Brief Look at Benito Mussolini


Benito Mussolini was born on July 29, 1883 in Predappio. The 
son of a blacksmith he was largely self-educated. He became a 
schoolteacher and a socialist journalist in northern Italy. In 1910 
he married Rachele Guidi who bore his five children. Mussolini was 
jailed in 1911 for his opposition to Italy's war in Libya.
 Soon after his release in 1912 he became editor of the 
socialist newspaper in Milan, "Avanti!". When WWI began in 1914 
Mussolini advocated Italy's entrance into the war on the allied side 
and was expelled from the socialist party. He then started his own 
newspaper in Milan, Il Popolo d'Italia (The People of Italy) which 
later became the origin of the Fascist Movement. In 1916 Mussolini 
enlisted in the military. After his promotion to sergeant he was 
wounded and in 1917 he returned to his paper.
 During the Chaos that Gripped Italy after the war Mussolini's 
influence grew swiftly. Mussolini and other war veterans founded 
Fasci di Combattimento in March of 1919. This Nationalistic 
antisocialist movement attracted much of the lower middle class and 
took its name from the Fasces, an ancient symbol of Roman 
discipline. The Fascist movement grew rapidly in the 1920's, 
spreading through the countryside where it's Black Shirt Militia won 
support of the land owners and attacked peasant leagues of Socialist 
Supporters. To take advantage of the opportunity Fascism shed it's 
initial Republicanism gaining the support of the King and Army. 
 On October 28, 1922 Mussolini led his Fascist March on Rome. 
Mussolini was immediately invited to form the Italian Government by 
King Victor Emmanuel III. Although Mussolini was given extraordinary 
powers to return order to Italy he governed constitutionally until 
1924 after the violence of the 1924 elections resulting in the death 
of Socialist party deputy Giacomo Mattoetti. Mussolini moved to 
suspend constitutional government and establish a totalitarian 
regime. He proceeded in stages to establish a dictatorship by 
forbidding the parliament to initiate legislation, making him 
responsible to the king alone. By 1926 he had passed decrees issuing 
him the force of law, establishing total censorship of the press and 
suppressing all opposition parties. 
 In 1929 Mussolini made one of his greatest diplomatic 
triumphs when he concluded the Lateran Treaty between Italy and the 
Holy See. This settled the 60-year controversy concerning the power 
of the Pope within the Italian State. 
 In 1933 Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany and was 
greeted cautiously by the Italians. Hitler in turn expressed 
friendship for the Italian Fascist government. During Germany's 
annexation of Austria, Italy improved her French relations when she 
rushed 75,000 troops to the Italo-Austrian frontier announcing that 
she would intervene if Germany took overt action. Italy drew closer 
to he WWI allies in 1935 when she protested Germany's violations of 
the Treaty of Versailles. 
 Adopting an aggressive foreign policy Italy defied the League 
of Nations in 1935 by Conquering Ethiopia, which won him acclaim with 
nearly every sector of the populace. Il Duce, as he became known as, 
popularity declined as he sent troops to aid General Francisco Franco 
in the Spanish Civil War. He also Linked Italy with Fascist Germany, 
Enacted Anti-Jewish Laws and Invaded Albania. 
 Because Mussolini was not militarily prepared she did not 
enter WWII until 1940 after the Germans had overrun France. The 
Italians however were driven from Albania and Greece by the Greeks 
following some major British Victories in Egypt, which shook the 
foundation of fascist Italy. Mussolini then had to ask Hitler for 
aid, which left Italy increasingly under German control. In 1941, 
Italy suffered successive military disasters and growing economic 
problems caused by an allied blockade. Anti-Fascist ideals quickly 
began to spread throughout the Italian countryside. The Balkan 
campaign ended successfully as a result of German intervention and 
Italy acquired many new territories. By an arrangement between 
Mussolini and Hitler Italian troops occupied all of Greece. Many 
Italians realized that their gains in the Balkans were an illusion as 
they were controlled almost entirely by German troops. Italian 
foodstuffs began to run low as the Germans increased their demands on 
Mussolini for military assistance. In June 1941 Mussolini declared 
war on the USSR to join the Germans at Hitler's request. When the 
war effort began to have difficulties the Germans became much more 
pressing on his demands of Mussolini. In March Mussolini's effort 
became extremely bleak when the U.S. government seized control of 28 
Italian merchant ships and impounded all Italian assets in the U.S. 
On July 10, 1943 allied forces invaded Sicily six days later 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston 
Churchill sent a joint radio message to Mussolini asking for the 
surrender of the Italian people. After Italy's refusal allied powers 
bombed roman war facilities and factories with over 500 bombers. 
During this raid Mussolini was conferring with Hitler at Verona about 
the next stage of the axis defense. Upon Mussolini's return on July 
25, 1943 he was greeted by King Victor Emmanuel who immediately asked 
for his resignation and put him in military custody. German's 
rescued the now sickly Mussolini and put him in control of northern 
Italy, still under German occupation, as a German puppet. In the 
last few days of the war Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, 
tried to escape to Switzerland. On April 28, 1945 Mussolini and his 
mistress were found by Italian partisans and shot at Giulino di 
Mezzegra near lake Como. In light of Italy's wartime disasters few 
Italians regretted the death of their demonic Duce.


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