in German)
2010, 2012 - 2013
Student Assistant (Tutor) for various classes at the Faculty of History (working for Professor Willibald Steinmetz, Associate Professor Ulrich Meier, Dr. Daniel Siemens, Dr. Vito Francesco Gironda, Dr. Friederike Neumann, Dr. Andreas Priever)
April 2012 - March 2014
Assistant for the German-Italian master program "Bielefeld-Bologna Geschichtswissenschaft (Bielefeld-Bologna History)", supporting project coordinator Dr. Vito Francesco Gironda at the chair "History of modern societies" held by Professor Thomas Welskopp
June/July 2011
Internship at the German Historical Institute, Rome (assigned to the advisor for the 19th and 20th century, Dr. Lutz Klinkhammer)
May 2015
Co-Organizer of the Summer School "Politische Partizipation: Ideen, Formen und Modi seit der Antike" (Bielefeld University, together with Dr. Vito Francesco Gironda, Prof. Marica Tolomelli, Prof. Thomas Welskopp)
September 2013
Co-Organizer of the Summer School "Zwischen Theorie und Empirie - Erscheinungsformen von Angst in der Geschichte" (Bielefeld University, together with Dr. Vito Francesco Gironda, Prof. Marica Tolomelli, Prof. Thomas Welskopp)


April 2016
"Charles Poletti und das Allied Military Government in Italien" (German Historical Institute Rome)
December 2015
"The re-opening of schools in Naples in the fall of 1943" (Educating Italy (1796-1968 ca): Local, national and global perspectives, Association for the Study of Modern Italy Conference 2015, Italian Cultural Institute London, Conveners: Dr. Claudia Baldoli, Dr. Marcella P. Sutcliffe, Maria Patricia Williams)
June 2015
"The Role of US-American War Correspondents in the Italian Campaign: The Case of John Lardner" (Third International Conference on Political History, Bielefeld University, Conveners: Prof. Thomas Welskopp, APH - Association for Political History)
October 2014
"Eine (an)gespannte Beziehung? - Die US-amerikanische Besetzung Italiens 1943 - 1945 (Die Herausforderungen des "kurzen Jahrhunderts": die deutsche und italienische Geschichte und Geschichtswissenschaft zwischen Krieg, Diktatur und Demokratie, Villa Vigoni, Conveners: Prof. Christoph Cornelissen, Prof. Andrea D'Onofrio, Dr. Lutz Klinkhammer)
September 2014
"Penetration and Replacement of Political Spaces during the US-American occupation of Italy 1943-1945" (Bosch Archival Summer School for Young Historians 2014. American History in Transatlantic Perspective, Chicago, Madison, Boston, Washington, Conveners: German Historical Institute Washington, University of Chicago et al.)
March 2014
"The US-American occupation of Italy 1943-45" (IMT Lucca PhD Conference, Convener: Professor Giovanni Orsina)
February 2013
"In Germania vi è ancora da fare moltissimo. Giuseppe Renzetti e l'organizzazione della propaganda fascista in Germania negli anni 1922-1929? ("Italia-Germania: incontri e scontri dall'unificazione alla II Guerra Mondiale", Università di Trento, Conveners: Professor Gustavo Corni and Professor Paolo Pombeni)


February-April 2016:
Doctoral Fellowship at the German Historical Institute Rome
October-November 2015:
Doctoral Fellowship at the German Historical Institute Washington
September 2014:
Robert Bosch Fellowship for the participation in the Bosch Archival Summer School for Young Historians 2014. American History in Transatlantic Perspective

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Current volume InDi

Gefördert durch:

Exzellenzinitiative zur Förderung der Hochschulen
(1. Förderphase 2007-2012,
2. Förderphase 2012-2017)

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