Rodolfo Graziani

Rodolfo Graziani

Graziani, Rodolfo, 1882-1955, Italian soldier and colonial administrator. After serving in World War I and in Libya (1921-33), he was made (1935) governor of Italian Somaliland. For his part in the Italo-Ethiopian War, he was promoted to marshal and served (1936-37) as viceroy of Ethiopia. Graziani was made chief of staff of the Italian army (1939) and became governor of Libya (1940). In World War II, Graziani's army was completely routed (winter 1940-41) by the British in the Libyan campaign, and he resigned his command. Arrested in 1945, Graziani was indicted for high treason for his collaboration with the Germans in N Italy after the Italian armistice with the Allies in 1943. After two trials he was convicted (1950) by a military court and sentenced to 19 years in prison. However, he was released from custody a few months later and became active in the neofascist party.
Rodolfo Graziani, Marchese di Neghelli (August 11, 1882January 11, 1955), was an officer in the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) who led military expeditions in Africa before and during World War II.

Rise to prominence

Rodolfo Graziani was born in Filettino (near the town of Frosinone) in the Province of Frosinone in the Kingdom of Italy. He served in World War I and became the youngest colonel in the Italian Royal Army.

In Libya

In the 1920s, Graziani commanded the Italian forces in Libya. He was responsible for pacifying the Senussi rebels. During this so-called "pacification," he was responsible for the construction of several concentration camps and labor camps, where tens of thousands Libyan prisoners died, if not Killed directly by hanging, like Omar Mukhtar, or bullets, then indirectly by starvation or disease. His deeds earned him the nickname "the Butcher of Libya" between the Arabs, but was called by the Italians the Pacifier of Libya ("Pacificatore della Libia").

From 1926 to 1930, Graziani was the Vice Governor of Italian Cyrenaica in Libya. In 1930, he became Governor of Cyrenaica and held this position until 1934 when it was determined that he was needed elsewhere. In 1935, Graziani was made the Governor of Italian Somaliland.

In Ethiopia

From 1935 to 1936 during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, Graziani was the commander of the southern front. His army invaded Ethiopia from Italian Somaliland. Graziani's effort was secondary to the main invasion launched from Eritrea by General Emilio De Bono and then Marshal Pietro Badoglio. It was Badoglio and not Graziani who entered Addis Ababa in triumph. But it was the ruthless Graziani who said: "The Duce will have Ethiopia, with or without the Ethiopians."

Addis Ababa fell to Badoglio on May 5 1936. Graziani had wanted to reach Harar before Badoglio reached Addis Ababa, but failed to do so. Even so, on May 9, Graziani was awarded for his role as commander of the southern front with a promotion to the rank of Marshal of Italy (Maresciallo d'Italia).

After the war, Graziani was made Viceroy and Governor-General of Ethiopia. Graziani survived an assassination attempt on February 19 1937 and, in response, directed the bloody repression that followed. He became known as "the Butcher of Ethiopia".

From 1939 to 1941, Graziani was a Chief in the Royal Army's General Staff.

In World War II

At the start of World War II, Graziani commanded the Italian Tenth Army stationed in Cyrenaica in Italian Libya. He became the Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa and the Governor General of Libya after the death of Italo Balbo. Balbo was killed in a friendly fire incident on 28 June 1940.

Initially giving Graziani a deadline of 8 August, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered Graziani to invade Egypt. Graziani expressed doubts about the ability of his largely un-mechanized force to defeat the British and put off the invasion for as long as he could. However, faced with demotion, Graziani ultimately followed orders and elements of the Tenth Army invaded Egypt on 9 September. The Italians made modest gains into Egypt and then prepared a series of fortified camps to defend their positions. In 1941, Graziani resigned his commission after the British counterattacked and the Tenth Army was completely defeated by them during Operation Compass.

On 25 March 1941, Graziani was replaced by General Italo Gariboldi.

Graziani was the only one of the Italian marshals to remain loyal to Mussolini after Dino Grandi's Grand Council of Fascism coup. He was appointed Minister of Defence of the Italian Social Republic and oversaw the mixed Italo-German LXXXXVII "Liguria" Army (Armee Ligurien).

At the end of the war, Graziani spent a few days in San Vittore prison in Milan before being transferred to Allied control. He was brought back to Africa in Anglo-American custody, staying there until February 1946. Allied forces then felt the danger of assassination or lynching had passed and returned him to Procida prison in Italy.

In 1950, a military tribunal sentenced Graziani to prison for a term of 19 years as punishment for his collaboration with the Nazis, but he was released after serving only a few months of the sentence. He died in Rome a few years later in 1955.

Military career


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