On This Day: April 28th

Towards the end of World War II in 1945 Benito Mussolini the fascist dictator of Italy was executed along with his mistress Clara Petacci on the 28th of April. He was executed by members of the Italian resistance movement by firing squad. The execution of Mussolini came about after Italy’s presence in World War II became more and more untenable, at least without complete Nazi support and administrative aid.

After defeats in North Africa and bombing in the capital of Rome, Mussolini’s own fascists turned against him and the Grand Council of Fascism was summoned for the first time since the start of the war. At the council a vote of no confidence was held and passed by an 18-9 margin, despite this Mussolini carried on work as normal. That was until he was summoned to meet King Victor Emmanuel III, after meeting the king he was arrested by the ‘Arma dei Carabinieri’ on the king’s orders. Mussolini’s replacement was Pietro Badoglio and although announcing he would continue in alliance with Germany he signed an armistice with the allies in September 1943. This led to a German invasion and Mussolini was freed from his imprisonment before he could be handed over to the allies, after the German invasion the government that replaced Mussolini had to retreat south and Germany took control over large parts of Italy. This was coupled with the allies and Badoglio’s government holding Southern Italy. Mussolini entering World War II had caused the divide of his nation, this would be what led to his execution.

Mussolini lived a year and a half essentially as a German puppet, he spent much of this time writing. In an interview only a few months before his death he said “Seven years ago, I was an interesting person. Now, I am little more than a corpse”. He continued on with:

Yes, madam, I am finished. My star has fallen. I have no fight left in me. 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.

A few months after this interview Mussolini was stopped by communist partisans whilst trying to leave to Switzerland looking for an escape to Spain. The next day Mussolini and his mistress were executed by firing squad, a poor end for a man who could have been so much more for his nation. Had he not entered World War II despite fascism and some of his more extreme methods he would have more than likely been a popular and successful leader of Italy as he was pre war.

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