The role of Indian Soldiers in Italy during WWII

The documentary illustrating the role of Indian soldiers has been in my thoughts for many years. It has been part of me, creating and finding my roots in Italy. Being an Indian migrant naturalised as an Italian citizen, it has been important for me to create emotional bonds with the territory where I live. Even though I have many friends and a loving relationship, land has its own connection.

The research started when I came across the cover image used in this documentary, the image of an Indian soldier holding the fallen Nazi flag with the text “IL DUCE” in the background. Through this journey of gathering information and doing my research I have met many people and listened to many personal stories and explored some of the Italian territory where the blood of our people has laid the foundation of the Italian nation as we know it today. Even today this participation continues in building this nation. The same lands where the blood of the Indian soldiers was shed is now cultivated with the sweat of Indian migrants working as agricultural labour. Many of them, similar to the soldiers in the past, are forgotten by the state system, very little is done for their rights and recognizing their contribution.

The making of this documentary is an effort to keep the memory alive and create some awareness both in the Indian diaspora and the Indian state, as well as among local Italians and Italian institutions. I hope that there will soon be a detailed chapter in the Italian school and university text books regarding the role of the colonies in the struggle against Nazi and Fascist rule.

As much as 50,000 Indian soldiers volunteered in the Allied army in Italy during World War II. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 5504 Indian soldiers aged between 15 and 41 gave their lives fighting against Fascism and Nazism. These soldiers are buried, cremated and commemorated in various war cemeteries throughout Italy. Indian soldiers received six out of the 20 Victoria Crosses awarded during these campaigns. Their stories are still remembered in certain Italian villages, but they are not told and taught in schools and universities. Curricula teach only of the Allied victory, so the majority of Italians think that they were liberated only by the British and American forces. The role of the colonies has mostly been ignored in the liberation of Italy and Europe.