By Effie G. H. Pedaliu (auth.)
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From as early as March 1944, upon the return of Palmiro Togliatti to Italy, the strength of the PCI had surprised and concerned British policy-makers. Initial concerns over Communist tactics and intentions were transformed into palpable fear. The popularity of the PCI in the occupied North was revealed, bringing with it the realisation that the party would play a major role in Italian domestic politics after the eventual reunification of the country. 30 Fearing the potential firepower of the Communist-controlled partisan units, the Allies decided that these had first to be disarmed, demobilised and ‘screened’ and only then would individual ‘rehabilitated partisans’ be allowed to join, thus frustrating the initiative of the Communist leader PalmiroTogliatti for the automatic enlisting of partisan units to the army.
As far as crimes against humanity were concerned, the Italian government maintained that Italy had not committed any. 74 Although the Italian arguments did not cut much ice with the Foreign Office, they were received positively by the Americans. De Gasperi put his case first to Admiral Ellery Stone whom he saw as the person most Prosecution of Italian War Criminals 25 likely to champion his cause. He played up to American fears of the political repercussions that the extradition of Italian nationals to an ‘enemy’ state such as Yugoslavia would have on the internal situation in Italy.
This was despite Italian efforts to prevent such a clause and despite the fact that the Americans were not entirely convinced that the inclusion of a war crimes clause in the Italian Peace Treaty was either necessary or desirable. James F. Byrnes, the American Secretary of State, proposed a protocol rather than a clause in the Peace Treaty should be drawn up to include provisions for war criminals. 79 During these meetings of the CFM, East–West relations had become more obviously strained. The marked deterioration in any desire for compromise became all too apparent.