king victor emmanuel

In June 1943, after Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III arrested Mussolini, Hitler sent his troops into Rome. They took the city after just two days of fighting. Rome’s population was swollen to almost double its size by refugees drawn by what they thought was the protection of an open city. Pius had the Vatican secretary of state write to the leaders of all religious orders and ask them to help refugees any way they could. At first, people could pass freely into Vatican City, but when the Nazis realized the pope was offering shelter to Jews and other refugees, they began checking identification. The Church countered by providing fake identification for people wanting to enter the Vatican. Later still, many people made mad dashes to safety after dark.
 
All available Church buildings were put to use. One hundred fifty such sanctuaries were opened in Rome alone. “Shelters were improvised everywhere, in lofts, in storage rooms under stairs, hidden behind blind doors or cupboards, subterranean galleries, ancient Roman doors used as escape routes: all this as soon as the alert sounded - according to agreed signs, such as the convent bells - that a Nazi inspection was approaching.” Catholic hospitals were ordered to admit as many Jewish patients as possible, even if their ailments were fictitious. Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s normal summer home, was used to shelter thousands of refugees. A wartime US intelligence document reported that the “bombardment of Castel Gandolfo resulted in the injury of about 1,000 people and the death of about 300 more. The highness of the figures is due to the fact that the area was crammed with refugees.” No one but Pope Pius XII had authority to open his summer home to outsiders. In fact, his personal bedroom was converted to a nursery and birthing area, and about forty babies were born there during the war.
 
Father Robert Leiber, Pius XII’s private secretary and personal confidant during the war said: “The Pope sided very unequivocally with the Jews at the time. He spent his entire private fortune on their behalf….Pius spent what he inherited himself, as a Pacelli, from his family.”
—  Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa and Professor Ronald Rychlak, Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism (2013)

The Cursed Wedding

The wedding day of Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo and Prince Amedeo of Savoy is considered by some to be the worst wedding day in history. Upon the couple’s engagement Amedeo’s father, King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, expressed his severe disappointment in his son’s choice of bride and cursed their marriage and wedding day. Amedeo chose to marry Vittoria despite his father’s disapproval and threats and arrangements were made.
The wedding day turned out to be a parade of death. The seamstress who had designed and made the bride’s dress hanged herself the night before the wedding. Vittoria took this as a sign and chose a different wedding dress to wear. During the bridal party’s procession one of the colonials riding horseback fell off of the animal and died. When the party finally reached the palace gates (after replacing the fallen horseman) they found that the gates were locked. Someone went to fetch the gatekeeper, whom they found in a pool of his own blood, dead.
Once he couple was married, the best man shot himself in the head. This was followed promptly by the man who drafted the wedding contract falling down dead from mysterious causes. The couple fled to a train station to quickly put an end to the day’s events and get on with their marriage, at which point a stationmaster fell beneath a carriage and was fatally run over. If that wasn’t enough another guest, the Count of Castiglione, was also pulled under a carriage and a medallion that the King himself had gifted him with stabbed him in the heart.
The most cursed wedding in history ended with the couple unscathed, but Vittoria died at age 29 in childbirth ten years later.

British soldiers of the 8th Army smile while passing a  ’Viva Il Duce’ slogan painted on a wall in Reggio di Calabria. The Southern Italian city had already been liberated by the Allies and Mussolini had been defeated in the South and deposed by King Victor Emmanuel III. Reggio di Calabria, Calabria, Italy, September 1943.