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The WWII liberation of Monaco

Although the Principality of Monaco remained neutral state during World War II, this does not mean that it was not involved. With Monaco being fiercely contested by both Germany and Italy, it came down to Louis II, the reigning Prince at the time, to try and keep his country safe. 

Louis II was the son of Prince Albert I and his first wife Lady Mary Hamilton. When his parents divorced, Louis moved to Germany with his mother, growing up at the court of the Grand Duke of Baden. Therefore he was fluent in German and well connected to the German Aristocracy. Little did he know how important these connections would become when war broke out less than 20 years after he succeeded his father in 1922.  

When the Germans occupied France in May 1940, they were careful to leave Monaco alone as they wanted Monaco to remain a centre for German international banking and commerce, something they first started building towards in 1933. Therefore when Mussolini and his troops declared war on France a month later and marched troops into Monaco, they were forced to retreat by the Germans. 

After the brief Italian invasion, Louis declared his support for the Vichy regime under Marshall Petain, an old colleague from when Louis was in the French army. He was put under extreme pressure by the Germans to register all Jews, a pressure to which he finally conceded when he passed a law to this effect on 3rd July 1941. Several German and Austrian Jews that had fled to Monaco were handed over to the Nazi regime. Although often seen as a collaboration, Louis II was left with little choice when caught between the two superpowers of Italy and Germany.

In November 1942 Italian troops reoccupied Monaco until the fall of Mussolini, when German troops drove them out and occupied Monaco themselves. The Germans occupied for just under a year, between 8th September 1943 and 3rd September 1944. Although their main goal was to apprehend Jewish people, the local police service made it very difficult by risking their lives to warn people when a Gestapo visit was about to take place.  

Prince Rainer III succeeded the throne in May 1944 after his mother renounced her succession rights, a few months before German occupation ended in 3rd September that year. This day is now celebrated as Liberation Day despite the fact that the Allied troops only officially liberated Monaco on 6th September. After Monaco’s liberation, Prince Rainer III joined the French army and took part in the liberation of Alsace, receiving the American Bronze Star Medal for his actions. 

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