His father, an ardent Socialist, was a blacksmith; his mother was a teacher. Mussolini taught briefly and lived (1902-4) in Switzerland to avoid military service. He achieved national prominence for his opposition to the Libyan War (1911-12) and, as leader of the revolutionary left of the Socialist party, became editor of the Socialist daily Avanti (1913). Soon after World War I began, Mussolini abruptly turned nationalist and joined the pro-Allied interventionists. The Socialist party, which opposed all participation in nationalist wars, expelled him. He then founded his own daily, the Popolo d'Italia, which was subsidized by the French to encourage Italy's entry into the war on the side of the Allies. He joined (1915) the army and attained the rank of corporal.
In the troubled postwar period Mussolini organized his followers, mostly war veterans, in the Fasci di combattimento, which advocated aggressive nationalism, violently opposed the Communists and Socialists, and dressed in black shirts like the followers of D'Annunzio. Amid strikes, social unrest, and parliamentary breakdown, Mussolini preached forcible restoration of order and practiced terrorism with armed groups. In 1921 he was elected to parliament and the National Fascist party (see fascism) was officially organized. Backed by nationalists and propertied interests, in Oct., 1922, Mussolini sent the Fascists to march on Rome. King Victor Emmanuel III permitted them to enter the city and called on Mussolini, who had remained in Milan, to form a cabinet.
As the new premier, he gradually transformed the government into a dictatorship. In 1924 the Socialist deputy Matteotti was murdered. Opposition was put down by an efficient secret police and the Fascist party militia, and the press was regimented. Parliamentary government ended in 1928, and the state economy was reorganized along the lines of the Fascist corporative state. Conflict between church and state was ended by the Lateran Treaty (1929).
Mussolini was called Duce [leader] by his followers; his official title was "head of the government," and he held, besides the premiership, as many portfolios as he saw fit. His ambition to restore ancient greatness found expression in grandiloquent slogans and speeches and in the erection of monumental buildings. The encouragement he gave to the already high Italian birth rate, his imperialistic designs, and his incitement of extreme nationalist groups created an explosive situation.
Mussolini was at first cool to Adolf Hitler and opposed his designs on Austria. However, Mussolini's diplomatic isolation after his attack (1935) on Ethiopia led to a rapprochement with Germany. In 1936, Hitler and Mussolini aided Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War; the Rome-Berlin Axis was strengthened by a formal alliance (1939), which Mussolini's son-in-law and foreign minister, Galeazzo Ciano, helped to create.
In 1938, Mussolini allowed Hitler to annex Austria and helped bring about the Munich Pact; in Apr., 1939, he ordered the Italian occupation of Albania. Under German pressure, he inaugurated an anti-Semitic policy in Italy, which found little popular response. The Ethiopian and Spanish wars had diminished the Duce's popularity, and he did not enter World War II until France was falling in June, 1940.
The failure of Italian arms in Greece and Africa and the imminent invasion by the Allies of the Italian mainland at last caused a rebellion within the Fascist party. In July, 1943, the Fascist grand council refused to support his policy—dictated by Hitler—and the king dismissed him and had him placed under arrest. He was freed two months later by a daring German rescue party and became head of the Fascist puppet government set up in N Italy by Hitler.
On the German collapse (Apr., 1945) Mussolini was captured, tried in a summary court-martial, and shot with his mistress, Clara Petacci. Their bodies, brought to Milan, were hanged in a public square and buried in an unmarked grave. Mussolini's body was later removed, and in 1957 it was placed in his family's vault.
Many of Mussolini's political speeches and pamphlets have been translated into English. Mussolini's literary productions include The Cardinal's Mistress (tr. 1928) and John Huss (tr. 1929). My Autobiography (Eng. ed. 1939) is supplemented by The Fall of Mussolini: His Own Story (tr. ed. by M. Ascoli, 1948). See also biographies by L. C. Fermi (1961), R. Collier (1971), M. Gallo (tr. 1973), by his widow, Rachele Mussolini (tr. 1974), and R. J. B. Bosworth (2002); study by A. Cassels (1970).
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Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (July 29, 1883, Predappio, Italy – April 28, 1945, Giulino di Mezzegra, Italy) 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. He became the 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 Emmanuel 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 Mussolini was the leader of the Italian Social Republic.
Mussolini was among the founders of Italian fascism, which included elements of nationalism, corporativism, national syndicalism, expansionism, social progress and anti-communism 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, and public transport. Mussolini also solved the Roman Question by concluding the Lateran Treaty between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See. He is also credited with securing economic success in Italy's colonies and commercial dependencies.
Although he initially favoured siding with France against Germany in the early 1930s, Mussolini became one of the main figures of the Axis powers and, on 10 June 1940, Mussolini led Italy into World War II on the side of Axis. Three years later, Mussolini was deposed at the Grand Council of Fascism, prompted by the Allied invasion. 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 captured and summarily executed near Lake Como by Communist Italian partisans. His body was taken to Milan where it was hung upside down at a petrol station for public viewing and to provide confirmation of his demise.
Mussolini was born in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in the province of Forlì in Emilia-Romagna. Mussolini was born into a working class background; his father Alessandro Mussolini was a blacksmith and a Marxist activist, while his mother Rosa Mussolini (née Maltoni) was a school teacher; unlike her husband, she was a devout Catholic. Owing to his father's political leanings Mussolini was named Benito after Mexican reformist President Benito Juárez; while his middle names Andrea 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 blacksmithing. It was likely here that he was exposed to his father's significant political beliefs. Alessandro was a socialist and a republican, but also held some nationalistic views, especially in regards to some of the Italians who were living under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which were not consistent with the internationalist socialism of the time. 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. However, as a compromise with his mother, Mussolini was sent to a boarding school run by Salesian monks. Mussolini was rebellious and was 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. After joining a new school, Mussolini achieved good grades, and qualified as an elementary schoolmaster in 1901.
In 1902, Mussolini emigrated to Switzerland to work on his political horizons. During a period when he was unable to find a permanent job there, he was arrested for vagrancy and jailed for one night. Later, after becoming involved in the socialist movement, he was deported to Italy and volunteered for military service. Mussolini found a job in February 1908 in the city of Trento, which was ethnically Italian but then under the control of Austria-Hungary. He did office work for the local socialist party and edited its newspaper L'Avvenire del Lavoratore ("The Future of the Worker"). It did not take him long to make contact with irredentist politician and journalist Cesare Battisti, and to agree to write for and edit his newspaper Il Popolo ("The People") in addition to the work he did for the party.
In 1915, he had a son with Ida Dalser, a woman born in Sopramonte, a village near Trento. By the time Mussolini's novel was printed in Il Popolo, Mussolini was already back in Italy. His growing defiance of Royal authority and anti-clericalism got him in trouble with the authorities until he was finally deported at the end of September. He was prompted to return to Italy once again when his mother became ill. He became a journalist for the socialist newspaper, Avanti! (Forward!). After initially writing on numerous occasions against the war in the socialist paper Avanti, Mussolini relented and he and his class were called up in August of 1915 for active duty.
Although his military record was unremarkable, it was without blemish and it has been suggested that he may have been prevented from moving further along in the ranks due to his ongoing political agitation in various periodicals. 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.
An important factor in fascism gaining support in its earliest stages was the fact that it opposed 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. This side of fascism endeared itself to the aristocracy and the bourgeois, as it promised to protect their existence; after the Russian Revolution, they had greatly feared the prospect of a bloody class war coming to Italy by the hand of the communists and the socialists. Mussolini did not ignore the plight of the working class, however, and he gained their support with stances such as those in The Manifesto of the Fascist Struggle, published in June 1919. In the manifesto he demanded, amongst other things, creation of a minimum wage, showing the same confidence in labor unions as was given to industry executives or public servants, voting rights for women, and the systemisation of public transport such as railways.
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, due 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 the National Fascist Party at a congress in Rome. Also in 1921, Mussolini was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time.
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 October 27 and October 29. On October 28, 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.
As Prime Minister, the first years of Mussolini's rule were characterized by a right-wing coalition government composed of Fascists, nationalists, liberals and even two Catholic ministers from the Popular Party. The Fascists made up a small minority in his original governments. Mussolini's domestic goal, however, 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).
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 caught fire. 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. The militant members of the party were angry that only a few dozen had been killed and a bloodbath ensued, causing thousands of casualties.
On December 31, 1924, 31 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 January 3, 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 also 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. This is considered the onset of Mussolini's dictatorship. From late 1925 until the mid-1930s, fascism experienced little and isolated opposition, although that which it did was memorable.
While failing to outline a coherent program, Fascism evolved into a new political and economic system that combined totalitarianism, nationalism, anti-communism, anti-capitalism and anti-liberalism into a state designed to bind all classes together under a corporatist system (the "Third Way"). This was a new system in which the state seized control of the organisation of vital industries. Under the banners of nationalism and state power, Fascism seemed to synthesize the glorious Roman past with a futuristic utopia.
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 April 7, 1926 by Violet Gibson, an Irish woman and sister of Baron Ashbourne. On October 31 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 American anarchist Michael Schirru, which ended with Schirru's capture and execution. Members of TIGR, a Slovene anti-fascist group, plotted to kill Mussolini in Kobarid in 1938, but their attempt was unsuccessful.
Over the next two years, 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 podestas appointed 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. The Grand Council also had the power to recommend Mussolini's removal from office, and was thus theoretically the only check on his power. However, only Mussolini could summon the Grand Council and determine its agenda.
Mussolini launched several public construction programs and government initiatives throughout Italy to combat economic setbacks or unemployment levels. His earliest, and one of the best known, was Italy's equivalent of the Green Revolution, known as the "Battle for Grain", in which 5,000 new farms were established and five new agricultural towns on land reclaimed by draining the Pontine Marshes. In Sardinia, a model agricultural town was founded and named Mussolinia, but has long since been renamed Arborea. This town was the first of what Mussolini hoped would have been thousands of new agricultural settlements across the country. This plan diverted valuable resources to grain production, away from other less economically viable crops. The huge tariffs associated with the project promoted widespread inefficiencies, and the government subsidies given to farmers pushed the country further into debt. Mussolini also initiated the "Battle for Land", a policy based on land reclamation outlined in 1928. The initiative had a mixed success; while projects such as the draining of the Pontine Marsh in 1935 for agriculture were good for propaganda purposes, provided work for the unemployed and allowed for great land owners to control subsidies, other areas in the Battle for Land were not very successful. This program was inconsistent with the Battle for Grain (small plots of land were inappropriately allocated for large-scale wheat production), and the Pontine Marsh was lost during World War II. Fewer than 10,000 peasants resettled on the redistributed land, and peasant poverty remained high. The Battle for Land initiative was abandoned in 1940.
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". Even Rachele 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.
As dictator of Italy, Mussolini's foremost priority was the subjugation of the minds of the Italian people and the use of propaganda to do so; whether at home or abroad, and here his training as a journalist was invaluable. Press, radio, education, films—all were carefully supervised to create the illusion that fascism was the doctrine 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 also included a legal provision whereby the Italian government would protect the honor and dignity of the Pope by prosecuting offenders. In 1927, Mussolini was baptised by a Roman Catholic priest in order to take away certain Catholic opposition, who were still very critical of a regime which had taken away papal property and virtually blackmailed the Vatican. However, Mussolini was never known to be a practicing Catholic, and was privately very hostile to the church. Since 1927, and more even after 1929, Mussolini, with his anti-Communist doctrines, convinced many Catholics to actively support him. In the encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno, Pope 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 SS Rex Blue Riband ocean liner and aeronautical achievements such as the world's fastest seaplane the Macchi M.C.72 and the transatlantic flying boat cruise of Italo Balbo, who was greeted with much fanfare in the United States when he landed in Chicago.
In an effort to realise an Italian Empire or the New Roman Empire as supporters called it, 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 were soon declared victors. Emperor Haile Selassie was forced to flee the country, with Italy entering the capital Addis Ababa to proclaim an Empire by May 1936, making Ethiopia part of Italian East Africa.
Despite the fact that all of the major European powers of the time had also colonised parts of Africa, detractors of Mussolini commonly choose to single out Italy's actions. Retroactively, Italy was criticised for its use of mustard gas and phosgene against its enemies and also for its zero tolerance approach to enemy guerrillas, allegedly authorised by Mussolini.
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 the International 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 wasn't until the East African Campaign's conclusion in 1941 that Italy lost its East African territories, after taking on a fourteen nation allied force.
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. [...] National pride has no need of the delirium of race.|20px|20px|Benito Mussolini, 1933.
Incidentally, the British would question even the Germans' claims of "racial purity" by commonly deriding the Nazis as "Huns", a reference to the fact that Germany was once conquered and made part of the Hunnic Empire, a mongoloid people. Regardless of some differences in ideology, Hitler's Nazi Germany had clearly established itself as a formidable power that was rising quickly in prominence by the mid-1930s and in November 1936, Mussolini had coined the term Axis Powers to refer to the Rome-Berlin relationship between the states. 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 was 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"). However 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.
Mussolini had imperial designs on Tunisia which 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, however 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 more traditional Italian allies of Britain and 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 the West would back down as in Czechoslovakia and suggested that Italy should invade Yugoslavia. 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 September 1, 1939 with the German invasion of Poland eliciting the response of the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany, Italy remained non-belligerent in the conflict.
So long as the Duce lives, one can rest assured that Italy will seize every opportunity to achieve its imperialistic aims.|20px|20px|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 June 10, 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 south-eastern counties. Meanwhile in Africa, Mussolini's Italian East Africa forces attacked the British in their Sudan, Kenya 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 August 3, 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 Barrani waiting for logistic supplies to catch up. During October 25, 1940, Mussolini sent the Italian Air Corps to Belgium, where the airforce 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, Operation Compass had forced the Italians back into Libya, with some additional losses. Also in the East African Campaign, a three pronged Allied invasion against Italian East Africa took place, though the Italians fought back hard, the multiple-nation force they faced was too much and after the Battle of Keren defense started to crumble. However, 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. Germany finally supported Italy with the Afrika Korps, with fighting continuing on long into 1941 when Gondar was lost in November. Italy was part of the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia, which was greatly successful, the same month the Battle of Greece ended in Italian victory with Axis support. 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.
Earlier, 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. He feared that with the losses in Tunisia and North Africa, the next step for Dwight Eisenhower's armies would be to come across the Mediterranean and attack the peninsula. Within a few days of the Allied landings on Sicily, 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 July 19. By this time, Mussolini was so shaken 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 Grandi and Mussolini's son-in-law Ciano. With several of his colleagues close to revolt, il Duce was forced to summon the Grand Council of Fascism on July 24. 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—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 didn't 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 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 before being sent to Campo Imperatore, a mountain resort in Abruzzo where he was completely isolated. Due to 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 Badolglio 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 September 3, 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. After a period of anarchy, Italy finally declared war on Nazi Germany on October 13 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.
Meanwhile, only two months after Mussolini had been dismissed and arrested, he was rescued from prison in the Gran Sasso raid by a special Fallschirmjäger unit on September 12, 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.
By this time, Mussolini was in very poor health and wanted to retire. However, he was immediately taken to Germany for an audience with Hitler in his East Prussia hideaway. There, 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 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.
Mussolini lived in Gargnano on Lake Garda in Lombardy during this period, but he was little more than a puppet ruler under the protection of his German liberators. 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.|20px|20px|Benito Mussolini, interviewed in 1945 by Madeleine Mollier.
Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were stopped by communist partisans and identified by the Political Commissar of the partisans' 52nd Garibaldi Brigade, Urbano Lazzaro, on April 27, 1945, near the village of Dongo (Lake Como), as they headed for Switzerland to board a plane to escape to Spain. 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 his mistress 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 "Colonel Valerio" (Colonnello Valerio). Valerio's 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 down but he didn't die; he 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 were also lined up before a firing squad later the same night. It has also been suggested Mussolini was killed by communist Partisan commander Luigi Longo in accordance with the English high-ranked officials in Italy, who did not want Mussolini to survive because he could uncover the secret relationship he had entertained with Great Britain. Furthermore, it is possible that Italian Partisans did not want to trial Mussolini because they feared he could eventually be used by USA administration to fight the Communist influence in Italy.
After he himself was captured and sentenced to death, Fascist loyalist Achille Starace was 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."
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.
Leccisi, now 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.
Mussolini's National Fascist Party was banned in the postwar Constitution of Italy, but a number of successor neo-fascist parties emerged to carry on its legacy. Alessandra Mussolini runs one of the primary neo-fascist parties in modern Italy, Azione Sociale. Historically, the strongest neo-fascist party was MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano), which was declared dissolved in 1995 and replaced by the National Alliance, which distanced itself from Fascism (its leader Gianfranco Fini once declared that Fascism was "an absolute evil"). These parties were united under Silvio Berlusconi's House of Freedoms coalition and the leader of the National Alliance, Gianfranco Fini, was one of Berlusconi's most trusted advisors. In 2006, the House of Freedoms coalition was narrowly defeated by Romano Prodi's coalition, L'Unione.
Also in The Time Tunnel , in the episode called "The Ghost of Nero": When the protagonists Doug and Tony were rescued by some Italian soldiers during the First World War, the "ghost" of Nero inhabits a soldier, which is revealed to be Mussolini.
Mussolini has been referenced less seriously in television episodes of The Simpsons, The X Files and The Young Ones, as well as in the song 'Cult of Personality' by the rock band Living Colour. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's novel Inferno, a 1976 modern take on Dante's Inferno, has the protagonist being guided by an analog of Virgil who is ultimately revealed to be Mussolini. In the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond", Ray described life growing up with his father as "growing up with Benito Mussolini." In the American version of "The Office", Jim gives Dwight points for his speech based off a speech made by Mussolini.