ROME (AP) — Italy on Saturday celebrated the 70th anniversary of a partisan uprising against the Nazis and their Fascist allies near the end of World War II.
President Sergio Mattarella marked Liberation Day by laying a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier in Rome.
The anniversary marks the day in 1945 when the Italian resistance movement proclaimed an insurgency as the Allies were pushing German forces out of the peninsula.
Within days, Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who headed a Nazi puppet state in northern Italy, was captured, shot and hung by his feet in a Milan square, along with his mistress.
"He was on a train going to Switzerland disguised as a German," recalled George Bria, an Associated Press correspondent who covered the Allied push into Italy. "Plain, ordinary German soldier, with his mistress and some other fascist officials, also disguised. Well, the partisans got wind of this and they captured them."
Bria did not witness the spectacle, but arrived in Milan a few days later and viewed the bodies in a somewhat more dignified setting.
"He was in an improvised morgue, on the floor naked with his mistress beside him, naked. Like cords of wood. Just naked on the floor like that," Bria, 99, told AP in a recent interview.
Bria witnessed several historic events between the liberation of Rome in June 1944 and that of the country 10 months later.
"After the capture of Rome, it took a long time to get the Germans out of there. They were fighting bitterly to keep us occupied, to keep the troops there so they didn't go over onto the Western front," said Bria.
German forces surrendered in Italy just over a week before signing a total and unconditional surrender to Allied Forces in Europe on May 7, 1945.
Bria was interviewed in Manhattan, New York City, by former AP writer Michael Oreskes.