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Italy between 1922-1945 – The Rule of Mussolini

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Last Updated on April 6, 2021 by Helga

The rule of Mussolini is a topic that’s really sensitive within the Italians. But now, we’re looking at the facts. What happened in Italy between 1922 and 1945? How did Italian Fascism rise and fall? You can learn about how did Mussolini come to power, the rule of Mussolini, Fascist Italy, and how did Mussolini die.

The rule of Mussolini in Italy started in the year 1921. This year, the Italian king’s, Victor Emmanuele III’s parliament amidst growing violence and chaos. The election that year brought a huge win for the Fascists, with Mussolini taking a seat as a deputy in the Italian parliament. Right after this, the party changed its name to Partito Nazionale Fascista (Italian Fascist Party).

1921 fascist groups are going to the voting stations

The rule of Mussolini in Italy between 1922-1943

With the rise of fascism, the fascists were instructed in 1922 to wear uniforms that included black shirts. When they were in squads, they were modeled after the Roman Empire’s army groups. Also, all party members were considered being members of the fascist squad. These squads seized the Italian cities and burned down the Communist and Socialist offices all around the country. The next step was the omnipotence of Mussolini in Italy. Step by step but Mussolini became the Italian fascist dictator.

Mussolini concurring Rome in 1922

How did Mussolini come to power? First, in October 1922, Mussolini threatened to march on Rome and take control over the government applying violent force. The government of King Victor Emmanuele III was acting too slowly, eventually dispatching troops, but it was too late. The Fascists had already seized control of some local governments. While fascism was gaining more power, the king, Victor Emmanuele III refused to pass martial law, so he got to watch as thousands of armed Fascists marched into Rome.

Since there was nothing he could do, he dissolved the government and handed over the power to Mussolini, by asking him to form a new government. This is how Benito Mussolini became the Prime Minister of Italy. With this title, he also took the title of Minister of the Interior and Minister for Foreign Affairs. This was the first step of him gaining total power and becoming a dictator. It obviously didn’t happen overnight, in fact, it took a few years to truly set himself as Il Duce. In 1925 he held a speech in the Italian parliament, where he was already highlighting his right to supreme power. This date, 3rd of January 1925 is marked in history books as the date when Benito Mussolini declared himself the dictator of Italy.

1923 Voluntary fascist militia

Fascists Control and the rule of Mussolini in Italy

The first act of Benito Mussolini as a Prime Minister was to demand special emergency powers that allowed him to rig elections into the Fascists’ favor. Soon after this, the Italian parliament, as well as the nation, learned, that being anti-Fascist became malpractice. This malpractice has been punished by imprisonment without any trial.

With the next coming year, censorship became prioritized. The police rounded up the Socialists and the Italian government restricted their publishing activities. In this same year, a Socialists deputy plotted to assassinate Mussolini, however, due to his friend’s betrail, he failed. He’s been arrested just before the attempt, but this one leads to many more attempts of others too. As we know, they have all failed. However, these attempts were possibly the reason why Benito Mussolini became paranoid, therefore even more brutal.

The communist politician Francesco Misiano is beaten and taken to the pillory
Funerals 6 Fascists were killed before the cease fire

May 30 1924: Matteotti ( see arrow) accuse the fascist govenment at the Italian parlament. He will be killed 10 days later

The Opera Nazional Balilla

In the same year of 1926, the Fascists created a group for youth called the Opera Nazionale Balilla. They were also pressuring the children to join these groups. Other formations of youth groups were illegal, and they suspended also the groups called the Catholic Boy Scouts.

Gathering of Balilla

The reforms of Fascism didn’t stop here. In the year 1926 in Italy, all members of the Communist Party were arrested, and the members of the Socialist Party were expelled. Anyone who couldn’t be prosecuted for a crime was detained for up to five years and they were places in island internment camps. These camps were like a safe prison, so they couldn’t easily escape.

With the Fascist propaganda rising, the cinemas were required to screen the government propaganda in the form of newsreels. The fascists at this time were already owning 66% of the newspapers. Therefore, they were able to control reporting, issue daily editorial guidelines and they were also threatening the editors with arrest, in case of misconduct

The dictatorship of Mussolini before WW2

1923 Fascist patrolling the streets

The alliance between Mussolini and Hitler

In the beginning, Benito Mussolini disapproved of Adolf Hitler’s Germany. However, over time their partnership evolved, and Mussolini kind of embraced the anti-Semitic measures. Following Italy’s invasion in 1935 in Ethiopia, Germany was the second country that recognized Italy’s legitimacy over the African country. Mussolini was willing to incur international condemnation by allowing the use of asphyxiating chemicals to expedite the conquest of Ethiopia. In the following year, in 1936 both Mussolini and Hitler sided with Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. In this, Mussolini provided 50,000 troops to sustain Francisco.

The following year, in 1937 Italy left the League of Nations in solidarity with Germany. Right after this, in 1938 Hitler invaded Austria with Mussolini’s support. The next year, in 1938 Benito Mussolini published an article that aligned Italians with the German concept of the Aryan race. This act was followed by the anti-Jewish law in Italy, where Hitler suggested that Mussolini’s act is apparently too weak. According to some resources, Mussolini originally wasn’t at all against the Jews, however, with the partnership with Hitler, this had to change. History has said, that Il Duce was actually prepared to increase their severity, and he called for the expulsion of foreign Jews from Italy.

When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Britain and France declared war against Germany, but at this time, Mussolini remained neutral. Later on, when Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, Holland and Belgium, Mussolini was convinced that Hitler will win the war. On the 22nd of May, 1939 Italy and Germany signed the Pact of Steel, which officially created the Axis powers. In 1940 Japan joined this pact as well.

When the Germans invaded France, in June 1940 Mussolini announced Italy’s entrance into World War 2. While the Italian army was poor, and not ready for a war, Il Duce still decided to join. With this, on the 10th of June, 1940 Italy declared war on Great Britain and France

The end of the rule of Mussolini in Italy

After three years of fighting in World War II, everyone in Italy knew that they will lose the war. On the 25th of July, 1943 Mussolini was voted out of power by his own Grand Council. He was also arrested at this time, right after a visit with the king, and he was sent to the island of La Maddalena.

Italy was prepared to leave the war, and they accepted the secret peace terms with the Allies. With this act, Hitler ordered German forces into Italy, which resulted in the catastrophe in the Italian towns and cities. As we know, many towns and cities were bombarded by germans, and as they were retiring, they’ve blown up many historical bridges and building all around the country.

As we know, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence wasn’t blown up on Hitler’s order. The story says, that he has once been there, and he loved this bridge very much. Therefore, he specifically ordered the German Army to not touch the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

In the meantime, Mussolini has been rescued by Hitler’s forces and he was transported to German-occupied Northern Italy. He was basically installed as Hitler’s puppet leader, creating the Italian Social Republic in the north and leading to the extermination of thousands of Italian Jews.

When the Allied forces barreled through Italy in June 1945, Mussolini’s attempt to flee with his lover, Claretta Petracci to Spain failed. He was discovered and arrested by partisans searching troop transport trucks.

The death of Benito Mussolini in Lombardy

So, how did Mussolini die? The exact story of Mussolini’s death seems to be blurry. One version is that he was executed by firing squad on the 28th of April, 1945, shot by soldiers firing several bullets. The other version says, that he was shot by a communist partisan called Walter Audisio, in Giulino di Mezzegra (a small town near Como). However, there were more names coming up after the war, so it’s still not certain who did it exactly.

Right after the execution, the bodies of Mussolini and Petracci were taken to Milan, and they were hung upside down on Piazzale Loreto. The body of Mussolini hanging was displayed in Milan for crowds to kick and spit on them. Right after the death of Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, another dictatorship ended too. The next day Hitler committed suicide when the Russians marched in Berlin, and Germany one week later surrendered. As we know, this was the end of the rule of Mussolini in Italy. Also, this was the end of World War 2 and the end of dictatorship in Italy and Germany.

Related https://www.lifeinitaly.com/history/italians-in-world-war-ii/

Written by Helga Dosa