Benito Mussolini: Italian Fascist, His Racial Laws, and Ultimate Downfall, Part 5: Military Conquest

Introduction and Recap of Parts 1-4

Here we are again, looking at the life, career, success and mistakes of the man know to millions as Il Duce... Benito Mussolini.  Part 1 showed us a fascinating life, a deeply troubled boy from an extremely poor family... lots family drama ans dysfunction, great education.  Part 2 we looked at an angry young man with good career possibilities, that was never satisfied.  He rose from obscurity in the Socialist Party to Creating the Italian Fascist Party within a few short years, and then to national prominence. Parts 3 &4 gave a look at some of the good things he tried to do for the Italian people, and then a dramatic down turn into the evil clutches of Adolph Hitler and the creation of the Racial Laws against Jews.  Now, in Part 4 of this Hub Series, we examine how Mussolini tried to gain more control and power than he was capable of handling, leading to his ultimate downfall in Part 6.

Land Occupied by the Italian Fascist at the begining of WWII

Having Joined with the Nazi regime, Mussolini quickly attempted to conquer Africa
Having Joined with the Nazi regime, Mussolini quickly attempted to conquer Africa

Mussolini Declared War, and declared again, and again, and again….

Mussolini began his crazy conquest of Africa, the Mediterranean , and the Balkans, early in 1935. By this time, Italy already held Libya through the conquests of King Victor Emmanuel III. In 1895 The Italians had made an unsuccessful attempt at colonization through the First Italo-Abyssinian War. Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia) was the only African Nation to actually repel a European colonization attempt. Mussolini saw this as a great slap in the face top the Italian pride and want greatly to return and conquer.

He did this in the Second Second Italo–Abyssinian War , which lasted from October 1935 - May 1936 when Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was ousted and forced into exile, stopping first in Jerusalem. Selassie's choice of Jerusalem as his first destination in exile was highly symbolic. Haile Selassie was believed to be a direct decedent of the Queen of Sheba and a child she bore from a relationship with King Solomon. The Solomonic Dynasty claimed descent from the House of David, the founding family of the Jewish people.

To Mussolini, defeating Selassie was critical from several stand points.

  • The area was a land bridge between Italian controlled Eritrea and Italian Somaliland
  • By controlling Abyssinia, Mussolini could effectively squeeze out and drive the British form British Somaliland
  • Selassie's claim to be a descendant of Solomon, and thereby the House of David, made him in effect a Jewish descendant. Being a Jew and African was a double coup for Mussolini to take down him down.

Seeing the conquest of Abyssinia as a great victory for the Kingdom of Italy, Mussolini proclaimed in speech to the people:

"At last Italy has her empire." And he then added: "The Italian people have created an empire with their blood. They will fertilize it with their work. They will defend it against anyone with their weapons. Will you be worthy of it?"


Emperor Haile Selassie arrives in Jerusalem after being forced into Exile - 1936
Emperor Haile Selassie arrives in Jerusalem after being forced into Exile - 1936

Italian Occupied Ethiopia

The green areas show Italian controlled Ethiopia and Somaliland before Italy declared war on the British.
The green areas show Italian controlled Ethiopia and Somaliland before Italy declared war on the British.

Feeling a sense that under the new Fascist control, the Kingdom of Italy could not be defeated, and under the influence of Hitler, Mussolini declared war on Britain and France in June 1940 and joined the fighting on the Alpine line. Over the next two years, he initiate the East African Campaign, invading British Somaliland, Sudan and Kenya; the Western Desert Campaign invading Libya and Egypt; the Greco-Italian War, invading Albania, Greece, the Dalmatians, The Balkans, and Crete;declared war on the Soviet Union; and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he declared war on the United States.Talk about a megalomaniac thinking highly of his own abilities!

Although he had some success in this war period, Mussolini greatly overstretched his abilities, his financial coffers, and the patience of the Italian people. Mussolini, in attempt to regain support of hi people instituted the Purification of Italy in 1943. The plan was to focus the Italian anger toward the Jews in an even more devastating way than had previously taken place, rid the nation of the Jews, and thereby alleviate some of the economic burden on the counrty.

As we will find in our next Hub, Part 6 of Benito Mussolini: Italian Fascist, His Racial Laws, and Ultimate Downfall; once again Mussolini overestimated himself, and underestimated the people. Thanks for being with me on the exploration of Benito Mussolini and The Italian Fascist Regime. Remember, I love comments and questions! Ciao!


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