HUFFINGTON POST
03/17/2016 02:00 pm ET

These Haunting Photos Reveal The Two Sides Of Italy's Liberation

Black-and-white images show the devastation of WWII. Color images suggest the hope.

Buildings destroyed by bombs, faces filled with despair, stoic soldiers, a worn-out Benito Mussolini, Pope Pius XII wading into a crowd of Allied troops, and a glamorous Marlene Dietrich performing atop a piano in a military hospital: these are only a few of the 140 photos showing the long, difficult process of liberating Italy from fascist rule.

The photos are part of the exhibition "War Is Over!," which runs until April 10 at the Forma Meravigli center in Milan, Italy. Their visual narrative begins in July 1943, with the arrival of Allied troops in Sicily, and ends on April 25, 1945, the official date of the liberation.

By the time the Allies landed, Italy was a country torn apart. Its people were exhausted, gripped by both fear and hope.

"The story of Italy that emerges from this dual viewpoint is both tragic and glorious. It is a story filled with courage and defeat, fear and joy, desperate violence and the overwhelming desire to live. It is the story of a country that is preparing for the best post-war years, marked by the triumph of democracy, the incredible movie industry, reconstruction, and the quest for wealth," write the exhibit's curators Gabriele D'Autilia and Enrico Menduni. 

Through black-and-white images gathered by the Istituto Luce and color images from the U.S. Army Signal Corps, visitors can see both sides of World War II's devastating effects. The exhibit also contains photos and film clips that had previously been censored.

The photos taken by the U.S. Army, which are normally housed at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, portray an Italy beginning to transform, swept by the breath of fresh air that was the "American way of life." A renewed vitality can be seen in the images of soldiers smiling at children, well-dressed women, views of the horizon and faces full of hope.

At the other end of the spectrum are the photos of the Istituto Luce, once the official photographic instrument of the fascist regime and still an important source of historical documentation. In shades of gray, they show fascism's decline and the ruins of war. 

Photo captions have been translated and presented as they appear in the exhibit. 

  • Lt. Francis Mulhair from South Norwalk, Connecticut, a cameraman who served in the Signal Corps for 20 months. Viareggio
    © National Archives And Records Administration
    Lt. Francis Mulhair from South Norwalk, Connecticut, a cameraman who served in the Signal Corps for 20 months. Viareggio, 1944.
  • A soldier posing in front of Villa Feltrinelli, Mussolini's former residence in Gargagno. May 1945
    © National Archives And Records Administration
    A soldier posing in front of Villa Feltrinelli, Mussolini's former residence in Gargagno. May 1945
  • With the end of hostilities, American soldiers and Italian civilians take part in a motorboat race on Lake Garda in
    © National Archives And Records Administration
    With the end of hostilities, American soldiers and Italian civilians take part in a motorboat race on Lake Garda in July 1945.
  • Crowds of Italians in Anzio wait to board the ships that will take them to Naples. June 1944.
    © National Archives And Records Administration
    Crowds of Italians in Anzio wait to board the ships that will take them to Naples. June 1944.
  • A member of the American women's auxiliary chats with some farmers dressed in traditional clothing in an Apennine villag
    © National Archives And Records Administration
    A member of the American women's auxiliary chats with some farmers dressed in traditional clothing in an Apennine village. Aiello del Sabato, Avellino 1944.
  • German-born singer and actress Marlene Dietrich puts on a show for wounded American soldiers at a military hospital on the It
    © National Archives And Records Administration
    German-born singer and actress Marlene Dietrich puts on a show for wounded American soldiers at a military hospital on the Italian front. May 1944.
  • An American soldier poses, wrapped in ammunition and the artillery flag.
    © National Archives And Records Administration
    An American soldier poses, wrapped in ammunition and the artillery flag.
  • Citizens destroy fascist documents and symbols. Milan, July 26, 1943.
    © Istituto Luce - Cinecittà
    Citizens destroy fascist documents and symbols. Milan, July 26, 1943.
  • Pope Pius XII distributes financial aid in Piazza San Giovanni after the bombing of Rome. Aug. 13, 1943.
    © Istituto Luce - Cinecittà
    Pope Pius XII distributes financial aid in Piazza San Giovanni after the bombing of Rome. Aug. 13, 1943.
  • A soldier points his camera into the distance as another aims his rifle. 1944.
    © Istituto Luce - Cinecittà
    A soldier points his camera into the distance as another aims his rifle. 1944.
  • An innocent kiss before parting for the front, observed by Mussolini's Minister of Popular Culture (Propagandist) Fernan
    © Istituto Luce - Cinecittà
    An innocent kiss before parting for the front, observed by Mussolini's Minister of Popular Culture (Propagandist) Fernando Mezzasoma. Oct. 16, 1944.
  • Benito Mussolini visits a wounded soldier. 1942.
    © Istituto Luce - Cinecittà
    Benito Mussolini visits a wounded soldier. 1942.
  • A cracked facade seen after bombing. 1941.
    © Istituto Luce - Cinecittà
    A cracked facade seen after bombing. 1941.
  • An Italian soldier in colonial uniform on the African front. 1941-1942. 
    © Istituto Luce - Cinecittà
    An Italian soldier in colonial uniform on the African front. 1941-1942. 
  • First responders after a bombing. 1943. 
    © Istituto Luce - Cinecittà
    First responders after a bombing. 1943. 
  • Women praying amongst the ruins of the Church of Santa Anna. Caligari, February 1943. 
    © Istituto Luce – Cinecittà
    Women praying amongst the ruins of the Church of Santa Anna. Caligari, February 1943. 
  • A streetcar driver. July 26, 1943.
    © Istituto Luce – Cinecittà
    A streetcar driver. July 26, 1943.
  • May Day celebrations at the Arco della Pace, Milan. 1945. 
    © Istituto Luce – Cinecittà
    May Day celebrations at the Arco della Pace, Milan. 1945. 

This post first appeared on HuffPost Italy. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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