Operation Schwarz (i)


'Schwarz' (i) was a German overall plan for the seizure of control in Italy should that country collapse militarily or defect to the Allies (1943).

The plan had its origins in a gloomy forecast by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in May 1943 with regard to Italy’s continued role as Germany’s ally in the war with France and the UK. Adolf Hitler thus ordered that 'Alarich' be prepared for the seizure of northern Italy by a new army group headquarters established in Munich. This initial plan called for the occupation of northern Italy by some six or seven divisions drawn from the Eastern Front and supplemented to a total of 13 or 14 divisions, as the situation demanded, by formations withdrawn from France and other western and northern areas from which they could be spared. These forces would secure a firm German base into which Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, the Oberbefehlshaber 'Süd', could withdraw his forces from southern Italy.

The plan was put tentatively into operation during the Sicilian campaign following 'Husky' (i), when Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel was recalled from Greece, where he had commanded Heeresgruppe 'E' only since 23 July, to assume command of Heeresgruppe 'B' in Munich on 25 July. At much the same time Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, the Oberbefehlshaber 'West' was instructed to despatch two divisions from France and to earmark another four divisions for later movement, SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Wilhelm Bittrich’s II SS Panzerkorps (with two of its three SS Panzer divisions) was withdrawn from the Eastern Front, and General Kurt Student, commander of the XI Fliegerkorps, comprising Generalmajor Richard Heidrich’s 1st Fallschirmjägerdivision and Generalleutnant Bernhard Ramcke’s 2nd Fallschirmjägerdivision, was flown to Rome to take command of Generalleutnant Fritz-Hubert Gräser’s 3rd Panzergrenadierdivision and prepare for the airlift of the 2nd Fallschirmjägerdivision from southern France.

Had 'Alarich' been implemented fully, it would have been Student’s task to take Rome and the Italian government, and to find and liberate Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator who had been deposed on 25 July.

On 28 July 'Alarich' was abandoned in favour of 'Achse' (ii), which was a plan for German forces to take control of a hostile Italy. Included in this revised scheme were control of the Italian frontiers, the seizure of the ports of Genoa, La Spezia, Livorno, Trieste, Fiume and Pola in northern Italy, the disarmament of all the Italian forces except those prepared to fight alongside the Germans under German command, the evacuation of German forces from the large islands of Sardinia and Corsica, the occupation of the small island of Elba, the withdrawal of Generaloberst Heinrich-Gottfried von Vietinghoff-Scheel’s 10th Army to the region around Rome, the establishment of forces of Heeresgruppe 'B' on a line across Italy from Elba to Civitanova via Perugia, the seizure of Italian warships and merchantmen by the German navy, the seizure of Italian air assets (especially anti-aircraft guns) by the Luftwaffe, and the occupation of the Italian-occupied parts of southern France by von Rundstedt’s troops.