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Head of Government of Italy and Duce of Fascism

Benito Mussolini Head of Government of Italy and Duce of Fascism In office
24 December 1925 – 25 July 1943 Monarch Victor Emmanuel III Preceded by Himself
(as Prime Minister) Succeeded by Pietro Badoglio
(as Prime Minister) 40th Prime Minister of Italy In office
31 October 1922 – 24 December 1925 Monarch Victor Emmanuel III Preceded by Luigi Facta Succeeded by Himself
(as Head of Government) First Marshal of the Empire In office
30 March 1938 – 25 July 1943
Serving with Victor Emmanuel III Head of State of the Italian Social Republic In office
23 September 1943 – 25 April 1945 Personal details Born 29 July 1883
PredappioForlìItaly Died 28 April 1945 (aged 61)
Giulino di MezzegraItaly Nationality Italian Political party Republican Fascist Party
National Fascist Party
Italian Socialist Party
(1901–1914) Spouse(s) Rachele Mussolini Relations Ida Dalser
Margherita Sarfatti
Clara Petacci Children Edda Mussolini
Vittorio Mussolini
Bruno Mussolini
Romano Mussolini
Anna Maria Mussolini Profession Politician, journalist, novelist Religion (See this section for details.) Signature Military service Allegiance  Kingdom of Italy Service/branch Regio Esercito Years of service 1915–1917 Rank Corporal Unit 11th Bersaglieri Regiment Battles/wars

World War I

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (Italian pronunciation: [be?ni?to mus?o?li?ni]; 29 July 1883 – 28 April 1945) was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism.

Mussolini became the 40th Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and began using the title Il Duce by 1925. After 1936, his official title was "His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire". Mussolini also created and held the supreme military rank of First Marshal of the Empire along with King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, which gave him and the King joint supreme control over the military of Italy. Mussolini remained in power until he was replaced in 1943; for a short period after this until his death, he was the leader of the Italian Social Republic.

Mussolini was among the founders of Italian Fascism, which included elements of nationalism,corporatismnational syndicalismexpansionismsocial progress, and anti-socialism in combination with censorship of subversives and state propaganda. In the years following his creation of the Fascist ideology, Mussolini influenced, or achieved admiration from, a wide variety of political figures.

Among the domestic achievements of Mussolini from the years 1924–1939 were: his public works programmes such as the taming of the Pontine Marshes, the improvement of job opportunities, the public transport, and the so-called Italian economic battles. Mussolini also solved the Roman Question by concluding the Lateran Treaty between the Kingdom of Italyand the Holy See.

On 10 June 1940, Mussolini led Italy into World War II on the side of the Axis despite initially siding with France against Germany in the early 1930s. Believing the war would be short-lived, he declared war on France and the United Kingdom in order to gain territories in the peace treaty that would soon follow.

Three years later, Mussolini was deposed at the Grand Council of Fascism, prompted by theAllied invasion of Italy. Soon after his incarceration began, Mussolini was rescued from prison in the daring Gran Sasso raid by German special forces. Following his rescue, Mussolini headed the Italian Social Republic in parts of Italy that were not occupied by Allied forces. In late April 1945, with total defeat looming, Mussolini attempted to escape to Switzerland, only to be quickly captured and summarily executed near Lake Como by Italian partisans. His body was then taken to Milan where it was hung upside down at a petrol station for public viewing and to provide confirmation of his demise.

Early life Birthplace of Benito Mussolini, today used as a museum.

Mussolini was born in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in the province of Forlì in Emilia-Romagna on 29 July 1883. In the Fascist era, Predappio was dubbed "Duce's town", and Forlì was "Duce's city". Pilgrims went to Predappio and Forlì, to see the birthplace of Mussolini. His fatherAlessandro Mussolini was a blacksmith and a socialist, while his mother Rosa Mussolini, née Maltoni, a devoutly Catholic schoolteacher. Owing to his father's political leanings, Mussolini was named Benito after Mexican reformist President Benito Juárez, while his middle namesAndrea and Amilcare were from Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani. Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children. His siblings Arnaldo and Edvige followed.

As a young boy, Mussolini would spend time helping his father in his smithy. Mussolini's early political views were heavily influenced by his father, Alessandro Mussolini, a revolutionary socialist who idolized 19th century Italian nationalist figures with humanist tendencies such as Carlo PisacaneGiuseppe Mazzini, and Giuseppe Garibaldi. His father's political outlook combined views of anarchist figures like Carlo Cafieroand Mikhail Bakunin, the military authoritarianism of Garibaldi, and the nationalism of Mazzini. In 1902, at the anniversary of Garibaldi's death, Benito Mussolini made a public speech in praise of the republican nationalist. The conflict between his parents about religion meant that, unlike most Italians, Mussolini was not baptised at birth and would not be until much later in life. As a compromise with his mother, Mussolini was sent to a boarding school run by Salesian monks. Mussolini was rebellious and was soon expelled after a series of behaviour related incidents, including throwing stones at the congregation after Mass, stabbing a fellow student in the hand and throwing an inkpot at a teacher.[9] After joining a new school, Mussolini achieved good grades, and qualified as an elementary schoolmaster in 1901.

Emigration to Switzerland and military service Mussolini's booking photograph following his arrest by Swiss police, 1903.

In 1902, Mussolini emigrated to Switzerland, partly to avoid military service.He worked briefly as a stonemason in Geneva, Fribourg and Bern, but was unable to find a permanent job.

During this time he studied the ideas of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the sociologistVilfredo Pareto, and the syndicalist Georges Sorel. Mussolini also later credited the MarxistCharles Péguy and the syndicalist Hubert Lagardelle as some of his influences.[12] Sorel's emphasis on the need for overthrowing decadent liberal Democracy and Capitalism by the use of violence, direct action, the general strike, and the use of neo-Machiavellian appeals to emotion, impressed Mussolini deeply.

Mussolini became active in the Italian socialist movement in Switzerland, working for the paperL'Avvenire del Lavoratore, organizing meetings, giving speeches to workers and serving as secretary of the Italian workers' union in Lausanne. In 1903, he was arrested by the Bernese police because of his advocacy of a violent general strike, spent two weeks in jail, was deported to Italy, set free there, and returned to Switzerland. In 1904, after having been arrested again in Lausanne for falsifying his papers, he returned to Italy to take advantage of an amnesty for desertion of which he had been convicted in absentia.

He subsequently volunteered for military service in the Italian Army. After serving for two years in the military (from January 1905 until September 1906), he returned to teaching.

Political journalist and Socialist

In February 1908, Mussolini once again left Italy, this time to take the job as the secretary of the labor party in the Italian-speaking city ofTrento, which at the time was under control of Austria-Hungary. He also did office work for the local Socialist Party, and edited its newspaperL'Avvenire del Lavoratore (The Future of the Worker). Returning to Italy, he spent a brief time in Milan, and then in 1910 he returned to his hometown of Forli, where he edited the weekly Lotta di classe (The Class Struggle).

During this time, he published Il Trentino veduto da un Socialista (Trento as seen by a Socialist) in the radical periodical La Voce. He also wrote several essays about German literature, some stories, and one novel: L'amante del Cardinale: Claudia Particella, romanzo storico (The Cardinal's Mistress). This novel he co-wrote with Santi Corvaja, and was published as a serial book in the Trento newspaper Il Popolo. It was released in installments from 20 January to 11 May 1910 The novel was bitterly anticlerical, and years later was withdrawn from circulation after Mussolini made a truce with the Vatican.

By now, he was considered to be one of Italy's most prominent Socialists. In September 1911, Mussolini participated in a riot, led by Socialists, against the Italian war in Libya. He bitterly denounced Italy's "imperialist war" to capture the Libyan capital city of Tripoli, an action that earned him a five-month jail term. After his release he helped expel from the ranks of the Socialist party two "revisionists" who had supported the war, Ivanoe Bonomi, and Leonida Bissolati. As a result, he was rewarded the editorship of the Socialist Party newspaperAvanti! Under his leadership, its circulation soon rose from 20,000 to 100,000.

In 1913, he published Giovanni Hus, il veridico (Jan Hus, true prophet), an historical and political biography about the life and mission of theCzech ecclesiastic reformer Jan Hus, and his militant followers, the Hussites. During this socialist period of his life Mussolini sometimes used the pen name "Vero Eretico" (sincere misbeliever).

While Mussolini was associated with socialism, he also was supportive of figures who opposed egalitarianism. For instance Mussolini was influenced by Nietszche's anti-Christian ideas and negation of God's existence. Mussolini saw Nietzsche as similar to Jean-Marie Guyau, who advocated a philosophy of action. Mussolini's use of Nietzsche made him a highly unorthodox socialist, due to Nietzsche's promotion of elitism and anti-egalitarian views. Mussolini felt that socialism had faltered due to the failures of Marxist determinism and social democratic reformism, and believed that Nietzsche's ideas would strengthen socialism. While associated with socialism, Mussolini's writings eventually indicated that he had abandoned Marxism and egalitarianism in favour of Nietzsche's übermensch concept and anti-egalitarianism.

Expulsion from the Italian Socialist Party

With the outbreak of World War I a number of socialist parties initially supported the war when it began in August 1914. Once the war began, Austrian, British, French, German, and Russian socialists followed the rising nationalist current by supporting their country's intervention in the war. The outbreak of the war had resulted in a surge of Italian nationalism and the war supported by a variety of political factions. One of the most prominent and popular Italian nationalist supporters of the war was Gabriele d'Annunzio who promoted Italian irredentism and helped sway the Italian public to support intervention in the war. The Italian Liberal Party under the leadership of Paolo Boselli promoted intervention in the war on the side of the Allies and utilized the Società Dante Alighieri to promote Italian nationalism. ]Italian socialists were divided on whether to support the war or oppose it. Prior to Mussolini making a position on the war, a number of revolutionary syndicalists had announced their support of intervention, including Alceste De AmbrisFilippo Corridoni, and Angelo Oliviero Olivetti. The Italian Socialist Party decided to oppose the war after anti-militarist protestors had been killed, resulting in a general strike called Red Week.

Mussolini initially held official support for the party's decision an in an August 1914 article, Mussolini wrote "Down with the War. We remain neutral." However, he saw the war as an opportunity, both for his own ambitions as well as those of socialists and Italians. He was influenced by anti-Austrian Italian nationalist sentiments, believing that the war offered Italians in Austria-Hungary the chance to liberate themselves from rule of the Habsburgs. He eventually decided to declare support for the war by appealing to the need for socialists to overthrow the Hohenzollern and Habsburg monarchies in Germany and Austria-Hungary whom he claimed had consistently repressed socialism. He further justified his position by denouncing the Central Powers for being reactionary powers; for pursuing imperialist designs against Belgium and Serbia as well as historically against Denmark, France, and against Italians, since hundreds of thousands of Italians were under Habsburg rule. He claimed that the fall of Hohenzollern and Habsburg monarchies and the repression of "reactionary" Turkey would create conditions beneficial for the working class. While he was supportive of the Entente powers, Mussolini responded to the conservative nature of Tsarist Russia by claiming that the mobilization required for the war would undermine Russia's reactionary authoritarianism and the war would bring Russia to social revolution. He claimed that for Italy the war would complete the process ofRisorgimento by uniting the Italians in Austria-Hungary into Italy and by allowing the common people of Italy to be participating members of the Italian nation in what would be Italy's first national war. Thus he claimed that the vast social changes that the war could offer meant that it should be supported as a revolutionary war.

As Mussolini's support for the intervention solidified, he became in conflict with socialists who opposed the war. He attacked the opponents of the war and claimed that those proletarians who supported pacifism were out of step with the proletarians who had joined the rising interventionist vanguard that was preparing Italy for a revolutionary war. He began to criticize the Italian Socialist Party and socialism itself for having failed to recognize the national problems that had led to the outbreak of the war. He was expelled from the party due to his support of intervention.

The following excerpts are from a police report prepared by the Inspector-General of Public Security in Milan, G. Gasti, that describe his background and his position on the First World War that resulted in his ouster from the Italian Socialist Party.

The Inspector General wrote:

Regarding MussoliniProfessor Benito Mussolini, ... 38, revolutionary socialist, has a police record; elementary school teacher qualified to teach in secondary schools; former first secretary of the Chambers in Cesena, Forli, and Ravenna; after 1912 editor of the newspaper Avanti! to which he gave a violent suggestive and intransigent orientation. In October 1914, finding himself in opposition to the directorate of the Italian Socialist party because he advocated a kind of active neutrality on the part of Italy in the War of the Nations against the party's tendency of absolute neutrality, he withdrew on the twentieth of that month from the directorate of Avanti! Then on the fifteenth of November [1914], thereafter, he initiated publication of the newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia, in which he supported – in sharp contrast to Avanti! and amid bitter polemics against that newspaper and its chief backers – the thesis of Italian intervention in the war against the militarism of the Central Empires. For this reason he was accused of moral and political unworthiness and the party thereupon decided to expel him... Thereafter he ... undertook a very active campaign in behalf of Italian intervention, participating in demonstrations in the piazzas and writing quite violent articles in Popolo d'Italia...

In his summary, the Inspector also notes:

He was the ideal editor of Avanti! for the Socialists. In that line of work he was greatly esteemed and beloved. Some of his former comrades and admirers still confess that there was no one who understood better how to interpret the spirit of the proletariat and there was no one who did not observe his apostasy with sorrow. This came about not for reasons of self-interest or money. He was a sincere and passionate advocate, first of vigilant and armed neutrality, and later of war; and he did not believe that he was compromising with his personal and political honesty by making use of every means – no matter where they came from or wherever he might obtain them – to pay for his newspaper, his program and his line of action. This was his initial line. It is difficult to say to what extent his socialist convictions (which he never either openly or privately abjure) may have been sacrificed in the course of the indispensable financial deals which were necessary for the continuation of the struggle in which he was engaged... But assuming these modifications did take place ... he always wanted to give the appearance of still being a socialist, and he fooled himself into thinking that this was the case

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Beginning of Fascism and service in World War I

After being ousted by the Italian Socialist Party for his support of Italian intervention, Mussolini made a radical transformation, ending his support for class conflict and joining in support of revolutionary nationalism transcending class lines. He formed the interventionist newspaper Il Popolo d'Italia and the Fasci Rivoluzionari d'Azione Internazionalista ("Revolutionary Fasci for International Action") in October 1914. His nationalist support of intervention enabled him to raise funds from Ansaldo (an armaments firm) and other companies to create Il Popolo d'Italia to convince socialists and revolutionaries to support the war. Further funding for Mussolini's Fascists during the war came from the French sources beginning in May 1915. A major source of this funding from France is believed to have probably been from French socialists who sent support to dissident socialists who wanted Italian intervention on France's side.

On 5 December 1914, Mussolini denounced orthodox socialism for having failed to recognize that the war had brought about national identity and loyalty as being of greater significance than class distinction. His transformation was fully demonstrated in a speech he made in which he acknowledged the nation as an entity, a notion that he had previously rejected prior to the war, saying:

The nation has not disappeared. We used to believe that the concept was totally without substance. Instead we see the nation arise as a palpitating reality before us! ... Class cannot destroy the nation. Class reveals itself as a collection of interests—but the nation is a history of sentiments, traditions, language, culture, and race. Class can become an integral part of the nation, but the one cannot eclipse the other.The class struggle is a vain formula, without effect and consequence wherever one finds a people that has not integrated itself into its proper linguistic and racial confines—where the national problem has not been definitely resolved. In such circumstances the class movement finds itself impaired by an inauspicious historic climate.

Mussolini continued to promote the need of a revolutionary vanguard elite to lead society, but he no longer advocated a proletarian vanguard but instead a vanguard led by dynamic and revolutionary people of any social class.

Though he denounced orthodox socialism and class conflict, he maintained at the time that he was a nationalist socialist and a supporter of the legacy of nationalist socialists in Italy's history, such as Giuseppe GaribaldiGiuseppe Mazzini, and Carlo Pisacane. As for the Italian Socialist Party and its support of orthodox socialism, he claimed that his failure as a member of the party to revitalize and transform it to recognize the contemporary reality revealed the hopelessness of orthodox socialism as outdated and a failure.[36] This perception of the failure of orthodox socialism in the light of the outbreak of World War I was not solely held by Mussolini, other pro-interventionist Italian socialists such as Filippo Corridoni and Sergio Panunzio had also denounced classical Marxism in favour of intervention.

These basic political views and principles formed the basis of Mussolini's newly formed political movement, the Fasci Rivoluzionari d'Azione Internazionalista in 1914, who called themselves Fascisti (Fascists). At this time, the Fascists did not have an integrated set of policies and the movement was very small, ineffective in its attempts to hold mass meetings, and was regularly harassed by government authorities and orthodox socialists. Antagonism between the interventionists, including the Fascists, versus the anti-interventionist orthodox socialists resulted in violence between the Fascists and socialists. The opposition and attacks by the anti-interventionist revolutionary socialists against the Fascists and other interventionists were so violent that even democratic socialists who opposed the war such as Anna Kuliscioffsaid that the Italian Socialist Party had gone too far in a campaign of silencing the freedom of speech of supporters of the war. These early hostilities between the Fascists and the revolutionary socialists shaped Mussolini's conception of the nature of Fascism in its support of political violence.

Mussolini as an Italian soldier, 1917.

Mussolini became an ally with the irredentist politician and journalist Cesare Battisti, and like him he entered the Army and served in the war. "He was sent to the zone of operations where he was seriously injured by the explosion of a grenade."

The Inspector General continues:

He was promoted to the rank of corporal "for merit in war". The promotion was recommended because of his exemplary conduct and fighting quality, his mental calmness and lack of concern for discomfort, his zeal and regularity in carrying out his assignments, where he was always first in every task involving labor and fortitude.

Mussolini's military experience is told in his work Diario Di Guerra. Overall, he totalled 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 and resumed his editor-in-chief position at his new paper, Il Popolo d'Italia. He wrote there positive articles aboutCzechoslovak Legions in Italy.

On 25 December 1915, in Trevalglio, he contracted a marriage with his fellow countrywoman Rachele Guidi, who had already born him a daughter, Edda, at Forli in 1910. In 1915, he had a son with Ida Dalser, a woman born in Sopramonte, a village near Trento.] He legally recognized this son on 11 January 1916.

Creation of Fascism Main articles: Fascism and Italian Fascism

By the time Mussolini returned from Allied service in World War I, he had decided that socialism as a doctrine had largely been a failure. In 1917, Mussolini got his start in politics with the help of a £100 weekly wage from MI5, the British Security Service; this help was authorised by Sir Samuel Hoare. In early 1918, Mussolini called for the emergence of a man "ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep" to revive the Italian nation. Much later in life Mussolini said he felt by 1919 "Socialism as a doctrine was already dead; it continued to exist only as a grudge". On 23 March 1919, Mussolini reformed the Milan fascio as the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (Italian Combat Squad), consisting of 200 members.

Fascist Manifesto published on "Il Popolo d'Italia" on June 6, 1919.

An important factor in fascism gaining support in its earliest stages was the fact that it claimed to oppose discrimination based on social class and was strongly opposed to all forms of class war. Fascism instead supported nationalist sentiments such as a strong unity, regardless of class, in the hopes of raising Italy up to the levels of its great Roman past. The ideological basis for fascism came from a number of sources. Mussolini utilized works of Plato, Georges Sorel,Nietzsche, and the socialist and economic ideas of Vilfredo Pareto, to create fascism. Mussolini admired The Republic, which he often read for inspiration. The Republic held a number of ideas that fascism promoted such as rule by an elite promoting the state as the ultimate end, opposition to democracy, protecting the class system and promoting class collaboration, rejection of egalitarianism, promoting the militarization of a nation by creating a class of warriors, demanding that citizens perform civic duties in the interest of the state, and utilizing state intervention in education to promote the creation of warriors and future rulers of the state. The Republicdiffered from fascism in that it did not promote aggressive war but only defensive war, unlike fascism it promoted very communist-like views on property, and Plato was an idealist focused on achieving justice and morality while Mussolini and fascism were realist, focused on achieving political goals.

Mussolini and the fascists managed to be simultaneously revolutionary and traditionalist; because this was vastly different to anything else in the political climate of the time, it is sometimes described as "The Third Way". The Fascisti, led by one of Mussolini's close confidants, Dino Grandi, formed armed squads of war veterans called Blackshirts (or squadristi) with the goal of restoring order to the streets of Italy with a strong hand. The blackshirts clashed with communists, socialists, and anarchists at parades and demonstrations; all of these factions were also involved in clashes against each other. The government rarely interfered with the blackshirts' actions, owing in part to a looming threat and widespread fear of a communist revolution. The Fascisti grew so rapidly that within two years, it transformed itself into theNational Fascist Party at a congress in Rome. Also in 1921, Mussolini was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time. In the meantime, from about 1911 until 1938, Mussolini had various affairs with the Jewish author and academic Margherita Sarfatti, called the "Jewish Mother of Fascism" at the time.

March on Rome and early years in power Further information: March on Rome

The March on Rome was a coup d'état by which Mussolini's National Fascist Party came to power in Italy and ousted Prime Minister Luigi Facta. The "march" took place in 1922 between 27–29 October. On 28 October King Victor Emmanuel III refused his support to Facta and handed over power to Mussolini. Mussolini was supported by the military, the business class, and the liberal right-wing.

Mussolini and Fascist Blackshirts during the March on Rome in 1922.

As Prime Minister, the first years of Mussolini's rule were characterized by a right-wing coalition government composed of Fascists, nationalists, liberals, and two Catholic clerics from the Popular Party. The Fascists made up a small minority in his original governments. Mussolini's domestic goal was the eventual establishment of a totalitarian state with himself as supreme leader (Il Duce) a message that was articulated by the Fascist newspaper Il Popolo, which was now edited by Mussolini's brother, Arnaldo. To that end, Mussolini obtained from the legislature dictatorial powers for one year (legal under the Italian constitution of the time). He favored the complete restoration of state authority, with the integration of the Fasci di Combattimento into the armed forces (the foundation in January 1923 of the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale) and the progressive identification of the party with the state. In political and social economy, he passed legislation that favored the wealthy industrial and agrarian classes (privatisations, liberalisations of rent laws and dismantlement of the unions).

In 1923, Mussolini sent Italian forces to invade Corfu during the "Corfu Incident." In the end, the League of Nations proved powerless and Greece was forced to comply with Italian demands.

Acerbo Law

In June 1923, the government passed the Acerbo Law, which transformed Italy into a single national constituency. It also granted a two-thirds majority of the seats in Parliament to the party or group of parties which had obtained at least 25% of the votes. This law was applied in the elections of 6 April 1924. The "national alliance", consisting of Fascists, most of the old Liberals and others, won 64% of the vote largely by means of violence and voter intimidation. These tactics were especially prevalent in the south.

Squadristi violence Socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti was murdered a few days after he openly denounced Fascist violence during the 1924 elections.

The assassination of the socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti, who had requested the annulment of the elections because of the irregularities committed, provoked a momentary crisis of the Mussolini government. The murderer, a squadrista named Amerigo Dumini, reported to Mussolini soon after the murder. Mussolini ordered a cover-up, but witnesses saw the car used to transport Matteotti's body parked outside Matteotti's residence, which linked Dumini to the murder. The Matteotti crisis provoked cries for justice against the murder of an outspoken critic of Fascist violence.

Mussolini later confessed that a few resolute men could have altered public opinion and started a coup that would have swept fascism away. Dumini was imprisoned for two years. On his release Dumini allegedly told other people that Mussolini was responsible, for which he served further prison time. For the next 15 years, Dumini received an income from Mussolini, the Fascist Party, and other sources.

The opposition parties responded weakly or were generally unresponsive. Many of the socialists, liberals, and moderates boycotted Parliament in the Aventine Secession, hoping to force Victor Emmanuel to dismiss Mussolini. Despite the leadership of communists such as Antonio Gramsci, socialists such as Pietro Nenni, and liberals such as Piero Gobetti and Giovanni Amendola, a mass antifascist movement never crystallized.[citation needed] The king, fearful of violence from the Fascist squadristi, kept Mussolini in office. Because of the boycott of Parliament, Mussolini could pass any legislation unopposed. The political violence of the squadristi had worked, for there was no popular demonstration against the murder of Matteotti. Within his own party, Mussolini faced doubts and dissension during these critical weeks.

On 31 December 1924, MVSN consuls met with Mussolini and gave him an ultimatum—crush the opposition or they would do so without him. Fearing a revolt by his own militants, Mussolini decided to drop all trappings of democracy. On 3 January 1925, Mussolini made a truculent speech before the Chamber in which he took responsibility for squadristi violence (though he did not mention the assassination of Matteotti).

He promised a crackdown on dissenters. Before his speech, MVSN detachments beat up the opposition and prevented opposition newspapers from publishing. Mussolini correctly predicted that as soon as public opinion saw him firmly in control the "fence-sitters", the silent majority, and the "place-hunters" would all place themselves behind him.

Building a dictatorship Assassination attempts

Mussolini's influence in propaganda was such that he had surprisingly little opposition to suppress. Nonetheless, he was "slightly wounded in the nose" when he was shot on 7 April 1926 by Violet Gibson, an Irish woman and daughter of Baron Ashbourne. On 31 October 1926, 15-year-old Anteo Zamboni attempted to shoot Mussolini in Bologna. Zamboni was lynched on the spot. Mussolini also survived a failed assassination attempt in Rome by anarchist Gino Lucetti, and a planned attempt by the Italian anarchist Michele Schirru, which ended with Schirru's capture and execution.


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Police state

At various times after 1922, Mussolini personally took over the ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, colonies, corporations, defense, and public works. Sometimes he held as many as seven departments simultaneously, as well as the premiership. He was also head of the all-powerful Fascist Party and the armed local fascist militia, the MVSN or "Blackshirts", who terrorised incipient resistances in the cities and provinces. He would later form the OVRA, an institutionalised secret police that carried official state support. In this way he succeeded in keeping power in his own hands and preventing the emergence of any rival.

Between 1925 and 1927, Mussolini progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power, thereby building a police state. A law passed on Christmas Eve 1925 changed Mussolini's formal title from "president of the Council of Ministers" to "head of the government". He was no longer responsible to Parliament and could only be removed by the king. While the Italian constitution stated that ministers were only responsible to the sovereign, in practice it had become all but impossible to govern against the express will of Parliament. The Christmas Eve law ended this practice, and also made Mussolini the only person competent to determine the body's agenda. Local autonomy was abolished, and podestàsappointed by the Italian Senate replaced elected mayors and councils.

All other parties were outlawed in 1928, though in practice Italy had been a one-party state since Mussolini's 1925 speech. In the same year, an electoral law abolished parliamentary elections. Instead, the Grand Council of Fascism selected a single list of candidates to be approved by plebiscite. The Grand Council had been created five years earlier as a party body but was "constitutionalised" and became the highest constitutional authority in the state. On paper, the Grand Council had the power to recommend Mussolini's removal from office, and was thus theoretically the only check on his power. Only Mussolini could summon the Grand Council and determine its agenda. To gain control of the South, especially Sicily, he appointed Cesare Mori as a Prefect of the city of Palermo, with the charge of eradicating the Mafia at any price. In the telegram, Mussolini wrote to Mori:

"Your Excellency has carte blanche; the authority of the State must absolutely, I repeat absolutely, be re-established in Sicily. If the laws still in force hinder you, this will be no problem, as we will draw up new laws."

He did not hesitate laying siege to towns, using torture, and holding women and children as hostages to oblige suspects to give themselves up. These harsh methods earned him the nickname of "Iron Prefect". In 1927 Mori's inquiries brought evidence of collusion between the Mafiaand the Fascist establishment, and he was dismissed for length of service in 1929. Mussolini nominated Mori as a senator, and fascistpropaganda claimed that the Mafia had been defeated.

Police state At various times after 1922, Mussolini personally took over the ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, colonies, corporations, defense, and public works. Sometimes he held as many as seven departments simultaneously, as well as the premiership. He was also head of the all-powerful Fascist Party and the armed local fascist militia, the MVSN or "Blackshirts", who terrorised incipient resistances in the cities and provinces. He would later form the OVRA, an institutionalised secret police that carried official state support. In this way he succeeded in keeping power in his own hands and preventing the emergence of any rival. A young Mussolini in his early years in power.

Between 1925 and 1927, Mussolini progressively dismantled virtually all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power, thereby building a police state. A law passed on Christmas Eve 1925 changed Mussolini's formal title from "president of the Council of Ministers" to "head of the government". He was no longer responsible to Parliament and could only be removed by the king. While the Italian constitution stated that ministers were only responsible to the sovereign, in practice it had become all but impossible to govern against the express will of Parliament. The Christmas Eve law ended this practice, and also made Mussolini the only person competent to determine the body's agenda. Local autonomy was abolished, and podestàsappointed by the Italian Senate replaced elected mayors and councils.

All other parties were outlawed in 1928, though in practice Italy had been a one-party state since Mussolini's 1925 speech. In the same year, an electoral law abolished parliamentary elections. Instead, the Grand Council of Fascism selected a single list of candidates to be approved by plebiscite. The Grand Council had been created five years earlier as a party body but was "constitutionalised" and became the highest constitutional authority in the state. On paper, the Grand Council had the power to recommend Mussolini's removal from office, and was thus theoretically the only check on his power. Only Mussolini could summon the Grand Council and determine its agenda. To gain control of the South, especially Sicily, he appointed Cesare Mori as a Prefect of the city of Palermo, with the charge of eradicating the Mafia at any price. In the telegram, Mussolini wrote to Mori:

"Your Excellency has carte blanche; the authority of the State must absolutely, I repeat absolutely, be re-established in Sicily. If the laws still in force hinder you, this will be no problem, as we will draw up new laws."

He did not hesitate laying siege to towns, using torture, and holding women and children as hostages to oblige suspects to give themselves up. These harsh methods earned him the nickname of "Iron Prefect". In 1927 Mori's inquiries brought evidence of collusion between the Mafiaand the Fascist establishment, and he was dismissed for length of service in 1929. Mussolini nominated Mori as a senator, and fascistpropaganda claimed that the Mafia had been defeated.

Economic policy He also combated an economic recession by introducing the "Gold for the Fatherland" initiative, by encouraging the public to voluntarily donate gold jewellery such as necklaces and wedding rings to government officials in exchange for steel wristbands bearing the words "Gold for the Fatherland". EvenRachele Mussolini donated her own wedding ring. The collected gold was then melted down and turned into gold bars, which were then distributed to the national banks.

Mussolini pushed for government control of business: by 1935, Mussolini claimed that three quarters of Italian businesses were under state control. That same year, he issued several edicts to further control the economy, including forcing all banks, businesses, and private citizens to give up all their foreign-issued stocks and bonds to the Bank of Italy. In 1938, he also instituted wage and price controls. He also attempted to turn Italy into a self-sufficient autarky, instituting high barriers on trade with most countries except Germany.

In 1943 he proposed the theory of economic socialization.

After taking power, Mussolini was often seen in military uniform.

Mussolini's foremost priority was the subjugation of the minds of the Italian people and the use of propaganda to do so. Press, radio, education, films—all were carefully supervised to create the illusion that fascism was thedoctrine of the twentieth century, replacing liberalism and democracy.

The principles of this doctrine were laid down in the article on fascism, written by Giovanni Gentile and signed by Mussolini that appeared in 1932 in the Enciclopedia Italiana. In 1929, a concordat with the Vatican was signed, the Lateran treaties, by which the Italian state was at last recognised by the Roman Catholic Church, and the independence of Vatican City was recognised by the Italian state.

The 1929 treaty included a legal provision whereby the Italian government would protect the honor and dignity of the Pope by prosecuting offenders. In 1927, Mussolini was re-baptised by a Roman Catholic priest in an attempt to assuage certain Catholic opposition, who were still critical. After 1929, Mussolini, with his anti-Communist doctrines, convinced many Catholics to actively support him. In the encyclical Non abbiamo bisognoPope Pius XI attacked the Fascist regime for its policy against the Catholic Action and certain tendencies to overrule Catholic education morals.

The law codes of the parliamentary system were rewritten under Mussolini. All teachers in schools and universities had to swear an oath to defend the fascist regime. Newspaper editors were all personally chosen by Mussolini and no one who did not possess a certificate of approval from the fascist party could practice journalism. These certificates were issued in secret; Mussolini thus skillfully created the illusion of a "free press". The trade unions were also deprived of any independence and were integrated into what was called the "corporative" system. The aim (never completely achieved), inspired by medieval guilds, was to place all Italians in various professional organizations or "corporations", all of which were under clandestine governmental control.

Large sums of money were spent on highly visible public works, and on international prestige projects such as the Blue Riband ocean linerSS Rex and aeronautical achievements such as the world's fastest seaplane the Macchi M.C.72 and the transatlantic flying boat cruise ofItalo Balbo, who was greeted with much fanfare in the United States when he landed in Chicago.

Role of education and youth organizations Nationalists in the years after the war thought of themselves as combating the both liberal and domineering institutions created by cabinets such as those of Giovanni Giolitti, including traditional schooling. Futurism, a revolutionary cultural movement which would serve as a catalyst for Fascism, argued for "a school for physical courage and patriotism", as expressed by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1919. Marinetti expressed his disdain for "the by now prehistoric andtroglodyte Ancient Greek and Latin courses", arguing for their replacement with exercise modelled on those of the Arditi soldiers ("[learning] to advance on hands and knees in front of razingmachine gun fire; to wait open-eyed for a crossbeam to move sideways over their heads etc."). It was in those years that the first Fascist youth wings were formed Avanguardia Giovanile Fascista(Fascist Youth Vanguards) in 1919, and Gruppi Universitari Fascisti (Fascist University Groups), in 1922. Benito Mussolini and Fascist Blackshirtyouth in 1935.

After the March on Rome that brought Benito Mussolini to power, the Fascists started considering ways to ideologize the Italian society, with an accent on schools. Mussolini assigned former ardito and deputy-secretary for EducationRenato Ricci the task of "reorganizing the youth from a moral and physical point of view". Ricci sought inspiration with Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, meeting with him in England, as well as with Bauhaus artists in Germany. The Opera Nazionale Balilla was created through Mussolini's decree of 3 April 1926, and was led by Ricci for the following eleven years. It included children between the ages of 8 and 18, grouped as the Balilla and the Avanguardisti.

According to Mussolini: "Fascist education is moral, physical, social, and military: it aims to create a complete and harmoniously developed human, a fascist one according to our views". Mussolini structured this process taking in view the emotional side of childhood: "Childhood and adolescence alike ... cannot be fed solely by concerts, theories, and abstract teaching. The truth we aim to teach them should appeal foremost to their fantasy, to their hearts, and only then to their minds".

The "educational value set through action and example" was to replace the established approaches. Fascism opposed its version of idealismto prevalent rationalism, and used the Opera Nazionale Balilla to circumvent educational tradition by imposing the collective and hierarchy, as well as Mussolini's own personality cult.

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Foreign policy His first steps into foreign policy seemed to portray him as a "statesman", for he participated in the Locarno Treaties of 1925 and the attempted Four Power Pact of 1933 was Mussolini's brainchild. Following the Stresa Front against Germany in 1935, Mussolini's policy took a dramatic turning point and revealed itself once again to be that of an aggressive nature. This domino effect of war began with the Second Italo-Abyssinian War.

In foreign policy, Mussolini soon shifted from the anti-imperialism of his lead-up to power to an extreme form of aggressive nationalism. He dreamt of making Italy a nation that was "great, respected, and feared" throughout Europe, and indeed the world. An early example was his bombardment of Corfu in 1923. Soon after he succeeded in setting up a puppet regime in Albania and in ruthlessly consolidating Italian power in Libya, which had been loosely a colony since 1912. It was his dream to make the Mediterranean mare nostrum ("our sea" in Latin), and he established a large naval base on the Greek island of Leros to enforce a strategic hold on the eastern Mediterranean.

Conquest of Ethiopia Main article: Second Italo-Abyssinian War Il Duce standing on top of a tank.

In an effort to create an Italian Empire – or as supporters called it, the New Roman Empire – Italy set its sights on Ethiopia with an invasion that was carried out rapidly. Italy's forces were far superior to the Abyssinian forces, especially in regards to air power, and they were soon victorious. Emperor Haile Selassie was forced to flee the country, with Italy entering the capitalAddis Ababa to proclaim an empire by May 1936, making Ethiopia part of Italian East Africa.

Although all of the major European powers of the time had also colonised parts of Africa and committed atrocities in their colonies, the Scramble for Africa had finished by the beginning of the twentieth century. The international mood was now against colonialist expansion and Italy's actions were condemned. Retroactively, Italy was criticised for its use of mustard gas andphosgene against its enemies and also for its zero tolerance approach to enemy guerrillas, allegedly authorised by Mussolini.

Spanish Republican poster against "the Italian invader".

When Rodolfo Graziani the viceroy of Ethiopia was nearly assassinated at an official ceremony, with the guerrilla bomb exploding among the people there, a very stronghanded reaction followed against the guerrillas, including those who were prisoners according to theInternational Red Cross. The IRC also alleged that Italy bombed their tents in areas of guerrillas military encampment; though Italy denied it had intended to, insisting that the rebels were targeted. It was not until the East African Campaign's conclusion in 1941 that Italy lost its East African territories, after taking on a fourteen nation allied force.

Spanish Civil War Main articles: Spanish Civil War and Foreign Involvement and Corpo Truppe Volontarie

Italian military help to Nationalists against the anti-clerical and anti-Catholic atrocities committed by the Republican side worked well in Italian propaganda targeting Catholics. On 27 July 1936 the first squadron of Italian airplanes sent by Benito Mussolini arrived in Spain. This active intervention in 1936–1939 on the side of Franco in the Spanish Civil War ended any possibility of reconciliation with France and Britain. As a result, his relationship with Adolf Hitler became closer, and he chose to accept the German annexation of Austria in 1938 and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1939. At the Munich Conference in September 1938, he posed as a moderate working for European peace, helping Nazi Germany seize control of the Sudetenland. His "axis" with Germany was confirmed when he made the "Pact of Steel" with Hitler in May 1939, as the previous "Rome-Berlin Axis" of 1936 had been unofficial. Members of TIGR, a Slovene anti-fascist group, plotted to kill Mussolini in Kobarid in 1938, but their attempt was unsuccessful.

Axis power Rome-Berlin relations Main articles: Rome-Berlin Axis and Pact of Steel Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in Munich, June 1940.

The relationship between Mussolini and Adolf Hitler was a contentious one early on. While Hitler cited Mussolini as an influence and expressed privately great admiration for him, Mussolini had little regard for Hitler, especially after the Nazis had assassinated his friend and ally, Engelbert Dollfuss the Austrofascist dictator of Austria in 1934.

With the assassination of Dollfuss, Mussolini attempted to distance himself from Hitler by rejecting much of the racialism (particularly Nordicism and Germanicism) and anti-Semitism espoused by the German radical. Mussolini during this period rejected biological racism, at least in the Nazi sense, and instead emphasized "Italianizing" the parts of the Italian Empire he had desired to build.] He declared that the ideas of Eugenics and the racially charged concept of an Aryannation were not possible.

Mussolini was particularly sensitive to German accusations that the Italians were a mongrelized race. He retaliated by mockingly referring to the Germans' own lack of racial purity on several occasions. When discussing the Nazi decree that the German people must carry a passport with either Aryan or Jewish racial affiliation marked on it, in the summer of 1934, Mussolini wondered how they would designate membership in the "Germanic race":

But which race? Does there exist a German race? Has it ever existed? Will it ever exist? Reality, myth, or hoax of the theorists?

Ah well, we respond, a Germanic race does not exist. Various movements. Curiosity. Stupor. We repeat. Does not exist. We don't say so. Scientists say so. Hitler says so.

—Benito Mussolini, 1934.

When German-Jewish journalist Emil Ludwig asked about his views on race, Mussolini exclaimed:

Race! It is a feeling, not a reality: ninety-five percent, at least, is a feeling. Nothing will ever make me believe that biologically pure races can be shown to exist today. Amusingly enough, not one of those who have proclaimed the "nobility" of the Teutonic race was himself a Teuton. Gobineau was a Frenchman, Chamberlain, an Englishman; Woltmann, a Jew;Lapouge, another Frenchman.

—Benito Mussolini, 1933.

In a speech given in Bari, he reiterated his attitude toward 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 CaesarVirgil and Augustus.

—Benito Mussolini, 1934.

Mussolini's rejection of both racialism and the importance of race in 1934 during the height of his antagonism towards Hitler contradicted his own earlier statements about race, such as in 1928 in which he emphasized the importance of race:

[When the] city dies, the nation—deprived of the young life—blood of new generations—is now made up of people who are old and degenerate and cannot defend itself against a younger people which launches an attack on the now unguarded frontiers[...] This will happen, and not just to cities and nations, but on an infinitely greater scale: the whole White race, the Western race can be submerged by other coloured races which are multiplying at a rate unknown in our race.

—Benito Mussolini, 1928.

Though Italian Fascism variated its official positions on race from the 1920s to 1934, ideologically Italian fascism did not originally discriminate against the Italian Jewish community: Mussolini recognised that a small contingent had lived there "since the days of the Kings of Rome" and should "remain undisturbed". There were even some Jews in the National Fascist Party, such as Ettore Ovazza who in 1935 founded the Jewish Fascist paper La Nostra Bandiera ("Our Flag").

By 1938, the enormous influence Hitler now had over Mussolini became clear with the introduction of the Manifesto of Race. The Manifesto, which was closely modeled on the Nazi Nuremberg laws, stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship and with it any position in the government or professions. The German influence on Italian policy upset the established balance in Fascist Italy and proved highly unpopular to most Italians, to the extent that Pope Pius XII sent a letter to Mussolini protesting against the new laws.

It has been widely speculated that Mussolini's reasoning to adopt the Manifesto of Race in 1938 was merely tactical, in order to strengthen Italy's relations with Germany. In December 1943, Mussolini made a confession to Bruno Spampanato that seems to indicate that he regretted the Manifesto of Race, as Mussolini put it:

The Racial Manifesto could have been avoided. It dealt with the scientific abstruseness of a few teachers and journalists, a conscientious German essay translated into bad Italian. It is far from what I have said, written and signed on the subject. I suggest that you consult the old issues of Il Popolo d'Italia. For this reason I am far from accepting (Alfred) Rosenberg's myth.

—Benito Mussolini, 1943.

Mussolini also reached out to the Muslims in his empire and in the predominantly Arab countries of the Middle East. In 1937, the Muslims ofLibya presented Mussolini with the "Sword of Islam" while Fascist propaganda pronounced him as the "Protector of Islam."

Munich Conference, war looming From left to right, Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count Cianoas they prepare to sign the Munich Agreement. Main articles: Munich Agreement and Italian invasion of Albania

Mussolini had imperial designs on Tunisia, and had some support in that country. In April 1939 with world focus on Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia, looking to restore honour from a much older defeat Italy invaded Albania. Italy defeated Albania within just five days forcing king Zog to flee, setting up a period of Albania under Italy. Until May 1939, the Axis had not been entirely official, but during that month the Pact of Steel treaty was made outlining the "friendship and alliance" between Germany and Italy, signed by each of its foreign ministers. Italy's king Victor Emanuel III was also wary of the pact, favouring the moretraditional Italian allies like France.

Hitler was intent on invading Poland, though Galeazzo Ciano warned this would likely lead to war with the Allies. Hitler dismissed Ciano's comment, predicting that instead that Britain and the other Western countries would back down, and he suggested that Italy should invadeYugoslavia. The offer was tempting to Mussolini, but at that stage world war would be a disaster for Italy as the armaments situation from building the Italian Empire thus far was lean. Most significantly, Victor Emmanuel had demanded neutrality in the dispute. Thus when World War II in Europe began on 1 September 1939 with the German invasion of Polandeliciting the response of the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany, Italy did not become involved in the conflict.

War declared Main article: Military history of Italy during World War II

As World War II began, Ciano and Viscount Halifax were holding secret phone conversations. The British wanted Italy on their side against Germany as it had been in World War I. French government opinion was more geared towards action against Italy; they were eager to attack Italy in Libya. In September 1939, France swung to the opposite extreme, offering to discuss issues with Italy, but as the French were unwilling to discuss Corsica, Nice and Savoy, Mussolini did not answer.

So long as the Duce lives, one can rest assured that Italy will seize every opportunity to achieve its imperialistic aims.

—Adolf Hitler, late November 1939

Convinced that the war would soon be over, with a German victory looking likely at that point, Mussolini decided to enter the war on the Axis side. Accordingly, Italy declared war on Britain and France on 10 June 1940. Italy joined the Germans in the Battle of France, fighting the fortified Alpine Line at the border. Just eleven days later, France surrendered to the Axis powers. Included in Italian-controlled France was most of Nice and other southeastern counties. Meanwhile in Africa, Mussolini's Italian East Africa forces attacked the British in theirSudanKenya and British Somaliland colonies, in what would become known as the East African Campaign. British Somaliland was conquered and became part of Italian East Africa on 3 August 1940, and there were Italian advances in Sudan and Kenya.

Just over a month later, the Italian Tenth Army commanded by General Rodolfo Graziani crossed from Italian Libya into Egypt where British forces were located; this would become the Western Desert Campaign. Advances were successful, but the Italians stopped at Sidi Barraniwaiting for logistic supplies to catch up. During 25 October 1940, Mussolini sent the Italian Air Corps to Belgium, where the air force took part in the Battle of Britain for around two months. In October, Mussolini also sent Italian forces into Greece starting the Greco-Italian War. After initial success, this backfired as the Greek counterattack proved relentless, resulting in Italy losing one quarter of Albania. Germany soon committed forces to the Balkans to fight the gathering Allies.

Events in Africa had changed by early 1941 as Operation Compass had forced the Italians back into Libya, causing high losses in the Italian Army. Also in the East African Campaign, an attack was mounted against Italian forces. Despite putting up a resistance, they were overwhelmed at the Battle of Keren, and the Italian defense started to crumble with a final defeat in the Battle of Gondar. When addressing the Italian public on the events, he was completely open about the situation saying, "We call bread bread and wine wine, and when the enemy wins a battle it is useless and ridiculous to seek, as the English do in their incomparable hypocrisy, to deny or diminish it." Part of his comment was in relation to earlier success the Italians had in Africa, before being defeated by an Allied force later. In danger of losing the control of all Italian possessions in North Africa, Germany finally sent the Afrika Korps to support Italy. Meanwhile Operation Marita took place in Yugoslavia to end the Greco-Italian War, resulting in an Axis victory and the Occupation of Greece by Italy and Germany. With the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, Mussolini declared war on the Soviet Union in June 1941 and sent an army to fight there. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he declared war on the United States on 11 December 1941. An interesting evidence regarding Mussolini's response to the attack on Pearl Harbor comes from the diary of his Foreign Minister Ciano:

"A night telephone call from Ribbentrop. He is overjoyed about the Japanese attack on America. He is so happy about it that I am happy with him, though I am not too sure about the final advantages of what has happened. One thing is now certain, that America will enter the conflict and that the conflict will be so long that she will be able to realize all her potential forces. This morning I told this to the King who had been pleased about the event. He ended by admitting that, in the long run, I may be right. Mussolini was happy, too. For a long time he has favored a definite clarification of relations between America and the Axis".
Dismissed and arrested Marshal Pietro Badogliosucceeded Mussolini as Prime Minister.

By early 1942, Italy's position in the war became more and more untenable. After the defeat at El Alamein at the end of 1942, the Axis troops had to retreat to where they were finally defeated in the Tunisia Campaign in the spring of 1943. Also at the Eastern Front were major setbacks and the war had come to the nation's very doorstep with the Allied invasion of Sicily. The Italian home front was also in bad shape as the Allied bombings were taking their toll. Factories all over Italy were brought to a virtual standstill due to a lack of raw materials, as well as coal and oil. Additionally, there was a chronic shortage of food, and what food was available was being sold at nearly confiscatory prices. Mussolini's once-ubiquitous propaganda machine lost its grip on the people; a large number of Italians turned to Vatican Radio or Radio London for more accurate news coverage. Discontent came to a head in March 1943 with a wave of labor strikes in the industrial north—the first large-scale strikes since 1925. Also in March, some of the major factories in Milan and Turin stopped production to secure evacuation allowances for workers' families. The physical German presence in Italy had sharply turned public opinion against Mussolini; for example, when the Allies invaded Sicily, the majority of the public there welcomed them as liberators.

Earlier in April 1943, Mussolini had begged Hitler to make a separate peace with Stalin and send German troops to the west to guard against an expected Allied invasion of Italy. Mussolini feared that with the losses in Tunisia and North Africa, the next logical step for Dwight Eisenhower's armies would be to come across the Mediterranean and attack the Italian peninsula. Within a few days of the Allied landings on Sicily in July 1943, it was obvious Mussolini's army was on the brink of collapse. This led Hitler to summon Mussolini to a meeting in northern Italy on 19 July 1943. By this time, Mussolini was so shaken from stress that he could no longer stand Hitler's boasting. His mood darkened further when that same day, the Allies bombed Rome—the first time that city had ever been the target of enemy bombing.

Some prominent members of the Italian Fascist government had turned against Mussolini by this point. Among them were his confidant Dino Grandi and Mussolini's son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano. With several of his colleagues close to revolt, Mussolini was forced to summon the Grand Council of Fascism on 24 July 1943: the first time that body had met since the start of the war. When he announced that the Germans were thinking of evacuating the south, Grandi launched a blistering attack on him.Grandi moved a resolution asking the king to resume his full constitutional powers, in effect, a vote of no confidence in Mussolini. This motion carried by a 19–7 margin. Despite this sharp rebuke, Mussolini showed up for work the next day as usual. He allegedly viewed the Grand Council as merely an advisory body and did not think the vote would have any substantive effect. That afternoon, he was summoned to the royal palace by King Victor Emmanuel III, who had been planning to oust Mussolini earlier. When Mussolini tried to tell the king about the meeting, Victor Emmanuel cut him off and told him that he was being replaced by Marshal Pietro Badoglio. After Mussolini left the palace, he was arrested by Carabinieri on the king's orders.

By this time, discontent with Mussolini was such that when the news of his ouster was announced on the radio, there was no resistance. In an effort to conceal his location from the Germans, Mussolini was moved around the country before being sent to Campo Imperatore, a mountain resort in Abruzzo where he was completely isolated. Given the large Nazi presence in Italy, Badoglio announced that "the war continues at the side of our Germanic ally" in the hopes that chaos and Nazi retaliation against civilians could be avoided. Even as Badoglio was keeping up the appearance of loyalty to the Axis, he dissolved the Fascist Party two days after taking over. Also, his government was negotiating an Armistice with the Allies, which was signed on 3 September 1943. Its announcement five days later threw Italy into chaos, a civil war of sorts. Badoglio and the king fled Rome, leaving the Italian Army without orders. Immediately after the Italian surrender was announced, German troops started taking over the Italian Peninsula by force as part of Operation Achse and occupied Rome on 10 September. After a period of anarchy, Italy finally declared war on Nazi Germany on 13 October 1943 from Malta; thousands of troops were supplied to fight against the Germans, others refused to switch sides and had joined the Germans. The Badoglio government held a social truce with the leftist partisans for the sake of Italy and to rid the land of the Nazis.


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Italian Social Republic Main article: Italian Social Republic

Only two months after Mussolini had been dismissed and arrested, he was rescued from his prison at the Hotel Campo Imperatore in theGran Sasso raid by a special Fallschirmjäger unit on 12 September 1943; present was Otto Skorzeny. The rescue saved Mussolini from being turned over to the Allies, as per the armistice. Hitler had made plans to arrest the king, Crown Prince Umberto, Badoglio, and the rest of the government and restore Mussolini to power in Rome, but the government's escape south likely foiled those plans.

A rain-soaked Benito Mussolini reviewing adolescent soldiers in northern Italy, late 1944

Three days following his rescue in the Gran Sasso raid, Mussolini was taken to Germany for a meeting with Hitler in Rastenberg at his East Prussian headquarters. Despite public professions of support, Hitler was clearly shocked by Mussolini's disheveled and haggard appearance as well as his unwillingness to go after the men in Rome who overthrew him. At this time, Mussolini was in very poor health which was the result of severe stress because of Italy's bleak war situation and he wanted to retire from politics altogether. Hitler firmly told him that unless he agreed to return to Italy and set up a new fascist state, the Germans would destroy Milan, Genoa and Turin. Feeling that he had to do what he could to blunt the edges of Nazi repression, Mussolini agreed to set up a new regime, the Italian Social Republic, informally known as the Salò Republic because of its administration from the town of Salò where he settled in just 11 days after his rescue by the Germans. 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 South TyrolBelluno andTrentino were placed under German administration in the Operational Zone of the Alpine Foothills, while the provinces of UdineGorizia,TriestePula (Pola), Rijeka (Fiume) and Ljubljana (Lubiana) 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 theCroatian 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. Mussolini opposed any territorial reductions of the Italian state and told his associates "I am not here to renounce even a square meter of state territory. We will go back to war for this. And we will rebel against anyone for this. Where the Italian flag flew, the Italian flag will return. And where it has not been lowered, now that I am here, no one will have it lowered. I have said these things to the Führer".

For two years, Mussolini lived in Gargnano on Lake Garda in Lombardy during this period. Although he insisted in public that he was in full control, he himself knew that he was little more than a puppet ruler under the protection of his German liberators—for all intents and purposes, the Gauleiter of Lombardy. After yielding to pressures from Hitler and the remaining loyal fascists who formed the government of the Republic of Salo, Mussolini helped orchestrate a series of executions of some of the fascist leaders who had betrayed him at the last meeting of the Fascist Grand Council. One of those executed included his son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano. As Head of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Italian Social Republic, Mussolini used much of his time to write his memoirs. Along with his autobiographical writings of 1928, these writings would be combined and published by Da Capo Press as My Rise and Fall.

Yes, madam, I am finished. My star has fallen. I work and I try, yet know that all is but a farce.... I await the end of the tragedy and – strangely detached from everything – I do not feel any more an actor. I feel I am the last of spectators.

—Benito Mussolini, interviewed in 1945 by Madeleine Mollier.

Personal life

Mussolini was first married to Ida Dalser in Trento in 1914. The couple had a son one year later and named him Benito Albino Mussolini. In December 1915, Mussolini married Rachele Guidi, his mistress since 1910, and with his following political ascendency the information about his first marriage was suppressed and both his first wife and son were later persecuted. With Rachele, Mussolini had two daughters, Edda(1910–1995) and Anna Maria (Forlì, Villa Carpena, 3 September 1929 – Rome, 25 April 1968), married in Ravenna on 11 June 1960 to Nando Pucci Negri, and three sons Vittorio (1916–1997), Bruno (1918–1941), and Romano (1927–2006). Mussolini had a number of mistresses among them Margherita Sarfatti and his final companion, Clara Petacci. Furthermore, Mussolini had innumerable brief sexual encounters with female supporters as reported by his biographer Nicholas Farrell.

Religious beliefs Atheism and anti-clericalism

Mussolini was raised by a devoutly Catholic mother and an anti-clerical father. His mother Rosa had him baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, and took her children to services every Sunday. His father never attended. Mussolini regarded his time at a religious boarding school as punishment, compared the experience to hell, and "once refused to go to morning mass and had to be dragged there by force".

Mussolini would become anti-clerical like his father. As a young man, he "proclaimed himself to be an atheist and several times tried to shock an audience by calling on God to strike him dead." He denounced socialists who were tolerant of religion, or who had their children baptized. He believed that science had proven there was no God, and that the historical Jesus was ignorant and mad. He considered religion a disease of the psyche, and accused Christianity of promoting resignation and cowardice.

Mussolini was an admirer of Friedrich Nietzsche. According to Denis Mack Smith, "In Nietzsche he found justification for his crusade against the Christian virtues of humility, resignation, charity, and goodness." He valued Nietzsche's concept of the superman, "The supreme egoist who defied both God and the masses, who despised egalitarianism and democracy, who believed in the weakest going to the wall and pushing them if they did not go fast enough."

Mussolini made vitriolic attacks against Christianity and the Catholic Church, "which he accompanied with provocative and blasphemousremarks about the consecrated host and about a love affair between Christ and Mary Magdalen." He believed that socialists who were Christian or who accepted religious marriage should be expelled from the party. He denounced the Catholic Church for "its authoritarianismand refusal to allow freedom of thought..." Mussolini's newspaper, La Lotta di Classe, reportedly had an anti-Christian editorial stance.

Lateran Pact Mussolini with Pope Pius XI.

Despite making such attacks, Mussolini would try to win popular support by appeasing the Catholic majority in Italy. In 1924, Mussolini saw that three of his children were given communion. In 1925, he had a priest perform a religious marriage ceremony for himself and his wife Rachele, whom he had married in a civil ceremony 10 years earlier. On 11 February 1929, he signed a concordat and treaty with the Roman Catholic Church. Under the Lateran Pact, Vatican City was granted independent statehood and placed under Church law—rather than Italian law—and the Catholic religion was recognized as Italy's state religion. The Church also regained authority over marriage, Catholicism could be taught in all secondary schools, birth control and freemasonry were banned, and the clergy received subsidies from the state, and was exempted from taxation. Pope Pius XI praised Mussolini, and the official Catholic newspaper pronounced "Italy has been given back to God and God to Italy."

After this conciliation, he claimed the Church was subordinate to the State, and "referred to Catholicism as, in origin, a minor sect that had spread beyond Palestine only because grafted onto the organization of the Roman empire." After the concordat, "he confiscated more issues of Catholic newspapers in the next three months than in the previous seven years." Mussolini reportedly came close to beingexcommunicated from the Catholic Church around this time.

Mussolini publicly reconciled with the Pope Pius XI in 1932, but "took care to exclude from the newspapers any photography of himself kneeling or showing deference to the Pope." He wanted to persuade Catholics that "[f]ascism was Catholic and he himself a believer who spent some of each day in prayer..." The Pope began referring to Mussolini as "a man sent by Providence." Despite Mussolini's efforts to appear pious, by order of his party, pronouns referring to him "had to be capitalized like those referring to God..."

In 1938 Mussolini began reasserting his anti-clericalism. He would sometimes refer to himself as an "outright disbeliever," and once told his cabinet that "Islam was perhaps a more effective religion than Christianity" and that the "papacy was a malignant tumor in the body of Italy and must 'be rooted out once and for all', because there was no room in Rome for both the Pope and himself." He would publicly back down from these anti-clerical statements, but continued making similar statements in private.

After his fall from power in 1943, Mussolini began speaking "more about God and the obligations of conscience", although "he still had little use for the priests and sacraments of the Church,". He also began drawing parallels between himself and Jesus Christ. Mussolini's widow, Rachele, stated that her husband had remained "basically irreligious until the later years of his life. Mussolini was given a Catholic funeral in 1957.

Death Cross marking the place in Mezzegrawhere Mussolini was shot. The dead body of Mussolini next to other executed fascists in Piazzale Loreto, Milan, 1945

Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were stopped by communist partisans Valerio and Bellini and identified by the Political Commissar of the partisans' 52nd Garibaldi Brigade, Urbano Lazzaro, on 27 April 1945, near the village of Dongo (Lake Como), as they headed for Switzerland to board a plane to escape to Spain. During this time Claretta's brother even posed as a Spanish consul. Mussolini had been traveling with retreating German forces and was apprehended while attempting to escape recognition by wearing a German military uniform. 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 executed, 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. According to the official version of events, the shootings were conducted by Colonnello Valerio, whose real name was Walter Audisio. Audisio was the communist partisan commander who was reportedly given the order to kill Mussolini by the National Liberation Committee. When Audisio entered the room where Mussolini and the other fascists were being held, he reportedly announced, "I have come to rescue you!... Do you have any weapons?" He then had them loaded into transports and driven a short distance. Audisio ordered, "Get down"; Petacci hugged Mussolini and refused to move away from him when they were taken to an empty space. Shots were fired and Petacci fell down. Just then Mussolini opened his jacket and screamed, "Shoot me in the chest!" Audisio shot him in the chest. Mussolini fell but did not die and was breathing heavily. Audisio went near and he shot one more bullet in his chest. Mussolini's face looked as if he had significant pain. Audisio said to his driver, "Look at his face, the emotions on his face don't suit him." The other members of Mussolini's entourage were also executed before a firing squad later that same day towards nightfall.

Mussolini's body

On 29 April 1945, the bodies of Mussolini, Petacci, and the other executed Fascists were loaded into a moving van and trucked south to Milan. There, at 3:00 am, they were dumped on the ground in the old Piazzale Loreto. The piazza had been renamed "Piazza Quindici Martiri" in honor of 15 anti-Fascists recently executed there.

After being shot, kicked, and spat upon, the bodies were hung upside down on meathooks from the roof of an Esso gas station. The bodies were then stoned by civilians from below. 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 became subject to ridicule and abuse. Fascist loyalist Achille Starace was captured and sentenced to death and then taken to the Piazzale Loreto and shown the body of Mussolini. Starace, who once said of Mussolini "He is a god," saluted what was left of his leader just before he was shot. The body of Starace was subsequently strung up next to the body of Mussolini.

After his death and the display of his corpse in Milan, Mussolini was buried in an unmarked grave in Musocco, the municipal cemetery to the north of the city. On Easter Sunday 1946 his body was located and dug up by Domenico Leccisi and two other neo-Fascists. Making off with their hero, they left a message on the open grave: "Finally, O Duce, you are with us. We will cover you with roses, but the smell of your virtue will overpower the smell of those roses."

Tomb of Mussolini in the family crypt in the cemetery of Predappio.

On the loose for months—and a cause of great anxiety to the new Italian democracy—the Duce's body was finally "recaptured" in August, hidden in a small trunk at the Certosa di Pavia, just outside Milan. Two Fransciscan brothers were subsequently charged with concealing the corpse, though it was discovered on further investigation that it had been constantly on the move. Unsure what to do, the authorities held the remains in a kind of political limbo for 10 years, before agreeing to allow them to be re-interred at Predappio in Romagna, his birth place, after a campaign headed by Leccisi and the Movimento Sociale Italiano.[citation needed]

Leccisi, a fascist deputy, went on to write his autobiography, With Mussolini Before and After Piazzale Loreto. Adone Zoli, the prime minister of the day, contacted Donna Rachele, the former dictator's widow, to tell her he was returning the remains, as he needed the support of the far-right in parliament, including Leccisi himself. In Predappio the dictator was buried in a crypt (the only posthumous honour granted to Mussolini). His tomb is flanked by marble fasces, and a large idealised marble bust of himself sits above the tomb.


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Clara Petacci

Clara Petacci Clara Petacci (Claretta Petacci)

(28 February 1912 – 28 April 1945) was an upper class Roman whose father had been the personal physician to the Pope. She became the mistress of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was twenty-eight years her senior. On 27 April 1945, when a convoy of escaping Italian Social Republic members, including Mussolini, was captured by Communist partisans, it is said that Petacci was offered the opportunity to go unmolested. On 28 April, she and Mussolini were taken to Mezzegra where she and the Duce were shot. On the following day, 29 April, Mussolini and Petacci's bodies were taken to the Piazzale Loreto in Milanand hung upside down in front of a petrol station. The bodies were photographed as a crowd vented their rage upon them.

Clara Petacci's brother, Marcello Petacci, was captured with Mussolini and Petacci. But, rather than being murdered in Dongo, he was shot while trying to escape.


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Ida Dalser & Benito Albino

Ida Irene Dalser (20 August 1880 – 11 December 1937) was a lover and possibly the first wife of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Early life

Ida Dalser was born in Sopramonte, a village near Trento, the capital of the ethnically Italian Trentino region, at that time within the borders of the Tyrol region Austro-Hungarian Empire. The daughter of the village mayor, she was sent to Paris to study cosmetic medicine, and when she came back she moved to Milan, where she opened a French-style beauty salon.

Marriage and motherhood

It is unclear whether Ida Dalser first met young Benito Mussolini in Trento (where he had found his first job as a journalist in 1909) or in Milan (where he had moved soon afterwards). The two started a relationship and when Mussolini was refused work on the basis of his ferventsocialist political activity, she financed him with the revenues of her beautician job. According to some sources, they married in 1914, and in 1915 she bore him his first child, Benito Albino Mussolini. However, there are no records of this presumptive marriage.

Estrangement and start of legal dispute

The reasons why Mussolini and Dalser grew estranged at some time between their presumptive marriage and the birth of their son remain unclear, although his affair with another woman, Rachele Guidi, may have played a role. When World War I broke out, Mussolini decided to enlist. On December 17, 1915, while an inpatient at a hospital in Treviglio, Mussolini married Rachele Guidi. When this became known to Ida Dalser, a legal dispute began between her and the new couple.

Immediately after his second marriage, Mussolini left Italy to fight in the First World War. While he was on service, the Kingdom of Italyregularly paid Dalser a war pension, and when Mussolini was injured by a mortar shot in 1917, she received a visit from the Carabinierinotifying her that her husband was wounded in action

Persecution and death

In 1917, Mussolini came back from the war. His political career accelerated: in 1919 he went on to found the Fasci italiani di combattimento, which became the National Fascist Party in 1921; in the latter year he was also elected to the Chamber of Deputies. With the 1922 March on Rome, Mussolini seized power and became a dictator officially recognised by the then ruling House of Savoy.

Once Mussolini was in power, Ida Dalser and her son were placed under surveillance by the police, and paper evidence of their relationship was tracked down to be destroyed by government agents. She still persisted in vocally claiming her role as the dictator's wife, and even publicly denounced Mussolini as a traitor, stating that during his years in Milan he had accepted a bribe from the French government in exchange for political campaigning in support of the involvement of then neutral Italy in the war on the side of France. Eventually, she was forcibly interned in the psychiatric hospital of Pergine Valsugana, and then transferred to that of the island of San Clemente in Venice, where she died in 1937. The cause of death was registered as "brain haemorrhage".

Benito Albino's fate

Benito Albino Mussolini was abducted by government agents, told his mother was dead, and was adopted as an orphan by the fascist ex-police chief of Sopramonte. Initially educated at a Barnabite college in Moncalieri, he enrolled in the Italian Royal Navy, and always remained under close surveillance by the fascist government. Still he persisted in stating Benito Mussolini was his father, and was eventually forcibly interned in an asylum in MombelloProvince of Milan, where he died in 1942, aged twenty-six.


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Rachele Mussolini

Donna Rachele Mussolini

 (11 April 1890 – 30 October 1979) was the mistresswife, and widow of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.


Rachele Mussolini was born Rachele Guidi in PredappioRomagnaKingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia). She was born into a peasant family and was the daughter of Agostino Guidi and wife Anna Lombardi. After the death of her father, her mother became the lover of the widowed Alessandro Mussolini.

In 1910, Rachele Guidi moved in with Benito Mussolini. In 1914, Mussolini married his first wife Ida Dalser. Though the records of this marriage were destroyed by Mussolini's government, an edict from the city of Milan ordering Mussolini to make maintenance payments to “his wife Ida Dalser” and their child was overlooked. Shortly before his son Benito Albino Mussolini was born to Ida Dalser, Rachele Guidi and Benito Mussolini were married in a civil ceremony in TreviglioLombardy, 17 December 1915. In 1925, they renewed their vows in a religious service (after Mussolini's rise to power).

Rachele Mussolini bore five children by Benito Mussolini and she was willing to ignore his various mistresses. Rachele and Benito Mussolini had two daughters, Edda (1910–1995) and Anna Maria (1929–1968), and three sons Vittorio (1916–1997), Bruno (1918–1941), and Romano(1927–2006).

During the reign of Mussolini's Fascist regime, Rachele Mussolini was portrayed as the model Fascist housewife and mother. She remained loyal to Mussolini until the end. But, on 28 April 1945, she was not with Mussolini when he and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, were captured and executed by Italian partisans. Rachele Mussolini did try to flee Italy after World War II but, in April 1945, she was arrested in Como, close to Switzerland by Italian partisans. She was turned over to the Americans and kept on Ischia Island, but was released after several months.

In her later life, Rachele Mussolini ran a restaurant in her native village of Predappio, where she served pasta dishes herself. She also received a pension from the Republic of Italy (Repubblica Italiana) until her death. After her husband's execution, she begged to have his body for private burial.


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Vittorio Mussolini

Vittorio Mussolini 

(27 September 1916 - 12 June 1997) was an Italian film critic and producer. He was also the second son of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. However, he was the first son of Mussolini with his second wife Rachele.


Vittorio Mussolini was born in MilanLombardyKingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia). He married Milanese Orsola Buvoli Mussolini (1914-2009), two years his senior. In January 1938, Mussolini and his wife announced the birth of their first child, a son. Guido Mussolini was born in Rome.

In addition to film-producing, the heavy set Mussolini served as a Lieutenant (Tenente) in the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica). He flew during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II. In Ethiopia, both he and his younger brother Brunocrewed bombers. Unlike his brother, Vittorio was not considered a serious pilot. Vittorio made a spectacle of himself describing bombs as "budding roses" and killing as "exceptionally good fun."

Mussolini worked with many of Italy's best film artists. Different projects with which he was involved included the efforts of Federico Fellini,Roberto Rosselini, and Michelangelo Antonioni.

After the war, Mussolini emigrated to Argentina, later returning to Italy. Vittorio was briefly involved with Hal Roach in a company that was named R.A.M. Pictures (for "Roach and Mussolini"), although Roach bought himself out of the deal after being heavily ostracized within Hollywood. He was the editor of the film journal Cinema, and was involved with the Italian film studio Cinecittà.

Vittorio Mussolini died on 12 June 1997 at age 80 in a Rome clinic after a long illness


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Edda Mussolini


Edda Mussolini 

(1 September 1910 – 9 April 1995) was the eldest child of Benito Mussolini, Italy's fascist dictator from 1922 to 1943. Upon her marriage to fascist propagandist and foreign minister Galeazzo Ciano she became Edda Ciano, Countess of Cortellazzo and Buccari

She strongly denied her involvement in the National Fascist Party regime and had an affair with a Communist after her father's execution by the Italian communist partisansin World War II.

Early life

She was born out of wedlock to Benito Mussolini and Rachele Guidi in Forlì,Romagna. Her parents did not marry until December 1915. In her early years, while her father was editor of Il Popolo d'Italia in Milan, Edda lived with Rachele in Forlì. Her father became Prime Minister of Italy in October 1922 and Dictator after January 1925.

In March 1925, Rachele and Edda with her brothers and sisters, moved from Milan to Carpegna and then to Rome in November 1929 to live with their father. Edda was, herself, a rebellious woman in her youth. Her powerful father made dating difficult, as most young men feared him. She has been described as being opinionated and outspoken. It was while in Rome that she met Galeazzo Ciano, son of Admiral CountCostanzo Ciano, a loyal Fascist and supporter of Benito Mussolini before his March on Rome. They were married on 24 April 1930 in a lavish ceremony attended by 4,000 guests.

Her husband was appointed Italian Consul in Shanghai and it was there their first son, Fabrizio Ciano, was born on 1 October 1931. The couple moved back to Italy in 1932, where Galeazzo took the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs. By many accounts, theirs was an open marriage, and both had lovers. However, her father liked Galeazzo and so Ciano's career prospered.

World War II

After the Italian invasion of Albania in June 1939, the city of Santi Quaranta (Sarandë in Albanian) was renamed "Porto Edda" in her honour during the annexation.

In July 1939, she was depicted on the front cover of Time in a feature entitled "Lady of the Axis".

During the Greco-Italian War, Edda Ciano volunteered for service with the Italian Red Cross. On 14 March 1941, she was embarked near the Albanian port of Valona (now Vlorë) on the Lloyd Triestino liner Po, which had been converted into a hospital ship. British planes attacked and sank the ship, with some loss of life. But Edda managed to survive by swimming to the shore. She continued to work for the Red Cross until 1943.

It seems that Heinrich Himmler bestowed Edda the rank of an honorary SS leader (SS Ehrenführerin) in 1943, although this is still not known for certain.

After Edda's close call in the Adriatic Sea, Rachele and Benito Mussolini were doubly distressed when her brother, Bruno, died in August of the same year.

Execution of Ciano and escape to Switzerland

In July 1943, when internal opposition against Mussolini finally emerged in the Fascist Grand Council, Galeazzo Ciano voted against his father-in-law. For this act, he was arrested for treason, tried and executed on 11 January 1944. Mussolini - with no result - begged Hitler to forgive Galeazzo. He was tied to a chair and shot in the back.

Edda Ciano escaped to Switzerland on 9 January 1944, disguised as a peasant woman. She managed to smuggle out the Count's wartime diaries, which had been hidden in her clothing by her confidant Emilio Pucci. At that time he was a lieutenant in the Italian Air Force but would later find fame as a fashion designer. War correspondent Paul Ghali of the Chicago Daily News learned of her secret internment in a Swiss convent in Neggio and arranged the publication of the diaries. They reveal much of the secret history of the Fascist regime between 1939 and 1943 and are considered a prime historical source. The diaries are strictly political and contain little of the Cianos' personal lives.

After World War II

After returning to Italy from Switzerland, Edda was held in detention on the island of Lipari and on 20 December 1945 was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for aiding Fascism.

Her autobiography, La mia vita, was published in translation as My Truth by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in 1975.

She died in Rome in 1995.


Edda Mussolini

Countess of Cortellazzo and Buccari Edda Ciano Mussolini (second woman from right) during a trip in China.  

Her son Fabrizio Ciano wrote a personal memoir entitled Quando il nonno fece fucilare papà ("When Grandpa had Daddy Shot").

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Bruno Mussolini

Bruno Mussolini

 (born 1918; died 1941) was the second son of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Mussolini's wife Rachele.

Bruno Mussolini was born in Milan in Lombardy. His father, Benito Mussolini, was the editor of "The People of Italy"(Il Popolo d'Italia) newspaper before the birth and, on 22 April, needed to be away for the day in Genoa. Mussolini indicated to his wife that he did not want her to give birth prior to his return. In his words: "I don't want to be the last to be told again as I was with Vittorio." That evening, the manager of the newspaper greeted Mussolini at the station with a broad grin and the words: "It's a boy."


In 1919, Bruno Mussolini caught diphtheria and his parents feared he would never recover. Soon after the doctors pronounced him out of danger, he suffered from a bronchial complaint. By this time, one-year-old Bruno's weight had dropped to about fifteen pounds.

As a young student, 9-year-old Bruno adeptly, if not correctly, answered a schoolteacher's question about grammar. An examiner is reported to have said: "Now Bruno, tell me in what person one cannot command." In response, Bruno tactfully responded: "There are two persons one cannot command, the King and my father."

At age 12, Bruno took after his father and tackled journalism. He and his older brother Vittorio published a weekly called The Boys' Pen (La Penna del Ragazzi).

Bruno, in the manner of a dictator's son, grew to like boxing, fast women, and faster cars. In 1935, at age 17, Bruno became Italy's youngest pilot.


On 7 November 1938, Bruno married Gina Ruberti  in Rome. His wife was the daughter of the head of the Ministry of Education's Contemporary Art Bureau. On 18 March 1940 in Rome, Bruno and his wife had their first child, a daughter, named Mariana.


In 1935, Bruno Mussolini joined the Royal Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica Italiana) and became a pilot. He flew for the Regia Aeronauticaduring the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. In September, before the Kingdom of Italy invaded the Ethiopian Empire, Air Sergeant Bruno Mussolini, 17, Air Second Lieutenant Vittorio Mussolini, 18, and Air Captain Count Nobile Galeazzo Ciano, 32, sailed from Naples to Africaaboard the MS Saturnia. After Ethiopia, Bruno also participated in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Unlike his brother Vittorio, Bruno was considered to be a serious pilot. In addition to participating in various conflicts, Bruno was involved in setting flight airspeed records in a 1938 flight to Brazil. In August 1941, he was killed test piloting a new prototype of the Piaggio P.108, a four engine Italian bomber.


On 7 August 1941, 23-year-old Bruno Mussolini was flying in one of the prototypes of a"secret" bomber near the San Giusto Airport in Pisa. The aircraft got too low and crashed into a house. The cockpit section was separated from the rest of the aircraft and Bruno Mussolini died of his injuries. The machine did not catch fire but was nevertheless totally destroyed in the impact. Five members of the crew were injured and three were killed. Bruno was one of the three killed. Benito Mussolini rushed to the Santa Chiara Hospital to be at the side of his dead son.

Bruno's sacrifice to the nation prompted his father to compose a booklet entitled "I Talk With Bruno" (Parlo con Bruno). The booklet implied timeless intimacy between the two and mixed Fascist, Catholic, and familial piety. However, the truth was that Benito Mussolini hardly knew Bruno.

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Romano Mussolini

Romano Mussolini 

(September 26, 1927 – February 3, 2006) was the fourth and youngest son of Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italyfrom 1922 to 1943. Romano was never involved in politics, but rather was a well-appreciated jazz pianistpainter, and an unsuccessful film producer.

A native of Villa CarpenaForlì (Emilia-Romagna), Romano Mussolini studied music as a child playing classical pieces with his father on the violin.

After World War II, he started playing jazz under an assumed name and by the mid 1950s, he had formed a trio. Romano Mussolini released a self-titled record through RCA Records in 1956. By the 1960s, he had formed the "Romano Mussolini All Stars", which became one of Italy's foremost jazz bands.

The All Stars recorded a well-received record Jazz Allo Studio 7 in 1963 with At the Santa Tecla following a year later. Mussolini's band toured internationally with artists including Dizzy GillespieDuke EllingtonHelen Merrill, and Chet Baker. In the 1990s, Mussolini recorded two more albums, Perfect Alibi and Soft and Swing. His playing style has been described as " a slightly melancholic Oscar Peterson. Occasionally inspired, he was always efficient; he made the refrain run on time."

In 1962, Mussolini married Anna Maria Villani Scicolone, the sister of actress Sophia Loren. They had two daughters, Elisabetta and her elder sister Alessandra Mussolini, who is currently a member of the European Parliament, and leads an Italian right-wing neo-fascist party,Alternativa Sociale. Romano Mussolini composed the party's official anthem, "The Pride of Being Italian". With his second wife, the actress Carla Maria Puccini, he had a third daughter, Rachele, named after his mother (Rachele Mussolini).

Mussolini was very reserved about his family history. It was only in 2004 that he published a book, entitled Il Duce, mio padre (Il Duce, My Father), followed by a similar book in 2005, collecting personal memories and accounts of private confidences and discussions with his father.

He was the last surviving child of Benito Mussolini. He died, aged 78, in a hospital in Rome of undisclosed causes.


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What Were Mussolini's Crimes?


The Gulag held many types of prisoners. It served as the Soviet Union’s main penal system: robbers, rapists, murderers, and thieves spent their sentences not in prisons but in the Gulag.

In addition, the Gulag held political prisoners, a group including not only real opponents of the Soviet regime but also many innocents caught up in the paranoid clutches of the Soviet secret police. Most prisoners were the victims of arbitrary and severe legal campaigns under which petty theft, lateness, or unexcused absences from work were punished by many years in these concentration camps.

In the Stalin era, a person could be sent to the Gulag for up to ten years for such petty theft.

Maria Tchebotareva

Trying to feed her four hungry children during the massive 1932-1933 famine, the peasant mother allegedly stole three pounds of rye from her former field—confiscated by the state as part of collectivization. Soviet authorities sentenced her to ten years in the Gulag. When her sentence expired in 1943, it was arbitrarily extended until the end of the war in 1945. After her release, she was required to live in exile near her Gulag camp north of the Arctic Circle, and she was not able to return home until 1956, after the death of Stalin. Maria Tchebotareva never found her children after her release.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36. Ivan Burylov

Seeking the appearance of democracy, the Soviet Union held elections, but only one Communist Party candidate appeared on the ballot for each office. Fear of punishment ensured that nearly all Soviet citizens “voted” by taking their ballot and ceremoniously placing it into a ballot box.

In 1949, Ivan Burylov, a beekeeper, protested this absurd ritual by writing the word “Comedy” on his “secret” ballot. Soviet authorities linked the ballot to Burylov and sentenced him to eight years in camps for this “crime.”

Courtesy of the State Perm Region Archive of Political Repression.

The “secret” voting ballot of Ivan Burylov showing where he had written the word “Comedy.”

Courtesy of the State Perm Region Archive of Political Repression.

Arrest of a so-called “rich peasant” in 1930. This peasant, Mikhailov, had attempted escape from a state-owned farm where he had been sent into exile.

Courtesy of the Central Russian State Film and Video Archive.

Trial of so-called “rich peasants” in 1929. Stalin’s drive to seize all private land in the 1920s and 1930s met significant resistance. Some victims were shot, some were arrested and sent into the Gulag camps, and many were exiled to remote parts of the country.

Courtesy of the Central Russian State Film and Video Archive.

Soviet Propaganda Poster

“Look Me in the Eyes and Tell Me Honestly:
Who is your friend? Who is your enemy?
You have no friends among capitalists.
You have no enemies among the workers. 
Only in a union of the workers of all nations will you be victorious over capitalism and liberated from exploitation.
Down with national antagonisms!
Workers of the world unite!”


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Women in the Gulag

Women suffered greatly in the Gulag. Male camp employees, guards, and even other male prisoners sometimes raped and abused women. Some female prisoners took on “camp husbands” for protection and companionship. Some were pregnant on arrival or became pregnant while in the Gulag. Occasionally, Gulag authorities released pregnant women and women with young children in special amnesties.

Gulag women living in overcrowded, poorly heated barracks.

Courtesy of the International Memorial Society.

More frequently, mothers had little respite from forced labor to give birth, and Gulag officials took babies from their mothers and placed them in special orphanages. Often these mothers were never able to find their children after leaving the camps.

A drawing by Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia, a former Gulag prisoner.

“The arrival at the corrective labor camp turned out to be the culmination of the humiliation. First we were made to strip naked and were shoved into some roofless enclosures made out of planks. Above our heads the stars twinkled; below our bare feet lay frozen excrement. An enclosure measured 3 square feet. Each held three to four naked, shivering, and frightened men and women. Then these ’kennel cages’ were opened one after the other and the naked people were led across a courtyard‘the camp version of a foyer‘into a special building where our documents were ’formulated’ and our things were ’searched.’

The goal of the search was to leave us with rags, and to take the good things ’sweaters, mittens, socks, scarves, vests, and good shoes ’for themselves. Ten thieves shamelessly fleeced these destitute and barely alive people.

‘Corrective‘ is something that should make you better, and ‘labor‘ ennobles you. But ‘camp‘? A camp wasn‘t a jail. So then what on earth was going on? ”

Courtesy of Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia Foundation, Moscow.

A drawing by Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia, a former Gulag prisoner.

“The night search, the most degrading procedure, was frequently repeated. “Get up! Get undressed! Hands up! Out into the hall! Line up against the wall.” Naked we were especially frightened. “Among the blind, the one-eyed is king,” and next to them I was still a hero—for the time being. Our hair was undone. What were they looking for? What more could they take away from us? There was something, however: they pulled out all the ties that had been holding up the nuns' skirts and our underwear.”

Courtesy of Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia Foundation, Moscow. Translation by Deborah Hoffman.

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Work in the Gulag

GULAG was the acronym for the Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps.

Gulag prisoners could work up to 14 hours per day. Typical Gulag labor was exhausting physical work. Toiling sometimes in the most extreme climates, prisoners might spend their days felling trees with handsaws and axes or digging at frozen ground with primitive pickaxes. Others mined coal or copper by hand, often suffering painful and fatal lung diseases from inhalation of ore dust. Prisoners were barely fed enough to sustain such difficult labor.

Balany (Logs, Inferior to a Horse)

“After eleven and a half hours of labor (not including time needed to assign a task, receive tools and give them back), Professor Kozyrev commented: ‘How far Man is still from perfection. Just to think how many people and what minds are needed to do a job of one horse.’”

“In this case the four incompetent workers were: Epifanov, who was until the Great Purge of 1937 a professor of Marxism-Leninism in the Academy of Mining in Moscow; Colonel Ivanov, a chief of a major Red Army division; Professor Kozyrev, director of research at the Pulkovo Space Observatory in Leningrad; and myself, a secret agent of the Comintern.”

Drawing and memoir excerpt by Jacques Rossi.

Courtesy of Regina Gorzkowski-Rossi.

In the eyes of the authorities, the prisoners had almost no value. Those who died of hunger, cold, and hard labor were replaced by new prisoners because the system could always find more people to replenish the labor camps.

Prisoners work at Belbaltlag, a Gulag camp for building the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal .

From the 1932 documentary film, Baltic to White Sea Water Way. Courtesy of the Central Russian Film and Photo Archive.


Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36.

Built between 1931 and 1933, the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal was the first massive construction project of the Gulag. Over 100,000 prisoners dug a 141-mile canal with few tools other than simple pickaxes, shovels, and makeshift wheelbarrows in just 20 months. Initially viewed as a great success and celebrated in a volume published both in the Soviet Union and the United States, the canal turned out to be too narrow and too shallow to carry most sea vessels. Many prisoners died during construction.

Prisoners work at Belbaltlag, a Gulag camp for building the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal.

From the 1932 documentary film, Baltic to White Sea Water Way. Courtesy of the Central Russian Film and Photo Archive.

With such picks, millions of Gulag prisoners manually unearthed rocks and dug frozen ground during the massive Gulag projects in the 1930s and 1940s.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36.

Kolyma was a name that struck fear into the Gulag prisoner. Reputedly the coldest inhabited place on the planet, prisoners spoke of Kolyma as a place where 12 months were winter and all the rest summer. Kolyma was so remote that it could not be reached by an overland route. Prisoners traveled by train across the length of the Soviet Union only to spend up to several months on the Pacific coast waiting for the few months each year when the waterways were free of ice. Then, they boarded ships for their trip past Japan and up the Kolyma River to their gold-mining destination. Surviving Kolyma was more difficult than any other Gulag locale.

Prisoners mine gold at Kolyma, the most notorious Gulag camp in extreme northeastern Siberia.

From the 1934 documentary film Kolyma. Courtesy of the Central Russian Film and Photo Archive.

This shovel was found in one of the Gulag camps in remote Kolyma. It was one of many tools sent by the United States government to the Soviet Union during World War II. These items often found their way to the Gulag camps.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36.

© 2006–2011, Cente

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Living in the Gulag

During their non-working hours, prisoners typically lived in a camp zone surrounded by a fence or barbed wire, overlooked by armed guards in watch towers. The zone contained a number of overcrowded, stinking, poorly-heated barracks. Life in a camp zone was brutal and violent. Prisoners competed for access to all of life’s necessities, and violence among the prisoners was commonplace. If they survived hunger, disease, the harsh elements, heavy labor, and their fellow prisoners, they might succumb to arbitrary violence at the hands of camp guards. All the while, prisoners were watched by informers—fellow prisoners always looking for some misstep to report to Gulag authorities.

Jacques Rossi, the artist who made the following drawings in the 1960s based on his memories, spent 19 years in the Gulag after he was arrested in the Stalin purges of 1936-37. He later published several writings, including his most important, The Gulag Handbook, in 1987 (published in English in 1989).

Layout of Barracks

Drawing by Jacques Rossi.

Courtesy of Regina Gorzkowski-Rossi. Baraki (Barracks)

“The Gulag was conceived in order to transform human matter into a docile, exhausted, ill-smelling mass of individuals living only for themselves and thinking of nothing else but how to appease the constant torture of hunger, living in the instant, concerned with nothing apart from evading kicks, cold and ill treatment.”

Drawing and memoir excerpt by Jacques Rossi.

Courtesy of Regina Gorzkowski-Rossi. Odinochka (Solitary Confinement Cell)

“A lesson to learn: How to distribute your body on the planks trying to avoid excessive suffering? A position on your back means all your bones are in direct painful contact with wood... To sleep on your belly is equally uncomfortable. Until you sleep on your right side with your left knee pushed against your chest, you counterbalance the weight of your left hip and relieve the right side of your rib cage. You leave your right arm along the body, and put your right... cheekbone against the back of your left hand.”

Drawing and memoir excerpt by Jacques Rossi.

Courtesy of Regina Gorzkowski-Rossi. Soup Ration

Drawing by Jacques Rossi.

Courtesy of Regina Gorzkowski-Rossi. Self-Portrait
“There is nothing you can do to protect yourself against cold.”

Drawing and memoir excerpt by Jacques Rossi.

Courtesy of Regina Gorzkowski-Rossi.

Typical winter overcoat worn by most of the Soviet population in the 1930s through 1950s. The coat is very similar to the type provided to Gulag prisoners.

Camp jacket of maximum security prisoner.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36.

Paika. “Ration.” Prisoners in the Gulag received food according to how much work they did. A full ration barely provided enough food for survival. If a prisoner did not fulfill his daily work quota, he received even less food. If a prisoner consistently failed to fulfill his work quotas, he would slowly starve to death.

Prisoners’ Eating Utensils
  1. Dish from labor camp Stvor, Perm region, 1950s. Before the 1950s, camps did not provide dishes, and prisoners ate food from small pots.

  2. Portion of hand-made spoon from labor camp Bugutychag, Kolyma, 1930s. Spoons were considered a luxury in the 1930s and 1940s, and most prisoners had to eat with their hands and drink soup out of pots.

  3. Pot made out of a tin can from a labor camp in Kolyma, 1930s. Such pots were made in the camp workshops by prisoners who exchanged them for food.

  4. Camp mug from labor camp Bugutychag, Kolyma, 1930s. Originally manufactured as a kerosene measuring cup, this mug is unusually durable. It was probably stolen from the camp workshop by a prisoner to use as his personal mug.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36. Varlam Shalamov

Russian author who was imprisoned in the Gulag for more than 20 years. He wrote the celebrated Kolyma Tales, a series of short stories based on his life in the Gulag.

Courtesy of the International Memorial Society.

"Each time they brought in the soup... it made us all want to cry. We were ready to cry for fear that the soup would be thin. And when a miracle occurred and the soup was thick we couldn’t believe it and ate it as slowly as possible. But even with thick soup in a warm stomach there remained a sucking pain; we’d been hungry for too long. All human emotions—love, friendship, envy, concern for one’s fellow man, compassion, longing for fame, honesty—had left us with the flesh that had melted from our bodies...“

V.T. Shalamov, “Dry Rations,” from Kolyma Tales.

Prisoners’ daily bread ration.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36.   Dokhodiaga (Goner)

Goners were extremely emaciated prisoners on the verge of death from starvation. Their presence constantly reminded prisoners of their potential fate if they failed to fulfill work quotas and thus were deprived of their full food rations.

Drawing by Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia, former Gulag prisoner.

Courtesy of Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia Foundation, Moscow.

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Perm-36 Gulag Camp

The Soviets established Perm 36, called ITK-6 camp, in 1946 as a logging camp in the forested region of the Ural Mountains near the Siberian border. Here, prisoners cut down trees throughout the year and sent the lumber down river during the spring thaw to help rebuild Soviet cities damaged in the war. This camp was typical of thousands throughout the country.

Perm Region Camps, 1948-1953

About 150,000 inmates were imprisoned in more than 150 camps in the Perm region during the late 1940s. This made up about one-third of the total working population of the region.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36. Siberian Hinterland

To the east of the Perm region lies the vast Siberian hinterland.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36. Saw

A typical frame-saw used by the timber camp prisoners.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36. Typical Day at the Camp Daily Schedule of a Gulag Prisoner TimeActivity 6:00 AM Wake up call 6:30 AM Breakfast 7:00 AM Roll-call 7:30 AM 1 1/2 hour to march to forests, under guarded escort 6:00 PM 1 1/2 hour return march to camp 7:30 PM Dinner 8:00 PM After-dinner camp work duties (chop firewood, shovel snow, gardening, road repair, etc.) 11:00 PM Lights out ITK-6 Camp (Perm-36)

ITK-6 Camp (Perm-36) in 1946. The camp had four barracks for 250 prisoners each, a punishment block (for prisoners who disobeyed the harsh camp rules), a hospital, outhouses, and a headquarters building. Drawing by Oleg Petrov.

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36. Prison Plan of Perm-36

Plan of Perm-36 made by Lett Gunar Astra (in Latvian).

Courtesy of the Gulag Museum at Perm-36.

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Gulag Museum

“To promote democratic values and civic consciousness in contemporary Russia through preservation of the last Soviet political camp as a living reminder of repression and as an important historical and cultural monument.”

Mission statement of the Gulag Museum.

A dedicated group of activists has turned the last Soviet-era labor camp for political prisoners into a museum and historic site, as they seek to shape a just Russian present by remembering the legacy of past Soviet injustice.

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Russia, Stalin's Crimes, and Genocide

By Norman M. Naimark Norman M. Naimark is Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor in Eastern European Studies at Stanford University. His latest book is "Stalin's Genocides".

Dmitri Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, has repeatedly pointed to the "massive crime Stalin committed against his own people," and the fact that Russians still offer unacceptable excuses for them.  Still, in anticipation of the sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II on May 9, 2010, the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, announced that posters of Stalin would be plastered around the city as testimony to the Soviet victory in the "Great Patriotic War."  Protests by civil rights group and liberals forced Luzhkov to cancel his plans.  Indeed, all over Russia, in conjunction with the sixty-fifth anniversary, there were arguments and political clashes about what to do with the figure of Stalin.  Was he a hero, as most Russians continue to believe, or a criminal, as President Medvedev has asserted?

The Russians cannot be said to be engaging in the public "memory wars" of the sort that continue to roil the political landscapes of countries like Germany, Poland, and Spain.  In fact, liberal opponents have criticized Medvedev's statements because, they insist, there have been no concrete actions taken by the government to back up the president's anti-Stalin rhetoric.  The government-controlled television and radio stations, as well as the print media, do not allow an open discussion of Stalin's crimes.  At the same time, if Russians wanted unalloyed information about Stalin's crimes, they could get it.  Important scholarly studies are readily available in Russian bookstores.  The one "free" Russian radio station, Ekho Moskvy (Moscow Echo) has broadcast a marvelous and lengthy series of interviews with Russian and Western specialists that openly explore diverse aspects of the history of Stalin and Stalinism in the country.  For more than two decades, the Russian human rights group "Memorial" has engaged in the crucial work of collecting data and publishing materials relating to the history of Stalin's repressions.  Unfortunately, however, the products of their labors have been confined to narrow circles of interested liberals and families of victims.  No attempts have been made in Russia to place perpetrators on trial; school textbooks continue to evade the issue of Stalin's crimes; and the reputation of Stalin as a great Russian leader, if somewhat stained in some quarters, remains on the whole intact.

Certainly very few Russians or even observers in the West would accept the judgment that Stalin's crimes of the 1930s amounted to genocide.  The definition of genocide in the December 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of genocide confined the term to coordinated murderous assaults on national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups.  But this was very much a politicized definition; the Soviets insisted that social and political groups be left out of the convention and the Americans and others agreed as a way to get it passed unanimously.  If one includes social and political groups in the definition, the genocidal crimes of Stalin come into clearer focus.

For example, the Soviet regime openly trumpeted the "elimination of the kulaks [a group of allegedly wealthy peasants] as a class."  Tens of thousands were shot and another two million exiled to "special settlements," where they died in the hundreds of thousands from hunger, exposure, or disease.  Recent research in the former Soviet archives has demonstrated that these settlements rarely had the provisions necessary to sustain the lives of the deportees.  The Soviet leadership understood that they were sending the exiles to their deaths.

Ukrainians claim, no doubt correctly, that the Ukrainian "killer famine" of 1932-1933, should be considered genocide.  The lowest reasonable estimate of the number who died is some 3-5 million.  Other parts of the Soviet Union suffered from famine, as well.  But only in Ukraine were peasants systematically prevented by Stalin's leadership from seeking relief in the cities and from traveling to other parts of the country to find food.  Order no. 00447 of July 1937, about which we knew very little until the last decade of archival research and publishing, authorized the arrests and summary trials of close to 800,000 allegedly "socially harmful people" —"asocials"—the chronically unemployed, prostitutes, vagrants, homeless, and "former people," ex-landlords, noblemen, tsarist government servants, and kulaks.  In a shocking example of the genocidal character of Stalin's leadership, according to quotas set in Moscow and arbitrarily raised by the police in the provinces nearly half were shot and the others exiled to special settlements, where many died in horrible conditions.

Stalin and his lieutenants also attacked nationality groups, which are traditionally considered the primary objects of genocide.  Over 170,000 Koreans were exiled from the Far East region in October 1937; Soviet Poles and Germans were arrested, deported, and executed in large numbers beginning in 1934; the entire Chechen-Ingush and Crimean Tatar nations were forcibly deported from their homelands to Central Asia in 1944, which was the cause of a huge number of deaths, by some estimates up to forty percent of their total populations.  In one of the best-documented cases of mass murder, Stalin and Beria ordered the execution of 22,000 Polish officers and administrative personnel in early 1940, the so-called "Katyn Forest Massacre."  During the "Great Terror" of 1937-38, the major leaders of Bolshevism were tried publicly and executed.  With them tens of thousands of party and state officials, military officers, administrative personnel, and their families, friends, and alleged associates were arrested, sometimes tortured, and executed, incarcerated or exiled.

The total number of people who died "prematurely" during Stalin's reign has been estimated at 15-20 million, meaning Stalin literally decimated the population of his own country of some 170 million.  By thinking more broadly about the category of genocide and looking at Stalin's crimes cumulatively rather than as discrete episodes, there can be little question that the Soviet leader should be held accountable for genocide.  The sooner the Russian population honestly confronts this reality, the sooner the country can heal the wounds of the past and move on to a more hopeful future.  Medvedev is right; there can be no excuses for the crimes Stalin committed against his own people.

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Ukrainian Victim


Stalin imposed a famine on Ukraine that murdered by starvation about 5,000,000 Ukrainians. Here is shown one of the Ukrainian victims. 

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Ukrainians That Stalin Murdered by Starvation



Here is shown a large pile of some of the 5,000,000 Ukrainians that Stalin murdered by starvation.

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Purge Victims

The most prominent elements of Stalin's Purges, for most researchers, were the intensive campaigns waged within key Soviet institutions and sectors like the Communist Party, the Army, the NKVD (secret police), and scientists and engineers. In December 1934, the popular Leningrad party leader, Sergei Kirov, was assassinated, allegedly on Stalin's orders. This provided the spark for the escalating series of purges that Stalin launched almost immediately, under emergency "security" legislation "stat[ing] that in cases involving people accused of terrorist acts, investing authorities were to speed up their work, judicial authorities were not to allow appeals for clemency or other delays in which the sentence was death, and the NKVD was to execute those sentenced to death immediately." (Frank Smitha, "Terror in the Soviet Union".)

Nikolai Bukharin, Purge victim
The "Old Bolshevik" elite was targeted in three key "show trials" between 1936 and 1938, in which leaders such as Lev Kamenev, Nikolai Bukharin, and Grigori Zinoviev were accused of complicity in Kirov's murder and conspiring with Trotskyite and "rightist" elements to undermine communism in the USSR. The evidence presented against the accused was almost nonexistent, convictions relying on confessions extracted through torture and threats against family members. But convictions there were, and most of the Bolshevik "old guard" was sentenced to death or long terms of imprisonment. "Dumfounded, the world watched three plays in a row, three wide-ranging and expensive dramatic productions in which the powerful leaders of the fearless Communist Party, who had turned the entire world upside down and terrified it, now marched forth like doleful, obedient goats and bleated out everything they had been ordered to, vomited all over themselves, cringingly abased themselves and their convictions, and confessed to crimes they could not in any wise have committed." So writes Alexander Solzhenitsyn, adding: "This was uprecedented in remembered history." (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 1, p. 408.)

When the "Old Bolsheviks" had been consigned to oblivion, their successors and replacements quickly followed them into the void: "The new generation of Stalinist careerists, who had adapted themselves completely to the new system, still found themselves arrested. ... They were succeeded by younger but similar characters, who again often fell quickly." (Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, p. 224.) The purging of the army, meanwhile, saw about 35,000 military officers shot or imprisoned. The destruction of the officer corps, and in particular the execution of the brilliant chief-of-staff Marshal Tukhachevsky, is considered one of the major reasons for the spectacular Nazi successes in the early months of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.)

But the impetus to "cleanse" the social body rapidly spilled beyond these elite boundaries, and the greatest impact of the Purge was felt in the wider society -- where millions of ordinary Soviet citizens assisted in "unmasking" their compatriots. Frank Smitha describes this mass hysteria well, writing that


A society that is intense in its struggle for change has a flip side to its idealism: intolerance. People saw enemies everywhere, enemies who wanted to destroy the revolution and diminish the results of their hard work and accomplishments, enemies who wanted to restore capitalism for selfish reasons against the collective interests of the nation. If those at the top of the Communist Party and an old revolutionary like Trotsky could join the enemy, what about lesser people? In factories and offices, mass meetings were held in which people were urged to be vigilant against sabotage. It was up to common folks to make the distinction between incompetence and intentional wrecking [i.e., sabotage], and any mishap might be blamed on wrecking. Denunciations became common. Neighbors denounced neighbors. Denunciations were a good way of striking against people one did not like, including one's parents, a way of eliminating people blocking one's promotion, and ... a means of proving one's patriotism. Many realized that some innocent people were being victimized, and the saying went around that "when you chop wood the chips fly." As with Lenin, it was believed that some who were innocent would have to be victimized if all of the guilty were to be apprehended.


Stalin, allegedly signing a death warrant. 
"Blind chance rules a man's life in this country of ours," said one NKVD officer, who found himself suddenly placed under arrest. For ordinary citizens, "Fear by night, and a feverish effort by day to pretend enthusiasm for a system of lies, was the permanent condition." (Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, p. 434.) Solzhenitsyn adds: "Any adult inhabitant of this country, from a collective farmer up to a member of the Politburo, always knew that it would take only one careless word or gesture and he would fly off irrevocably into the abyss." (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 633.)

Much has been written about the absurdly minor infractions for which individuals were sentenced to ten years in labour camps -- standardly a death sentence. "A tailor laying aside his needle stuck it into a newspaper on the wall so it wouldn't get lost and happened to stick it in the eye of a portrait of Kaganovich [a member of the Soviet Politburo]. A customer observed this. Article 58, ten years (terrorism). A saleswoman accepting merchandise from a forwarder noted it down on a sheet of newspaper. There was no other paper. The number of pieces of soap happened to fall on the forehead of Comrade Stalin. Article 58, ten years." (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 293.)

The gendering of the witch-hunt was cast into particularly sharp relief in those cases where most, sometimes almost all, adult males among a given population were rounded up for mass arrest and probable death. Writes Robert W. Thurston: "According to some reports, entire groups of men were taken in one swoop by the NKVD. 'Almost all the male inhabitants of the little Greek community where I lived [in the lower Ukraine] had been arrested,' recalled one émigré. Another reported that the NKVD took all males between the ages of seventeen and seventy from his village of German-Russians. ... In some stories, the police clearly knew they were arresting innocent people. For example, an order reportedly arrived in Tashkent to 'Send 200 [prisoners]!' The local NKVD was at its wits' end about who else to arrest, having exhausted all the obvious possibilities, until it learned that a band of 'gypsies' (Romany) had just camped in town. Police surrounded them and charged every male from seventeen to sixty with sabotage." In the city of Zherinka, "'Ivan Ivanovich' ... had his wife sew rubles [Soviet currency] into his coat because the NKVD was taking all the men in his town." (Thurston, Life and Terror in Stalin's Russia, 1934-1941 [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996], pp. 79-80, 150.)

Nikolai Yezhov crushes the traitors in
a Soviet propaganda cartoon.

As the above examples suggest, the campaigns were further fuelled by the "denunciation quotas" established under the authority of Nikolai Yezhov, who took over as head of the NKVD in September 1936 and immediately widened the scope of secret-police persecutions. (Soviet citizens often referred to the Great Terror as theYezhovshchina, "the times of Yezhov.") Relatives of those accused and arrested, including wives and children down to the age of twelve, were themselves often condemned under the "counter-terrorism" legislation: "Wives of enemies of the people" was one of four categories of those sentenced to execution or long prison terms. Women accounted for only a small minority of those executed and incarcerated on political grounds (perhaps 2 percent of the former and 5 percent of the latter). Conquest notes that "Women on the whole seem to have survived [incarceration] much better than men," although "in the mixed[-sex] camps, noncriminal [i.e., political-prisoner] women were frequently mass-raped by urkas [male criminals], or had to sell themselves for bread, or to get protection from camp officials.") But wives spared arrest or state-sanctioned murder nonetheless encountered extreme hardship. "For the wives ... life was very bad," writes Conquest. "... All reports agree that the women lost their jobs, their rooms, and their permits, had to sell possessions, and had to live on occasional work or on the few relatives who might help them. Ignorant of their husbands' fate, they faced a worsening future." (The Great Terror: A Reassessment, pp. 235, 264, 315) As Solzhenitsyn puts it:


There in that stinking damp world in which only executioners and the most blatant of betrayers flourished, where those who remained honest became drunkards, since they had no strength of will for anything else ... in which every night the gray-green hand reached out and collared someone in order to pop him into a box -- in that world millions of women wandered about lost and blinded, whose husbands, sons, or fathers had been torn from them and dispatched to the Archipelago. They were the most scared of all. They feared shiny nameplates, office doors, telephone rings, knocks on the door, the postman, the milkwoman, and the plumber. And everyone in whose path they stood drove them from their apartments, from their work, and from the city. ... And these women had children who grew up, and for each one there came a time of extreme need when they absolutely had to have their father back, before it was too late, but he never came. (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 664.)


By 1938, Conquest estimates that about 7 million Purge victims were in the labour/death camps, on top of the hundreds of thousands who had been slaughtered outright. In the worst camps, such as those of the Kolyma gold-mining region in the Arctic, the survival rate was just 2 or 3 percent (see theincarceration/death penalty case study). Alexander Solzhenitsyn calls the prison colonies in the Solovetsky Islands "the Arctic Auschwitz," and cites the edict of their commander, Naftaly Frenkel, which "became the supreme law of the Archipelago: 'We have to squeeze everything out of a prisoner in the first three months -- after that we don't need him anymore.'" (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 49.)

Robert Conquest 
The main evidence for the gendercidal impact of the "Great Terror" lies in the Soviet census of 1959. In a fascinating addendum to the original edition of his work on the Purge period, The Great Terror, Robert Conquest uses the census figures to argue that the Soviet population "was some 20 million lower than Western observers had expected after making allowance for war losses." "But the main point," he notes, "arises from a consideration of the figures for males and females in the different age groups." He then unveils a striking table indicating that whereas age cohorts up to 25-29 displayed the usual 51-to-49 percent split of women to men, from 30-34 the gap widened to 55 to 45 percent. Thereafter, the disparity became massive, reflecting the generations of males caught up in the purges and the Great Patriotic War. From 35-39, women outnumbered men by 61 to 39 percent; from 40-54, the figure was 62 to 38 percent; in the 55-59 age group, 67 to 33 percent; from 60-69, 65 to 35 percent; and 70 or older, 68 to 32 percent. Conquest summarizes the findings as follows:


Many women died as a result of the war and the purges. But in both cases the great bulk of the victims was certainly male. From neither cause should there be much distinction in the figures for the sexes for the under-30 age groups in 1959. Nor is there. For the 30-34 block the[re] ... is a comparatively small difference, presumably indicating the losses of the young Army men in their late teens during the war. In the 35-39 group, which could have been expected to take the major war losses, we find figures of 391 to 609 women. One would have thought that these men, in their early twenties in the war, would have had the highest losses.But the proportion then gets worse still, and for the 40-44, 45-49 and 50-54 [cohorts] remains a set 384 to 616. Even more striking, the worst proportion of all comes for the 55-59 age group (334 to 666: in fact in this group alone there are almost exactly twice as many women as men). The figures for the 60-69 group (349 to 691) and for the 70 and over group (319 to 681) are also much worse than the soldiers' groups. Now all authorities agree that the Purge struck in the main at people "between thirty and fifty-five"; "generally, arrested people are all thirty or over. That's the dangerous age: you can remember things." There were few young or old, most of them being "in the prime of life." Add twenty years for the 1959 position.


Precise deductions are not possible. Older men died as soldiers in the war. But on the other hand, the mass dispatch to labour camps of prisoners of war returned from Nazi hands in 1945 must have led to an extra, and non-military, death rate among the younger males. So must the guerrilla fighting in the Baltic States and the Western Ukraine, which lasted for years after the war; and so must the deportations from the Caucasus and the general renewal of Purge activities in the post-war period. But in any case, the general effect of the figures is clear enough. The wastage of millions of males in the older age groups is too great to be masked, whatever saving assumptions we may make. We here have, frozen into the census figures, a striking indication of the magnitude of the losses inflicted in the Purge. (Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties [New York: The Macmillan Company, 1968], pp. 711-12. Emphasis added.)


A key analytical question is to what extent this gendered slaughter should be considered an actual gendercide -- that is, by our definition, a gender-selectivekilling. As noted in the "Summary" section above, it was imputed political orientation and alleged "wrecking" activities that generally governed the selection of victims, and many innocent women were swept up in the holocaust. But other variables always figure in gendercides, and are especially prominent in the case of men. In Bosnia-Herzegovina or Bangladesh in 1971, for example, it was not all men who were targeted, but those belonging to the targeted ethnic/political grouping. In the opinion of Gendercide Watch, the sheer overwhelming proportion of (innocent) males among the politically-targeted victims indeed qualifies Stalin's Purges as a gendercide.

The "gendering" of the slaughter may be extended further still. In a passage from her provocative study of the witch-hunts in early-modern England,Malevolent Nurture -- it is in fact the concluding passage of the book -- Deborah Willis develops her sophisticated gendering of the hunts with an important digression on "some of the most virulent of the twentieth-century 'witch-hunts,'" in which "violence has been directed against symbolic 'fathers' or other figures of authority." The trend is especially prominent "in countries where newly emergent but precarious ruling elites needed 'others' to blame for the serious economic or other problems they faced." The example she chooses is Stalin's Purges:


... During the 1930s and 1940s in Stalin's Soviet Union, leadership fractured at all levels, not only within Stalin's "inner circle" but also within local and regional party machines (paralleling in some ways the neighborly quarrels and religious controversies that divided early modern communities). As power oscillated between different factions, purges were carried out in the name of Stalin, "Father of the Country," "the Great and Wise Teacher," "the Friend of Mankind," against the antifathers and betraying sons who had perverted the socialist program, the "enemies with party cards." Underlying the psychology of the purges may have been, among other things, the magical beliefs of the Russian peasantry, still lively in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, translated after the Revolution into the language of "scientific socialism." Rather than the female witch, however, it was the male possessed by evil spirits who anticipated the typical target of persecutory violence -- the "evil spirits" of foreign, class-alien, or counterrevolutionary ideas. Demystified, secularized, stripped of his supernatural power, the great demonic adversary no longer needed to seduce a weaker [female] vessel but could walk among the elect as one of their own. (Deborah Willis, Malevolent Nurture: Witch-Hunting and Maternal Power in Early Modern England[Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995], pp. 244-45; see also the discussion of Willis's findings in the European witch-huntcase study.)


Willis's comments are a rare treatment of the gendering of modern "witch-hunts," of which Stalin's Purges stand as the most prominent and destructive example. (Indonesia in 1965-66, East Pakistan/Bangladesh in 1971,Punjab/Kashmirthe Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, and the Balkans wars of the 1990s [see also the Srebrenica and Kosovo case studies] are just a few of the contemporary gendercides that could be added to the list.) Willis's analysis also draws out a number of the key variables (social class, political affiliation) that typically combine with gender to produce gendercidal outcomes.

How many died?

In the original version of his book The Great Terror, Robert Conquest gave the following estimates of those arrested, executed, and incarcerated during the height of the Purge:


Arrests, 1937-1938 - about 7 million
Executed - about 1 million
Died in camps - about 2 million
In prison, late 1938 - about 1 million
In camps, late 1938 - about 8 million


Conquest concluded that "not more than 10 percent of those then in camp survived." Updating his figures in the late 1980s based on recently-released archival sources, he increased the number of "arrests" to 8 million, but reduced the number in camps to "7 million, or even a little less." This would give a total death toll for the main Purge period of just under ten million people. About 98 percent of the dead (Gendercide Watch's calculation) were male.

The estimates are "only approximations," Conquest notes, and "anything like complete accuracy on the casualty figures is probably unattainable." But "it now seems that further examination of the data will not go far from the estimates we now have except, perhaps, to show them to be understated"; and "in any case, the sheer magnitudes of the Stalin holocaust are now beyond doubt." He cites Joseph Berger's remark that the atrocities of Stalin's rule "left the Soviet Union in the condition of 'a country devastated by nuclear warfare.'" (All figures and quotes from Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, pp. 485-88.)

Who was responsible?

One of the enduring debates over this era of Soviet history is whether Stalin's despotism marked a decisive break with previous Bolshevik practice, or whether it was merely a continuation of the brutal and dictatorial system installed under his predecessor, Lenin. Scholarship has increasingly favoured the "continuity" thesis, articulated by Richard Pipes in his book Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime: "Stalin was a true Leninist in that he faithfully followed his patron's political philosophy and practices. Every ingredient of what has come to be known as Stalinism save one -- murdering fellow Communists -- he had learned from Lenin, and that includes the two actions for which he is most severely condemned: collectivization and mass terror. Stalin's megalomania, his vindictiveness, his morbid paranoia, and other odious personal qualities should not obscure the fact that his ideology and modus operandi were Lenin's. A man of meager education, he had no other source of ideas." (See the excerpts from Pipes' book.)

As is always the case with mass atrocities, the Purge provided an opportunity for many career-minded individuals, overwhelmingly men, to move up the ladder and experience a taste of absolute power. "To know what it meant to be a bluecap [interrogator] one had to experience it!" writes Alexander Solzhenitsyn. "Anything you saw was yours! Any apartment you looked at was yours! Any woman was yours! Any enemy was struck from your path! The earth beneath your feet was yours! The heaven above you was yours -- it was, after all, like your cap, sky blue!" (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 1 [New York: Harper & Row, 1973], pp. 151-52.) Solzhenitsyn likens the commanders of the death camps, meanwhile, to feudal lords: "Like the estate owner, the chief of the camp could take any slave to be his lackey, cook, barber, or jester (and he could also assemble a serf theater if he wished); he could take any slave woman as a housekeeper, a concubine, or a servant." (The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 2, p. 150.)

The aftermath

The impetus of the Purge waned at the end of 1938, by which time "the snowball system [of accusations] had reached a stage where half the urban population were down on the NKVD lists," and the proportion of the entire Soviet population arrested had reached one in every twenty. "One can virtually say that every other family in the country on average must have had one of its members in jail," proportions that were "far higher among the educated classes. ... Even from Stalin's point of view, the whole thing had become impossible. ... To have gone on would have been impossible economically, politically, and even physically, in that interrogators, prisons, and camps, already grotesquely overloaded, could not have managed it. And meanwhile, the work of the mass Purge had been done. The country was crushed." Stalin now eased the pressure, dismissing Yezhov from his post (he would subsequently be executed) and declaring that "grave mistakes" had occurred, though on balance the results of the Purge "were beneficial." (Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, pp. 289-290, 440.)

But "terror was ... by no means abandoned as an instrument of political rule; indeed, four of the six executed members of Stalin's Politburo perished between 1939 and 1941." (Gerhard Rempel, "The Purge".) And overall, instead of subsiding, the Great Terror simply changed its choice of targets. After the Germans and Soviets divided up Poland between them in September 1939, nearly half a million Poles (almost exclusively male) and 200,000 Polish prisoners-of-war were sent to camps, where the vast majority died. When the tables turned and the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Stalin pulled back, releasing many surviving prisoners to serve in the armed forces. But those hoping that the end of the Second World War, in which the USSR played the major role in defeating the Nazis and their allies, would mean a liberalization of society were sadly disillusioned. Instead, Stalin allowed his old paranoia to surface anew. Returning Soviet prisoners-of-war were sent to the labour camps as suspected "traitors," and fresh "plots" were discovered that swelled the camps' population to some 12 million people by the time Stalin finally died in March 1953.

The man who emerged as Soviet leader after a brief interregnum following Stalin's death, Nikita Khrushchev, acted swiftly to dismantle much of Stalin's legacy. Most of the camp inmates were released, and after Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" denouncing Stalin at the 20th Party Congress in 1956, many of the prominent victims of the Purge were posthumously rehabilitated. But the Khrushchev "thaw" ended even before his fall from power in 1964, and the subsequent regime of Leonid Brezhnev staged a limited rehabiliation of Stalin himself. The Nobel Prize-winning writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose massive work The Gulag Archipelago (published abroad) did so much to bring the horrors of Stalinism to light, was exiled for his pains in the 1970s. Only with the rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 did Stalin's legacy begin to be seriously investigated and re-examined -- a process that led to a spiralling series of revelations, each more horrific than the last. With the fall of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Soviet scholars like Edvard Radzinsky and Dmitri Volkogonov have published prominent exposés of Stalinist rule, based on newly-opened archives (see "Further Reading"). And the estimates of the death toll arrived at by Robert Conquest and others, long denounced as craven exaggerations, have been shown instead to be, if anything, understated.

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