Benito Mussolini: Italian Fascist, His Racial Laws, and Ultimate Downfall Part 7: Arrest and Execution

Introduction and Recap aof Parts 1-6

Without any doubt, Benito Mussolini was a complex and dangerous man. To many he was the modern day savior of the Italian people, to others he reigned terror and evil. The truly odd thing is, he was in many ways, a bit of both.

In the first installments of the Hub Series, I examined the early life, family and education of Mussolini; his career as a socialist turned fascist; his rise to power; alliance with the Nazi regime of Germany and the Spanish Fascist Franco; the carefully executed propaganda machine that supported him; his economic policies; a few of his military exploits; and his enactment of Racial Laws against the Jews. In this final installment, we will look at the ultimate downfall, defeat, and death of the man known as Il Duce.

If you ever thought that the ultimate punishment for crimes against your people was death, you might be surprised at how the Italian people handled Mussolini in the end. Read on and learn just was angry Italian are capable of, but please be warned: this Hub contains some graphic information and images.

Il Duce standing atop a tank

Mussolini’s Fall and Death

On 10 July 1943, a combined force of American and British Commonwealth troops invaded Sicily. Fifteen Days later, on 25 July 1943, the Grand Council of Fascism ousted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in a vote of no confidence. That afternoon, he was summoned to the royal palace by King Victor Emmanuel III, as Mussolini left the palace, he was arrested on the king's orders. A new Italian government, led by General Pietro Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel III, took over in Italy. And quickly began armistice talks with Allied Forces.

Mussolini was moved to a mountain resort in Abruzzo where he was completely isolated. He was rescued from his imprisonment only two months later by a squad of German paratroopers. By this time, Mussolini was in very poor health and wanted to retire. However, he now owed his life to the German leader. The rescue saved Mussolini from being turned over to the Allies, that was agreed upon in the armistice. Hitler had made plans to arrest the king, his son Crown Prince Umberto,General Badoglio, and the rest of the government in order to  restore Mussolini to power in Rome, but the government's escape to Southern Italy ended that plan.

King Victor Emmanuel III

Vittorio Emmanuele III (born 11 November 1869  28 December 1947)was member of the House of Savoy
Vittorio Emmanuele III (born 11 November 1869 28 December 1947)was member of the House of Savoy

A Puppet Leader Under Hilter

Against his wishes, Mussolini was immediately taken to Germany for an audience with Hitler in his hideaway in the eastern region of Prussia. Hitler 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 an obligation to protect his homeland from the Nazis as much as possible, Mussolini agreed to set up a new regime,known as the Italian Socialist Republic. He then declared himself Il Duce of Italian Social Republic, (The Leader).

Mussolini remained was a puppet ruler under the protection of his German liberators where he remained for only 19 months He lived in the Lombardy region near Lake Garda during this period, and remained under heavy German guard. Soon after yielding to the pressures form Hitler and establishing a new government in Republic of Salo, Mussolini began a campaign of revenge upon those that had turned against him at the Fascist Grand Council. He was soon ordering the execution of most of the former Fascist leaders, including his own son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano. 

While in Lake Garda,  Mussolini used much of his time to write his memoirs. Along with his autobiographical writings of 1928, these writings would be combined and published as My Rise and Fall.

Benito Mussolini reviewing adolescent soldiers in Lombardy, 1944
Benito Mussolini reviewing adolescent soldiers in Lombardy, 1944

Mussolini's Capture

In April 1945, Mussolini was intercepted in the Lake Como region attempting to cross the Alps into Switzerland. He was executed along with all of his traveling party, the next day by the National Liberation Committee. Their bodies were taken to Milan and dumped in the dumped on the ground in the old Piazza Loreto. When it was announced who they were, the townspeople shot, kicked, and spat upon the bodies. They were hung upside down on meat hooks from the roof of a gas station then stoned by a growing crowd. Mussolini’s body became subject to additional ridicule and abuse as his skin was flayed and he was drug throughout the streets.

Mussolini was buried in an unmarked grave in the municipal cemetery to the north of the Milan. A year later on Easter Sunday 1946 his body was located and dug up by neo-Fascists admirers. For several months the body was constantly on the move throughout Italy until being found in a small trunk just outside Milan. 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 in a crypt at his birth place.


Summary

To many the man know as Il Duce, the Leader, was a hated totalitarian tyrant.  To others, including many Jews, he was an admired supporter of the common man who ended decades of great economic hardship. He was even loved by many.  And still others have come to think of him as a naïve idealists who was duped by the world greatest evil, Adolph Hitler, and then forced into his submission; enacting laws which were, at the core, against his own belief structure. 

Oddly enough, all of these can be said to be true.  One thing is certain, Benito Mussolini was product of his time and circumstance: a confused, unruly, yet brilliant child from a lower class working family struggling to make ends meet. With one parent fervently professing, hatred, anarchy, and atheism; and the other a follower of the Roman Catholic Church, and St. Frances De Sales, who taught that education, compassion and charity were the keys to social change. Mussolini was undeniably a megalomaniac responsible for great evils and injustices upon his fellow country men.  In the end,  the machine he created engulfed him, not allowing him to end his involvement or even slip away into obscurity.  His country men required him to pay for his crimes with not only death by humiliation.

It has been an exciting experience for me to research and write this Hub Series on Benito Mussolini.  I have found many similarities between not only the times in which he lived and our current times, but also between Mussolini himself and several leaders on the world stage today. I recall that as youngster my father often said to me that people who neglected to look at the the past realistically were doomed to repeat it.  I believe this to be true even more so now than when I socked up every thing Dad said as gospel truth.  I will keep diggin into the past, for our history is our not only our connect to those that came before us, but also our guid to a futrue well lived.

I hope that you hubbers have enjoyed this series.  I welcome comments, questions and request for future hubs! Ciao!

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