|“||Believe, obey, fight.||„|
|~ Mussolini's demands of his people|
Benito Mussolini (July 29th, 1883 - April 28th, 1945) was the dictator of Fascist Italy during World War II. Known as Il Duce ("The Leader"), Mussolini was the founder of Italian Fascism. He started a war with Ethiopia and invaded North Africa to expand the Italian Empire and allied himself with Adolf Hitler and Emperor Hirohito during the war, creating the Axis Powers.
Mussolini was born on 29 July 1883 in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in the province of Forlì in Romagna. Later, during the Fascist era, Predappio was dubbed "Duce's town" and Forlì was called "Duce's city", with pilgrims going to Predappio and Forlì to see the birthplace of Mussolini.
Benito Mussolini's father, Alessandro Mussolini, was a blacksmith and a socialist, while his mother, Rosa (née Maltoni), was a devout Catholic schoolteacher. Given his father's political leanings, Mussolini was named Benito after liberal Mexican president Benito Juárez, while his middle names, Andrea and Amilcare, were for Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani. Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children. His siblings Arnaldo and Edvige followed.
Mussolini gained a reputation for bullying and fighting during his childhood. At age 10 he was expelled from a religious boarding school for stabbing a classmate in the hand, and another stabbing incident took place at his next school.
He initially served in World War I beginning in 1915 and soon became a nationalist. Overall, he totaled about nine months of active, front-line trench warfare. During this time, he contracted paratyphoid fever. His military exploits ended in 1917 when he was wounded accidentally by the explosion of a mortar bomb in his trench. He was left with at least 40 shards of metal in his body. He was discharged from the hospital in August 1917.
He founded the National Fascist Party in 1919, galvanizing the support of unemployed war veterans he organised them into paramilitary death squads known as the Blackshirts who antagonized his enemies, he was invited to join the coalition government in 1921, in 1922 as the government's grip on the populace slipped and chaos loomed, he and his Blackshirts marched on Rome, presenting himself as the one man to save Italy. On the match, his squads burned down the headquarters and homes of every member of both socialist and communist organizations.
After that, he gradually overthrew the democratic system and turned Italy into a one-party Fascist dictatorship with himself as its leader. He was racist against Slavs and the Africans, although he also publicly said "Race is a feeling, not a reality. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today." When he became the leader of Italy he said that a small group of Jews have been in Italy since the days of the Roman Empire and "should remain undisturbed." Nevertheless, he adopted anti-semitism when he introduced the "Manifesto of Race" which stripped the Jews of their Italian citizenship (despite multiple members of his own fascist party being Jewish) and prevented them from working in 1938, mostly due to heavy influence from Hitler and used his private militia (or Blackshirts) to police his country and enforce this ruling in areas that openly resisted, despite this the overall the enforcement of the Manifesto was relatively lax.
He was also criticized by other European countries during his brutal conquest of Ethiopia in which he committed multiple war crimes such as using mustard gas, bombing red cross hospitals, executing prisoners without trial, leaving children to starve to death in concentration camps and committed the Yekatit 12, a campaign of mass murder lead by his chief general, Rodolfo Graziani, which resulted in the deaths and imprisoning of thousands of Ethiopians in concentration camps. He also executed the Pacification of Libya, the genocide of the Senussi people of Libya. The only country that supported him during his conquest was Nazi Germany.
All schools and universities had to swear an oath to the Fascist Party, and the media underwent a great amount of censorship. Newspaper editors were personally chosen by Mussolini himself, it was made illegal to practice Journalism without a certificate of approval from the Fascist party. Labour unions were deprived of their independence and placed in an integrated system, with the aim of being under the government's control.
Mussolini also inherited his father's views against organised religion and publicly attacked Christianity, arguing (ironically) it didn't allow enough free thought, however he later turned on these views and tried to gain the Church's support. as we were well aware of the church's influence, he even had his two children baptised as a sign of faith.
Mussolini also provided military support for Francisco Franco, during the Spanish Civil War, and act that severely damaged his reputation in England and France. When invading he had no qualms about kidnapping women and children and using them as hostages, as he did in Yugoslavia, along with other draconian measures such as summary execution and setting villages alight. Around 300,000 were killed in wars while under his rule.
Realizing he was the weaker partner in his alliance with Hitler, Mussolini sought greater military conquest, with his goal of making the entire Mediterranean Italy's, as it had been in the Roman times. However although he successfully invaded Albania, causing the King to flee, his other invasions proved to be failures. He attempted to attack the British forces in Egypt, however, this soon failed and he was forced to ask Hitler for reinforcements. To try and recover from this embarrassment, he invaded Greece, but only six weeks later this also failed, and once again he was forced to ask Hitler for reinforcements. These failures were deeply embarrassing for Mussolini's image.
In 1943, following the Allied invasion, his party turned on him, however, Mussolini ignored the council when they voted him out of power, and continued to until he was summoned before King Victor Emmanuel III and publically arrested. In September Italy was practically occupied by the Germans, who rescued Mussolini and kept him as a figurehead leader of the Italian Social Republic.
Mussolini's new regime faced numerous territorial losses: in addition to losing the Italian lands held by the Allies and Badoglio's government, the provinces of Bolzano, Belluno and Trento were placed under German administration in the Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills, while the provinces of Udine, Gorizia, Trieste, Pola (now Pula), Fiume (now Rijeka) and Ljubljana (Lubiana in Italian) were incorporated into the German Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral. In addition, the German army occupied the Dalmatian provinces of Split (Spalato) and Kotor (Cattaro), which were subsequently annexed by the Croatian fascist regime. Italy's gains in Greece and Albania were also lost to Germany, with the exception of the Italian Aegean Islands, which remained nominally under RSI rule.
On 25 April 1945, Allied troops were advancing into northern Italy, and the collapse of the Salò Republic was imminent. Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci set out for Switzerland, intending to board a plane and escape to Spain. Two days later on 27 April, they were stopped near the village of Dongo (Lake Como) by communist partisans named Valerio and Bellini and identified by the Political Commissar of the partisans' 52nd Garibaldi Brigade, Urbano Lazzaro. During this time, Petacci's brother posed as a Spanish consul. After several unsuccessful attempts to take them to Como they were brought to Mezzegra. They spent their last night in the house of the De Maria family.
The next day, Mussolini and Petacci were both summarily shot, along with most of the members of their 15-man train, primarily ministers and officials of the Italian Social Republic. The shootings took place in the small village of Giulino di Mezzegra and were conducted by a partisan leader who used the nom de guerre Colonnello Valerio. His real identity is unknown, but conventionally he is thought to have been Walter Audisio, who always claimed to have carried out the execution, though another partisan controversially alleged that Colonnello Valerio was Luigi Longo, subsequently a leading communist politician in post-war Italy. Mussolini was killed two days before Hitler and his wife Eva Braun committed suicide. The RSI only survived for another four days before Mussolini's defence minister, Rodolfo Graziani–the lone Italian marshal who remained loyal to Fascism after 1943–surrendered its remains on 1 May.
On 29 April 1945, the bodies of Mussolini, Petacci, and the other executed Fascists were loaded into a van and moved south to Milan. At 3:00 am, the corpses were dumped on the ground in the old Piazzale Loreto. The piazza had been renamed "Piazza Quindici Martiri" in honor of fifteen anti-Fascists recently executed there.
After being kicked and spat upon, the bodies were hung upside down from the roof of an Esso gas station. The bodies were then stoned from below by civilians. This was done both to discourage any Fascists from continuing the fight, and as an act of revenge for the hanging of many partisans in the same place by Axis authorities. The corpse of the deposed leader was subject to ridicule and abuse. After his death and the display of his corpse in Milan, Mussolini was buried in an unmarked grave in the Musocco cemetery, to the north of the city.