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Benito Mussolini: Italian Fascist, His Racial Laws, and Ultimate Downfall Part 6: Removal of Jews

Updated on October 6, 2009

Introduction and Recap of Parts 1-5

Benito Mussolini was, to put it mildly, and interesting character.  He was a small town boy with strong ideals, a brilliant mind, and completely incorrigible!  In parts 1-5 of the this Hub Series we have looked at his early family life, upbringing, and education; his career in journalism; rise through the military, the socialist party and his eventual creation fo the Italian Fascist  Party.  We have examined his greed for power and military conquest, his alliance with evil, and the creation the Racial Laws brought about by the Manifesto of Racial Scientists.  Now we take a closer look at his attempted extermination of the Italian Jews. That's right, ATTEMPTED.  For the Italian people could not be repressed!  Read on for an truly inspirational account of the attempt at the Purification of Italy....

Mussolini with his BlackShirt Squadritri

Purification of Italy

To purify the nation, all Jews in Italy were declared enemy aliens by law on Nov. 14, 1943 . Within two weeks, all Jews residing in Italy were to be arrested and interned until the end of the war. Hundreds of Jews were murdered by German Nazis and their Italian Fascist collaborators. Italian police and military arrested thousands, who were promptly delivered to the Germans and deported to Auschwitz.

The Italian Jewish experience during Fascism in the 1930s and 1940s was unique and complex. More than 8,000 Italian Jews died in the Holocaust, including 6,806 deportees. Almost unbelievably, 85 % of the Jews in Italy survived the Holocaust, because the Italian people, including army officers, diplomats, police and civil servants, bravely opposed their anti-Semitic Fascist government. Defying orders, they helped their Jewish friends and neighbors in hiding.

One such true hero was Giorgio Perlasca. Perlasca was a businessman and Italian fascist during the Spanish Civil War. While on a trip to Hungary was consumed by moral outrage after witnessing the persecution of Jews in Budapest. He used his background knowledge of the Fascist Party to gain entrée to the Spanish Embassy and masqueraded as a Spanish diplomat. Despising the Nazi arrogance, he was exhilarated by the thought of outwitting the Nazis as much as he was to saving the Jews. Perlasca displayed extraordinary courage and cunning in outmaneuvering the Germans, 5,200 Hungarian Jews from deportation to Auschwitz, and even thwarting a last-minute plan to burn down the Budapest ghetto along with its inhabitants. His story is told in a moving film by Alberto Negrin entitled Perlasca, An Italian Hero, staring Luca Zingaretti.

Movie clip fom Perlasca, An Italian Hero

Perlasca's Secret

After the war, Perlasca returned to Italy. He kept his action a secret, never revealing  his actions to anyone, including his family. In 1987, he was found by a group of Hungarian Jews, people that he helped, and relatives.  Giorgio Perlasca died of a heart attack in 1992, having received decorations from the Italian, Hungarian and Spanish governments and is considered by Israel as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.  Perlasca's story is certainly dramatic, but not entirely unique. There were many such heroes that placed the lives of condemned Jews above their own in these horrid times. There were, unfortunately,  far too few of them.

Mussolini’s Italian Fascist Propaganda Machine

A person might ask themselves at this point, how could this regime have ever gained the  acceptance of the people and thereby the power it attained? Simple really, propaganda thrust upon a desperate people who were searching for some one to blame for their despair and some one to save them from it. In walked Benito Mussolini at just the right time. He was without a doubt, a highly charismatic man, well read, well spoken, good looking and charming.

Early on in his adult life, Mussolini was a writer for a number of Socialist newspapers.  His circulation was wide. He wrote often about the need to reunify Italy, to take back the lands that Austria held ( Istria, Fruili, and Trenito).  Held spoke frequently to public groups about the evils of the Imperialistic governments taking from the hard working middle class.  The Kingdom of Italy had pressed heavy taxes on its working class, driving them further into poverty.  Then came the Great Depression, which was felt by not only the United States by, as in our time, the entire world. In the Untied States, the Communist and Socialist Parties enjoyed a rise in membership like never before, and the same thing happened in Italy.  the time was ripe for Mussolini to make his move and he did.

Mussolini’s Fascist Propaganda Machine was a blanket which covered the entire nation of Italy. He began a systematic approach to first convincing people to follow the Fascists, then to obey Fascist edicts unquestionably as early as 1922 in his newspapers and speeches. By the 1940s, all aspects of publication, education, culture, and art were controlled.Children were required to use practice tables in school that contained Fascist propaganda on the covers; youth were encouraged to participate in Fascist Youth organizations, and those who didn't were shunned at schools and the work place; all commercial advertisements were controlled by the Fascist party and had to contain symbolism of the party or government; men we conscripted into military service and indoctrinated with national pride propaganda; all art, music, films were produced and or approved by the Party. The populace was under a constant barrage of messages and images the said basically, "the Jews are evil, big business is evil, only the Fascists can save you".

His campaigned worked well, allowing him to slip almost seamlessly from socialism, to fascism, to complete totalitarianism.  What he did not anticipate that even through it all, the Italian people held a kind of compassionate pride that he could not break.  Their connections to the Catholic Church would not allow most Italians to truly turn against their fellow citizen as completely as he had imagined.

In the next and last segment of this Hub Series,  we watch Mussolini's complete collapse, arrest, prison break, realignment with Hitler, escape from the Germans, re-capture,and death at the hands of the Italian People.  Be warned, it is gruesome and graphic. By in the end he got just what he deserved.  Until then....Ciao!

What do think?

Do you see any similaties in the rise to fame and power od Mussolini to any of our present day politicians?

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