Benito Mussolini and Fascist Italy take the backseat in the vehicle of World War Two history as taught in America. Likewise, the downfall of Mussolini is given obligatory mention, as well. Most of us were not taught that Mussolini was arrested twice in the sunset years of Italy’s Fascist Era. In both cases, he was taken into custody by Italians.
In July of 1943, events conspired to confound the Italian dictator. His military had suffered humiliating defeats in North Africa and Tunisia. Furthermore, Allied forces had made their landings in Sicily. International experts determined that Mussolini’s forces could collapse at any time.
German dictator, Adolf Hitler called a meeting in northern Italy in mid-July to discuss the situation. On the 19th, Rome was bombed by Allied planes. Important figures in the Fascist regime turned against Il Duce with several friends on the verge of revolt. Mussolini was compelled to summon the Grand Council of Fascism on July 24th. During the meeting, a 19 to 7 vote of no confidence was passed down.
The next day, Mussolini was ordered to report to the Royal Palace by King Victor Emmanuel the Third. At the short meeting, Mussolini learned that he was being replaced by Pietro Badoglio. Upon Mussolini’s exit from the palace, he was placed under arrest by order of the king.
The next events happened under conditions of almost total chaos. After the former dictator was moved around Italy to avoid rescue by the Nazis, he was placed at the mountain resort, Campo Imperatore. As this was going on, the new leader, Badoglio dissolved the Fascist Party. He also began negotiations with the Allies for an Armistice. When the agreement was signed in September, Italians reacted with massive civil unrest. King Emmanuel and Badoglio fled the capital.
As soon as the Italian surrender happened, German forces took over Italy. In October, Italy declared war on Nazi Germany. The new Badoglio regime made peace with leftist Italian partisans in efforts to banish Nazis from Italy, and to turn over Mussolini to the Allies. Some Italian troops joined the Allies while conservatives chose to support Germany in their struggle against the Allied forces.
On September 12, 1943, the Gran Sasso raid by a paratrooper unit on the Hotel Campo Imperatore was conducted. The Nazis rescued Il Duce from his captors. Mussolini then met with Hitler and agreed to set up a new Italian Republic. Northern Italy was then placed under mixed administration of Germany and the new Mussolini government. The next couple of years Il Duce lived in Lombardy and was little more than a puppet for Hitler.
At last Mussolini decided to go into exile to Spain. On April 25, 1945, Il Duce and a group of supporters, including his mistress, Clara Petacci, left Milan in a convoy towards Lake Como.
On April 27th, the convoy was stopped by leftist partisans. The underground agreed to allow the Germans to continue but not any Italians. Meantime some Germans convinced Mussolini to put on a German overcoat and helmet and to hide in the back of a truck. The truck was searched and Mussolini was easily discovered. The partisans delivered Mussolini and his mistress to a local farmhouse in disguise.
The next day a confrontation between the leftist leaders and Communist leaders occured. It was revealed there were orders to execute Mussolini. Colonel Alessandro Valerio rushed into the room where Mussolini and his mistress were resting. He told them he had come to rescue them, the pair was taken to a waiting car. A mile down the road, the car stopped, and the pair was ordered out of the car. They were told to stand next to a stone wall. Mussolini and Petacci were executed by machine gun fire. Valerio and his troops rounded up the other 15 prisoners selected for execution. They were brought out into a square and were shot by a partisan firing squad.
The next day, the bodies of Mussolini, Petacci, and four others were hung by their feet from a support girder of an Esso gasoline station. The assembled crowd became unruly and was disbanded by police water hoses. At the conclusion of the melee, Allied officers ordered the bodies taken down for formal burial.
The Blue Jay of Happiness found this interesting quote by Benito Mussolini about German racism. “Thirty centuries of history allow us to look with supreme pity on certain doctrines which are preached beyond the Alps by the descendants of those who were illiterate when Rome had Caesar, Virgil and Augustus.”