This weekend, I watched El Alamein: In the Line of Fire, an Italian movie about the North African corner of WWII. Like most war movies made since the 1960s, El Alamein takes the soldier's perspective, not the generals, so don't watch it to learn about the battle. However, it's refreshing to see the Italians given their due for a change.
The story is familiar: War is brutal, confusing, and random for the infantryman. The characters face some interesting challenges along the way, and the acting is top-notch. The movie shows "the face of battle" extremely well, including the terror of being on the receiving end of an artillery barrage or a tank-led attack.
The Italian army is one of the most interesting and the most under-studied combatants in WWII. Good luck finding an institutional history of the Italian army, compared to hundreds of books about the Wehrmacht. Italians fought and died in the Italian peninsula, the Balkans, North Africa, and the Eastern Front, and all most Americans know of them is an unflattering caricature.
That's a shame, not only because of the gaps in the historical record, but also because of the Italian army's little-known opposition to the Holocaust. As an organization, not as discrete individuals, the Italian army regularly threw a spanner into the machinery of genocide whenever it could. For example, Italian troops guarding the trains carrying prisoners to German concentration camps would regularly "forget" to lock the doors of the train cars. If I had more time and resources, I'd love to research this topic more deeply.