Vatican Guard arm-band & ID
1943 issue for a member of the Holy See.
Very important memorabilia from occupied Rome used over 70 years ago and an important reminder of the dark days that mankind was facing.
The Vatican City is considered as the smallest state in the world, with the size of 44 hectares (110 acres) and a population of about 842.
By 1943 Italy was facing its worst crisis since entering the war a few years earlier: The long reign of its fascist leader Benito Mussolini was coming to an end with his ousting on July 24th by the Grand Council of Fascism and arrest by order of the King. The Allied invasion of Italy trigged his downfall, with the Italian leadership and government fearing defeat. The entry into war after the fall of France was his most severe miscalculation on his part, though realizing that Italy did not have the means to go on a long prolonged war with the British or the Allies, still, he presumed that territorial gains could be gained by joining Hitler. The German defeat in Stalingrad with the loss of the 6th Army and the Allied invasion the same year, 1943, signaled the turn of the tide (he was rescued from imprisonment by the Germans in what would be known as the Gran Sasso raid and put as head of state of the short lived puppet state called Italian Social Republic (RSI), which even issued its own new type of passport ).
The German invasion and occupation started on September 8th and lasted until 1944, when the south was liberated by the Allies, while the north remained under German control until April of 1945. Italian liberation day is commemorated on the 25th of that month.
During the war, the Italian Jews did not suffer the same harsh and deadly conditions as the Jews under German occupation, though fascist legislation, 1938, and oppression did exist during Mussolini’s reign. It is only after the fall of Mussolini and the German take over, did the Italian Jews suffer: Severe and brutal German actions upon the old and rich Jewish communities were taking place throughout the country, with deportations to the death camps as well.
The items in this article were issued to a palatine guard of the Vatican in 1943, after the German occupation of the capital: The SS even tried to enter the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls in an effort to hunt down the Jews of Rome, actions that began on October 16th (following the events of that year and the German attempts to apprehend the Jews of Rome, the Vatican guard grew in numbers from several hundred to over 2,000 with an addition of 1,400 in auxiliary. It is claimed that these guards saved hundreds of Jews by preventing their capture, patrolling the city walls and guarding the odd buildings where they were hidden).
Vatican identity-card number 00136 was issued on December 6th 1943 by the Governor of Vatican City Camillo Serafini (apparently he was the only one to hold that post from February 11th 1929 to March 31st 1952). The ID came together with the original palatine guard arm-band bearing the coat of arms.
The identity document was counter signed by a German Diplomat to the Holy See Karl Gustav Wollenweber (May 21st 1904-June 26th 1987), who was posted to the Vatican on August 7th 1940. He was captured by the Allies in July of 1944, and from 1945 to 1950 engaged in commerce and business. He re-entered the Foreign Service of West Germany in 1950. He served in various locations such as Spain, US, Porto Rico and last posting was to Valletta, retiring in 1969.
Today, the events of the war are still being examined and evaluated, with the Vatican’s role always being a controversial issue and heatedly debated by all sides.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.