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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Stefan Laffin


+49 521 106-12936


The Allied Occupation of Sicily, Calabria and Campania in World War II

When on July 25, 1943 Benito Mussolini was brought down by the decision of the Grand Council of Fascism and the ensuing dismissal by the King, it meant more than only a sweeping break with the (fascist) past. It likewise prefigured an incalculable future, in which the invading Allies and the German ally - soon to be enemy - 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 - individuals, institutions or social movements could be found. Both mafie and partisans served as a quasi-government in their respective ways, for instance. They performed many of the tasks usually corresponding to the state's sphere of duties. The Catholic Church also loomed large in local contexts. Oftentimes the respective priest was the only well-respected figure in local settings. Based on these assumptions, I 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 civil affairs officers and Italian local society.

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? The planning and organization of the occupation between Washington and London will therefore be analyzed in a first part of the research project before in a second step the body conducting the occupation, the Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories (AMGOT), will be presented. Given that the war in Sicily and Italy marks the origin point for both the Allied and German occupation of Italian territories, the military campaign will be highlighted in terms of how it preconfigured the ensuing Allied occupation. Taken together, all of these three aspects mark the background against which three case studies will unfold: Sicily, Calabria and Campania will be analyzed with specific aspects of the occupational regime in mind. Here, issues like food, public health, transport, requisition, the black market and Italian politics will be carefully considered.

On a more abstract level, I expound on the social and political negotiation processes happening in a transforming state framework, by shedding light both on the role of especially American occupiers as embodied by the Civil Affairs Officers (CAOs) and what ramifications the Allied occupation entailed for large parts of the Italian South.

[the dissertation will be written in German, but the abstract here is in English for a better understanding]


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)


EMPLOYMENT (Selection)
June 2019 - present
Research Fellow (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) at the Chair of History of Modern Societies (Professor Thomas Welskopp)
June - December 2018
Project Coordinator for the DAAD-funded Thematic Network Interactive Intelligent Systems at CITEC, Bielefeld University
April 2014 - present
Research Fellow (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)
April 2012 - March 2014
Assistant for the German-Italian master program "Bielefeld-Bologna Geschichtswissenschaft (Bielefeld-Bologna History)", supporting project coordinator Dr. habil. Vito Francesco Gironda
May 2018
Co-Organizer (together with Dr. habil. Vito Francesco Gironda, Prof. Marica Tolomelli, Prof. Thomas Welskopp) of the Summer School "Zugehörigkeit und soziale Distinktion zwischen Antike und Moderne", University of Bologna
January 2018
Co-Organizer (together with Teresa Malice) of the workshop "Challenging 1945 as a 'caesura'. New perspectives on transitions, continuity and change in Italy and beyond", Bielefeld University
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)


November 2017
"Glimmering Prologue to Peace or mere Epilogue of War? The peculiar case of the Italian Occupation in World War II" (Military History, St. John's College, Cambridge University, Conveners: Adam Storring et. al.)
May 2017
"Politics of Food during the Occupation of Naples in World War II" (War and the Urban Context, New York City, CUNY Graduate Center, Conveners: Sarah Danielsson, Timothy Keogh)
March 2017
"Carlo Sforza, the Politics of Europeanization and Italy's role post-World War II" (The Informal Construction of Europe: 13th History of European Integration Research Society (HEIRS), Luxembourg-Ville, Convener: European Integration Research Society)
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)
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)
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)


December 2018 - May 2019:
Doctoral Completions Scholarship provided by the Bielefeld Young Researcher's Fund
March-May 2018:
Doctoral Fellowship at the German Historical Institute Rome
September 2017:
Gerald D. Feldman - Travel Grant for research stays in Italy
May 2017:
Gerald D. Feldman - Travel Grant for research stays in the United States of America
February 2017:
Research Grant at the Truman Presidential Library
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
January-June 2011:
ERASMUS-Grant for the Università di Bologna


  • Book Chapter: Occupied Naples and the Politics of Food in World War II, in: War and the Urban Context, edited by Timothy Keogh (forthcoming in fall 2019)
  • Conference Report: Historikertag 2018: Mussolini transnational. Zur Auseinandersetzung mit dem italienischen Faschismus in Asien in der Zwischenkriegszeit, 25.09.2018 - 28.09.2018 Münster, in: H-Soz-Kult, 30.11.2018,
  • Article: Gaining a Foothold in the Weimar Republic: Giuseppe Renzetti's activities in the mid-1920s, in: "Storicamente" 13 (2017), no. 9. DOI: 10.12977/stor664
  • Review: Gudrun Brockhaus (ed.), Attraktion der NS-Bewegung. Essen 2014, in: German History, Vol. 33, No. 2 (2015), pp. 315-317 (first published on 3 March 2015, doi: 10.1093/gerhis/ghv036).

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