From Underworld to Underground

But a significant enough element of the Corsican underworld sided secretly with the Resistance to ensure the consolidation of some sort of power base for the milieu at the end of World War 11. Their patriotic activities set the scene for the emergence of a new generation of criminal leaders-the Guerini brothers.

For while Carbone and Spirito were happy enough to help themselves by helping the Germans, most Corsicans, both in Marseille and on the island itself, were bitterly opposed to the German occupation. It was increasingly apparent that the island would be annexed by the Third Reich's ally, Italy-something totally abhorrent to most Corsicans, who felt that their unique language would become just another Italian dialect and their sense of cultural identity would be in jeopardy as well.

In 1940 a group of Corsican Resistance fighters issued a statement concerning the possibility of Italian annexation.

Corsica will never accept being handed over to Italy. Since 1789, she has embraced France. She has given France Napoleon. In the course of the Great War, 40,000 Corsicans died on the field of battle in north eastern France ....

An Italian Corsica? What a monstrosity! If this crime were ever committed, history would have to reserve some bloody pages for the fight to the death a small people of 300,000 would wage against a powerful nation of 45 million inhabitants. (11)

In Corsica itself, this strong anti-Italian chauvinism mobilized the most effective resistance movement in all of France, and the island's mass uprising in 1943 is unparalleled in the annals of the Resistance. (12)

The Resistance in France itself was hopelessly divided between the Communists and non-Communists. Although wartime American propaganda films and postwar French cinema have projected an image of France as a nation in chains with every other citizen a nighttime warrior, most Frenchmen collaborated with the Germans willingly enough, and were indifferent, if not outright hostile, toward the Resistance.

In contrast, the Communist party, with its strong anti-Fascist ideology and disciplined cell structure, began resistance activities almost immediately, and remained the only effective armed organization in France until the 1944 Allied landings in Normandy. But despite their alliance with the Soviet Union, America and Britain refused to work directly with French Communist guerrillas, and throughout most of the war never knowingly parachuted them arms or supplies. (13) As a result of this policy, the French Resistance remained deeply factionalized for most of the war and never amounted to anything more than a minor nuisance for the German occupation army.

The situation in Marseille was typical. Generally, the movement was divided between the Communist party's FTP (Franc-Tireurs et Partisans), with 1,700 to 2,000 men, and a non-Communist coalition group, the MUR (Mouvements Unis de Resistance), with fewer than 800 men. Among the MUR's most important components was Marseille's Socialist party (whose leader was Gaston Defferre, also head of an Allied intelligence network). (14) Both the MUR and FTP recognized the need for unity. But the persistence of rather unheroic squabblings, mainly over MUR's adherence to the Allied Command's policy of denying arms to the Communist FTP, prevented any meaningful cooperation.(15) The Communists and non-Communists finally managed to form a unified resistance army (Forces Francaises de l'Interieur) in February 1944, but for most of the war they had remained at odds. (16)

As a result of their anti-Communist activities in Marseille's politics before the war, few of the resistance-minded Corsicans were accepted into the Communist underground. However, several of Marseille's Corsican syndicates became the backbone of the non-Communist underground, which was gravely lacking in the necessary experience to carry out effective resistance work. For instance, within a month after its formation in March 1943, MUR was virtually decimated when one of its officers was captured by the Gestapo and informed on many of its members. (17) But with their law of silence and their experience in secret criminal operations, the Corsicans easily adapted to the world of espionage and urban guerrilla warfare.

The most famous of these gangster Resistance heroes were the Guerini brothers. Antoine Guerini, a former triggerman for Carbone and Spirito, worked as an agent for Anglo-American intelligence. When English intelligence officers were parachuted into the Marseille area to make contact with MUR, they were hidden in the cellars of nightclubs belonging to Antoine. Antoine was also responsible for smuggling arms into the city for the MUR after they had been parachuted from British aircraft. During the twelve-day battle for the liberation of Marseille in August 1944, Antoine's younger brother, Barthelemy, rendered invaluable services to Gaston Defferre's Socialist militia (by supplying intelligence, arms, and men) and was later awarded the Legion of Honor for his wartime exploits. (18)