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Who was Benito Mussolini?

Updated on December 2, 2016

Benito Mussolini was an Italian dictator. Born Dovia, Forli, Italy, July 29, 1883. Died near Dongo, Italy, April 28, 1945.

In his early years, Mussolini worked as a schoolteacher, stonemason, and journalist. In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, he was editor of Avanti, a Socialist newspaper in Milan. In opposition to the paper's policy he endorsed Italy's entry into the war on the side of the Allies. After being dismissed from the staff, he began his own newspaper, Popolo d'ltalia. Soon afterward he was drafted into the army and served until he was wounded in 1917.

Mussolini's Rise to Power

In the early postwar years, Mussolini gained popular support as a militant foe of Communism. He was backed by wealthy industrialists who feared a Bolshevik revolution. He used a band of black-shirted troops to oppose Communists and Socialists and to build the Fascist movement, which he founded in 1919. By 1921 the movement had become the National Fascist Party, with 35 members in the Italian parliament. In October 1922 the famous Fascist march on Rome took place, after which Mussolini became premier on the invitation of Victor Emmanuel. By 1926 all other political parties had been outlawed and Italy had become a totalitarian one-party state with Mussolini as dictator. Between 1926 and 1939, Mussolini gradually created a so-called corporate state, under which capital and labor were organized into 22 corporations for different economic occupations. The corporations became the basis for a new type of parliament, and the economic life of Italy was rigidly controlled.

In 1929 the long struggle between Italy and the papacy that had begun in 1870 was ended by Mussolini's Lateran Treaty. Under the treaty, Pope Pius XI surrendered his claim to Rome in return for a completely independent state to be known as Vatican City.

In international affairs, Mussolini pursued a policy of aggression in Europe and Africa. In 1935 he invaded Ethiopia and quickly conquered it. He supported the forces of General Francisco Franco in the Spanish civil war by sending "volunteers and armaments." In 1936 the Rome-Berlin Axis was formed and was strengthened by a formal alliance in 1939, the year Mussolini annexed Albania.

In spite of his alliance with Hitler it was not until June 1940, when the fall of France appeared imminent and Germany's conquest of Europe seemed assured, that Mussolini went to war against the Allies. Italian divisions fought in Greece, Russia, the Balkans, France, and northern Africa. However, Italian defeats were numerous and Hitler did not fully cooperate.

Death of Mussolini

In July 1943, shortly after the Allied invasion of Sicily, the Fascist grand council revolted, forced Mussolini to resign, and arrested him. However, in September, after German paratroopers rescued him, Mussolini was given command of a German puppet regime, which occupied northern Italy even after the Italian surrender.

When the German occupation of northern Italy collapsed in April 1945, Mussolini attempted to flee to neutral Switzerland with his mistress, Clara Petacci. However, they were captured and shot by countrymen at Dongo, less than 5 miles from the Swiss border.

Their bodies were hanged by the heels in a public square in Milan and buried in a pauper's cemetery.


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    • Hubography profile image

      Hubography 7 years ago

      While I haven't seen the image you refer to Paradise, its giving me chills just thinking about it.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Great hub. I vaugely recall a picture in a very old newpaper back home of Mussolini and his mistress hanging upside down from meathooks. It really gave me the chills. It was an object lesson in the downside of the lust for power.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 7 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      The bigger they are the harder they fall. I remember being on holiday in Italy about thirty years ago. We were brought to see the house where he was born, which is a museum now. Apparently a lot of people still had fond memories of his days in power. People can be very odd.