What's Mussolini's first known statement about Hitler?

What's Mussolini's first known statement about Hitler?

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Hitler became internationally known after the beer hall putsch in 1923. When did he first come to Mussolini's attention, and what did he say?


Mussolini's earliest known statements referred to Hitler's 'confused' NSDAP program (in 1922). Shortly after, he said Hitler was an 'extreme rightist'.

Mussolini's first known statement after actually meeting Hitler for the first time in 1934 was that the German dictator was a 'mad little clown'. Just before the meeting, he had called him a 'silly little monkey'.


Mussolini first became aware of Hitler sometime during or before September 1922 (so before the Beer Hall Putsch) when he met with an aide (Kurt Ludecke) of Hitler in Milan. He was read the 25 points of Hitler's program as presented to the NSDAP in February 1920.

Mussolini was

puzzled by the details of this confused program… and requested more information regarding this Herr Heidler, Hidler, or Hitler. The man's last name was unclear to him. Ludecke then gave Mussolini an enthusiastic summary of Hitler's life.

Source: Santi Corvaja, 'Hitler & Mussolini: The Secret Meetings' (2001)

Mussolini had several other questions for Ludecke, including why such a noted figure as General Erich Ludendorff was associating himself with what Mussolini later (November 1922) called "extreme rightist elements."

When he later received a report in response to his request (in November 1922) for more details on the political situation in Bavaria,

Mussolini found the details of this report alarming

Source: Corvaja

In particular, it seems that Mussolini was unhappy about Hitler's plans for Austria, and he had no sympathy with Hitler's anti-semitism, although Mussolini later complained to his mistress Claretta Petacci (in 1938, with reference to being considered Hitler's junior partner),

"I've been racist since 1921,"

A year later, in the wake of the failed Munich Beer Hall putsch in November 1923, Mussolini reportedly referred to Hitler and his associates as 'buffoons.' (in 'Mussolini' by R.J.B.Bosworth, 2011)

Hitler's attempt at contacting Mussolini in 1927, when he requested Mussolini's autograph, was rebuffed. The response from Il Duce's office was

The Duce regrets being unable to fulfill his [Hitler's] request but thanks him for the expression of support

Source: Corvaja

At some point, probably before they first met, Mussolini read Mein Kampf, which he described as "boring". He also described Hitler's ideas as "coarse" and "simplistic".

Several planned meetings with Hitler in the early 1930s were stopped by Mussolini himself (though he had approved limited financial support since the late 1920s) so they did not meet until the 14th of June 1934. This didn't go well and Mussolini was bored by Hitler's long monologues. Even before the meeting, Mussolini

referred to Hitler as that "silly little monkey"

Source: Italy's foreign policy

What was his impression? Mussolini was asked afterwards. "A mad little clown," he said.

Source: When Benito Mussolini Met Adolf Hitler

All emphasis is mine.

71 Famous Benito Mussolini Quotes That Give A Glimpse Of His Mind

It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power

Silence is the only answer you should give to the fools. Where ignorance speaks, intelligence should not give advices.

It's good to trust others but, not to do so is much better.

We become strong, I feel, when we have no friends upon whom to lean, or to look to for moral guidance.

Socialism is a fraud, a comedy, a phantom, a blackmail.

All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

The League is very well when sparrows shout, but no good at all when eagles fall out.

War is to man what maternity is to a woman. From a philosophical and doctrinal viewpoint, I do not believe in perpetual peace.

Fascism is a religion. The twentieth century will be known in history as the century of Fascism.

We become strongest, I feel, when we have no friends upon whom to lean, or to look for moral gudance

The keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative.

It is humiliating to remain with our hands folded while others write history. It matters little who wins. To make a people great it is necessary to send them to battle even if you have to kick them in the pants. That is what I shall do.

The fate of nations is intimately bound up with their powers of reproduction. All nations and all empires first felt decadence gnawing at them when their birth rate fell off.

Better to live a day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep

If I advance follow me. If I retreat kill me. If I die avenge me! It is better to live one day as a lion than one-hundred years as a sheep!

Race? It is a feeling, not a reality. Ninety-five per cent, at least. 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.

The function of a citizen and a soldier are inseparable.

The best blood will at some time get into a fool or a mosquito.

The mass, whether it be a crowd or an army, is vile.

Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity, quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace.

War alone brings up to their highest tension all human energies and imposes the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to make it.

The Liberal State is a mask behind which there is no face it is a scaffolding behind which there is no building.

A nation of spaghetti eaters cannot restore Roman civilization!

I have been a racist since 1921. I don't know how they can think I'm imitating Hitler,

The press of Italy is free, freer than the press of any other country, so long as it supports the regime.

Fascism is not an article for export.

Fascism is a religious concept.

Democracy is talking itself to death. The people do not know what they want they do not know what is the best for them. There is too much foolishness, too much lost motion. I have stopped the talk and the nonsense. I am a man of action. Democracy is beautiful in theory in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day.

If only we can give them faith that mountains can be moved, they will accept the illusion that mountains are moveable, and thus an illusion may become reality.

Democratic regimes may be defined as those in which, every now and then, the people are given the illusion of being sovereign, while the true sovereignty in actual fact resides in other forces which are sometimes irresponsible and secret.

Italian journalism is free because it serves one cause and one purpose. mine!

The state reserves the right to be the sole interpreter of the needs of society.

Religion is man-made to assist in controlling the weak minded individuals because during times of atrocity and despair they feel strength in numbers.

There is no revolution that can change the nature of man

We deny your internationalism, because it is a luxury which only the upper classes can afford.

Every anarchist is a baffled dictator.

The struggle between the two worlds [Fascism and Democracy] can permit no compromises. It's either Us or Them!

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

Democracy is a kingless regime infested by many kings who are sometimes more exclusive, tyrannical and destructive than one, even if he be a tyrant.

Let us have a dagger between our teeth,a bomb in our hand,and an infinite scorn in our hearts.

There is the great, silent, continuous struggle: the struggle between the State and the Individual between the State which demands and the individual who attempts to evade such demands. Because the individual, left to himself, unless he be a saint or hero, always refuses to pay taxes, obey laws, or go to war.

The history of saints is mainly the history of insane people." -Benito Mussolini (Chuck Palahniuk - Pygmy)

History how did hitler and mussolini gain and maintain power?

Hitler and Mussolini both came in to power in the early days when their countries, Germany and Italy were facing problems after the Great War. Even then, both Hitler and Mussolini successfully gain and maintain power and control the country.

In order to gain full control of the country they had to remove or eliminate their political rivals. Hitler used excuses to blame and imprison his political rivals. One good example would be when he used the Reichstag fire as an excuse to imprison many communist leaders, which stopped them from campaigning during the election so that he could win more seats and power. He also used fear and terror by creating a group known as S.S or Black Shirts. The Black Shirts originated as Hitler’s secret service which were against political opponents and soon enough expanded to the S.S who were able to arrest or seize anyone at will without any reason.

Mussolini also used a similar tactic. He had fascist thugs and would give out order to use violence against people who opposed him. The fascist thugs would beat up or kill communist and his oppositions but killing wasn’t something Mussolini often approves. The thugs would threaten the oppositions to support their Fascist movement or they would be living in fear of being killed or beaten up. Therefore, people who were terrified would give up and support them to avoid getting themselves or their family members in danger.

Hitler also knew that if he wanted to succeed, he had to gain support from the citizens. He took advantage of the German’s anger and desperation. He was also a powerful speaker so it was easy for him to convince people because he made it sound perfect. The Germans were still angry with the Treaty of Versailles and Hitler promised them that he would overturn it. This made the Germans support him because he said he would overturn the Treaty of Versailles and get back their loss. He also promised a better living.

Dictators rule more than 70 countries in the world. This form of government is characterized by absolute power, held by one person. To find out just what a dictator is, how dictators come to power, and how dictatorships end, explore the pages of this article. Begin your lesson with an introduction to dictatorships, which discusses the role of current and recent dictators. Other topics explain the history of dictatorships, characteristics of dictatorships, and the difficulties of ending a dictatorial form of government.
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Learn about the lengthy history of dictatorships, and how this ruling method took on a rather sinister meaning throughout the twentieth century. An introductory discussion explains the origins of dictatorships, where one person holds absolute power over a country. After reading about the ancient origins of dictatorships, continue reading to discover the rise of noted dictators during World War II, ranging from Hitler to Mao Zedong. Following this short history lesson, scroll down to learn the key concepts of totalitarianism, a concept separate from, but closely identified with, dictatorship.
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Historical events involving Adolf Hitler led up to the beginning of World War II and this text explains Hitler's role in anti-Semitic practices that became an integral part of his political program. Hitler's political career is traced back to 1919 when he joined a party that is now known as the Nazis. The text takes you through to the days of Hitler's dictatorship and describes how he transformed Germany and the government as a whole.
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Adolf Hitler led Germany into World War II and is responsible for ordering the murders of millions of men, women and children. Many wonder how this man was able to secure such power and trust with the German people. This site seeks to try to provide some answers and describes Hitler's power of persuasion. You will begin to understand how the economic failure occurring in Germany, combined with the frustration of the people, opened the door for the ideas spread by Hitler.
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Although Hitler is closely associated with the second World War, his rise to power began during the 1920s. Explore the ideologies that fueled dictatorships throughout the period between World War I and World War II. Overviews of Fascism and Communism comprise the first two pages of this article. Additional pages trace the career of Adolf Hitler, and the lives of European citizens under his rule. Within these four pages, find interesting illustrations, ranging from political cartoons to intimate photographs.
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Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in 1889. Hitler dropped out of school at the age of 16 to pursue his painting career. He enlisted in the German army during WWI. He became the leader of the National Socialist German Workers&rsquo Party in 1921. In 1923 Hitler wrote his very successful book Mein Kampf while in prison for leading an uprising. By 1933 Hitler had become the Chancellor of Germany. In September 1939, Hitler invaded Poland and began WWII. He committed suicide in April 1945.
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As a child, Hitler dreamed of being an artist, but others weren't impressed with his artistic talents. As a teen on his own, he became obsessed with hating the Jewish people. Destroying the Jewish people gave him a sense of victory, even though he lost the war. He dreamed of a glorious Germany to replace the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Hitler survived for four years as a runner in World War I, a job that often had a life expectancy of days. He survived at least eighteen assassination attempts. The fear of communism, economic havoc, and civil war catapulted Hitler to power.
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How Did Hitler Rise to Power? - Alex Gendler and Anthony Hazard

Early life

After his father’s retirement from the state customs service, Adolf Hitler spent most of his childhood in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. It remained his favourite city throughout his life, and he expressed his wish to be buried there. Alois Hitler died in 1903 but left an adequate pension and savings to support his wife and children. Although Hitler feared and disliked his father, he was a devoted son to his mother, who died after much suffering in 1907. With a mixed record as a student, Hitler never advanced beyond a secondary education. After leaving school, he visited Vienna, then returned to Linz, where he dreamed of becoming an artist. Later, he used the small allowance he continued to draw to maintain himself in Vienna. He wished to study art, for which he had some faculties, but he twice failed to secure entry to the Academy of Fine Arts. For some years he lived a lonely and isolated life, earning a precarious livelihood by painting postcards and advertisements and drifting from one municipal hostel to another. Hitler already showed traits that characterized his later life: loneliness and secretiveness, a bohemian mode of everyday existence, and hatred of cosmopolitanism and of the multinational character of Vienna.

In 1913 Hitler moved to Munich. Screened for Austrian military service in February 1914, he was classified as unfit because of inadequate physical vigour but when World War I broke out, he petitioned Bavarian King Louis III to be allowed to serve, and one day after submitting that request, he was notified that he would be permitted to join the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. After some eight weeks of training, Hitler was deployed in October 1914 to Belgium, where he participated in the First Battle of Ypres. He served throughout the war, was wounded in October 1916, and was gassed two years later near Ypres. He was hospitalized when the conflict ended. During the war, he was continuously in the front line as a headquarters runner his bravery in action was rewarded with the Iron Cross, Second Class, in December 1914, and the Iron Cross, First Class (a rare decoration for a corporal), in August 1918. He greeted the war with enthusiasm, as a great relief from the frustration and aimlessness of civilian life. He found discipline and comradeship satisfying and was confirmed in his belief in the heroic virtues of war.

What's Mussolini's first known statement about Hitler? - History

Where did Mussolini grow up?

Benito Mussolini was born in Predappio, Italy on July 29, 1883. Growing up, young Benito sometimes worked with his father at his blacksmith shop. His father was involved in politics and his political opinions had a strong influence on Benito as he grew up. Benito also played with his two younger brothers and went to school. His mother was a schoolteacher and a very religious woman.

After graduating from school in 1901, Mussolini became involved in politics. He worked for the socialist party as well as for political newspapers. A few times he was put in jail for protesting the government or advocating strikes.

When Italy entered World War I, Mussolini was originally against the war. However, he later changed his mind. He thought that the war would be good for the people of Italy. This idea was different from the socialist party who were against the war. He parted ways with the socialist party and joined the war where he fought until he was wounded in 1917.

In 1919, Mussolini started his own political party called the Fascist Party. He hoped to bring Italy back to the days of the Roman Empire when it ruled much of Europe. The members of the party wore black clothes and became known as the "Black Shirts." They were often violent and didn't hesitate to attack those who had different views or opposed their party.

Fascism is a type of political ideology, like socialism or communism. Fascism is often defined as being a type of "authoritarian nationalism." This means that the government has all the power. The people living in the country should be devoted to supporting their government and country without question. Fascist governments are usually ruled by a single strong leader or dictator.

The Fascist Party became popular with the people of Italy and Mussolini began to grow in power. In 1922, Mussolini and 30,000 Black Shirts marched to Rome and took control of the government. By 1925, Mussolini had total control of the government and was established as dictator. He became known as "Il Duce", which means "the leader."

Once in control of the government, Mussolini looked to build up Italy's military strength. In 1936, Italy invaded and occupied Ethiopia. Mussolini thought that this was only the beginning. He felt that Italy would soon rule much of Europe. He also allied himself with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in an alliance called the "Pact of Steel."

In 1940, Italy entered World War II as an ally of Germany and declared war on the Allies. However, Italy was not prepared for such a large war. Early victories became defeats as the Italian army became spread out across a number of fronts. Soon the Italian people wanted out of the war.

In 1943, Mussolini was removed from power and put in prison. However, German soldiers were able to break him free and Hitler put Mussolini in charge of Northern Italy, which was controlled by Germany at the time. By 1945, the Allies had taken over all of Italy and Mussolini fled for his life.

As Mussolini tried to escape from the advancing Allied forces, he was captured by Italian soldiers. On April 28, 1945 they executed Mussolini and hung his body upside down at a gas station for all the world to see.


Mussolini’s obvious pride in his achievement at becoming (October 31, 1922) the youngest prime minister in Italian history was not misplaced. He had certainly been aided by a favourable combination of circumstances, both political and economic but his remarkable and sudden success also owed something to his own personality, to native instinct and shrewd calculation, to astute opportunism, and to his unique gifts as an agitator. Anxious to demonstrate that he was not merely the leader of fascism but also the head of a united Italy, he presented to the king a list of ministers, a majority of whom were not members of his party. He made it clear, however, that he intended to govern authoritatively. He obtained full dictatorial powers for a year and in that year he pushed through a law that enabled the Fascists to cement a majority in the parliament. The elections in 1924, though undoubtedly fraudulent, secured his personal power.

Many Italians, especially among the middle class, welcomed his authority. They were tired of strikes and riots, responsive to the flamboyant techniques and medieval trappings of fascism, and ready to submit to dictatorship, provided the national economy was stabilized and their country restored to its dignity. Mussolini seemed to them the one man capable of bringing order out of chaos. Soon a kind of order had been restored, and the Fascists inaugurated ambitious programs of public works. The costs of this order were, however, enormous. Italy’s fragile democratic system was abolished in favour of a one-party state. Opposition parties, trade unions, and the free press were outlawed. Free speech was crushed. A network of spies and secret policemen watched over the population. This repression hit moderate Liberals and Catholics as well as Socialists. In 1924 Mussolini’s henchmen kidnapped and murdered the Socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti, who had become one of fascism’s most effective critics in parliament. The Matteotti crisis shook Mussolini, but he managed to maintain his hold on power.

Mussolini was hailed as a genius and a superman by public figures worldwide. His achievements were considered little less than miraculous. He had transformed and reinvigorated his divided and demoralized country he had carried out his social reforms and public works without losing the support of the industrialists and landowners he had even succeeded in coming to terms with the papacy. The reality, however, was far less rosy than the propaganda made it appear. Social divisions remained enormous, and little was done to address the deep-rooted structural problems of the Italian state and economy.

Mussolini might have remained a hero until his death had not his callous xenophobia and arrogance, his misapprehension of Italy’s fundamental necessities, and his dreams of empire led him to seek foreign conquests. His eye rested first upon Ethiopia, which, after 10 months of preparations, rumours, threats, and hesitations, Italy invaded in October 1935. A brutal campaign of colonial conquest followed, in which the Italians dropped tons of gas bombs upon the Ethiopian people. Europe expressed its horror but, having done so, did no more. The League of Nations imposed sanctions but ensured that the list of prohibited exports did not include any, such as oil, that might provoke a European war. If the League had imposed oil sanctions, Mussolini said, he would have had to withdraw from Ethiopia within a week. But he faced no such problem, and on the night of May 9, 1936, he announced to an enormous, expectant crowd of about 400,000 people standing shoulder to shoulder around Piazza Venezia in Rome that “in the 14th year of the Fascist era” a great event had been accomplished: Italy had its empire. This moment probably marked the peak of public support for the regime.

Italy had also found a new ally. Intent upon his own imperial ambitions in Austria, Adolf Hitler had actively encouraged Mussolini’s African adventure, and under Hitler’s guidance Germany had been the one powerful country in western Europe that had not turned against Mussolini. The way was now open for the Pact of Steel—a Rome-Berlin Axis and a brutal alliance between Hitler and Mussolini that was to ruin them both. In 1938, following the German example, Mussolini’s government passed anti-Semitic laws in Italy that discriminated against Jews in all sectors of public and private life and prepared the way for the deportation of some 20 percent of Italy’s Jews to German death camps during the war.

The March on Rome

In the summer of 1922, the Blackshirts made a punitive march through the provinces of Ravenna, Forli, and Ferrara in northern Italy. It was a night of terror squads burned down the headquarters and homes of every member of both socialist and communist organizations.

By September 1922, the Blackshirts controlled most of northern Italy. Mussolini assembled a Fascist Party conference on October 24, 1922, to discuss a coup de main or “sneak attack” on the Italian capital of Rome. On October 28, armed squads of Blackshirts marched on Rome. Although badly organized and poorly armed, the move left the parliamentary monarchy of King Victor Emmanuel III in confusion.

Mussolini, who had stayed behind in Milan, received an offer from the king to form a coalition government. Mussolini then proceeded to the capital supported by 300,000 men and wearing a black shirt. On October 31, 1922, at the age of 39, Mussolini was sworn in as prime minister of Italy.


After rising to power, the Fascist regime of Italy set a course to becoming a one-party state and to integrate Fascism into all aspects of life. A totalitarian state was officially declared in the Doctrine of Fascism of 1935:

The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State—a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values—interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people.
Doctrine of Fascism, 1935 [3]

With the concept of totalitarianism, Mussolini and the Fascist regime set an agenda of improving Italian culture and society based on ancient Rome, personal dictatorship and some futurist aspects of Italian intellectuals and artists. [4] Under Fascism, the definition of the Italian nationality rested on a militarist foundation and the Fascist's "new man" ideal in which loyal Italians would rid themselves of individualism and autonomy and see themselves as a component of the Italian state and be prepared to sacrifice their lives for it. [5] Under such a totalitarian society, only Fascists would be considered "true Italians" and membership and endorsement of the Fascist Party was necessary for people to gain "Complete Citizenship", as those who did not swear allegiance to Fascism were banished from public life and could not gain employment. [6] The Fascist government also reached out to Italians living overseas to endorse the Fascist cause and identify with Italy rather than their places of residence. [7] Despite efforts to mould a new culture for fascism, Fascist Italy's efforts were not as drastic or successful in comparison to other one-party states like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in creating a new culture. [8]

Mussolini's propaganda idolized him as the nation's saviour and the Fascist regime attempted to make him omnipresent in Italian society. Much of Fascism's appeal in Italy was based on the personality cult around Mussolini and his popularity. Mussolini's passionate oratory and personality cult was displayed at huge rallies and parades of his Blackshirts in Rome which served as an inspiration to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany.

The Fascist regime established propaganda in newsreels, radio broadcasting and a few feature films deliberately endorsing Fascism. [9] In 1926, laws were passed to require that propaganda newsreels be shown prior to all feature films in cinemas. [10] These newsreels were more effective in influencing the public than propaganda films or radio, as few Italians had radio receivers at the time. Fascist propaganda was widely present in posters and state-sponsored art. However, artists, writers and publishers were not strictly controlled: they were only censored if they were blatantly against the state. There was a constant emphasis on the masculinity of the "new Italian", stressing aggression, virility, youth, speed and sport. [11] Women were to attend to motherhood and stay out of public affairs. [12]

General elections were held in the form of a referendum on 24 March 1929. By this time, the country was a single-party state with the National Fascist Party (PNF) as the only legally permitted party. Mussolini used a referendum to confirm a fascist single-party list. The list put forward was ultimately approved by 98.43% of voters. [13] The universal male suffrage, which was legal since 1912, was restricted to men who were members of a trade union or an association, to soldiers and to members of the clergy. Consequently, only 9.5 million people were able to vote.

Roman Catholic Church

In 1870 the newly formed Kingdom of Italy annexed the remaining Papal States, depriving the Pope of his temporal power. Relations with the Roman Catholic Church improved significantly during Mussolini's tenure. Despite earlier opposition to the Church, after 1922 Mussolini made an alliance with the Catholic Partito Popolare Italiano (Italian People's Party). In 1929, Mussolini and the papacy came to an agreement that ended a standoff that reached back to 1860 and had alienated the Church from the Italian government. The Orlando government had begun the process of reconciliation during World War I and the Pope furthered it by cutting ties with the Christian Democrats in 1922. [14] Mussolini and the leading Fascists were anti-clericals and atheists, but they recognized the opportunity of warmer relations with Italy's large Roman Catholic element. [15]

The Lateran Accord of 1929 was a treaty that recognized the Pope as the head of the new micro-nation of Vatican City within Rome, which gave it independent status and made the Vatican an important hub of world diplomacy. The Concordat of 1929 made Roman Catholicism the sole religion of the State [16] (although other religions were tolerated), paid salaries to priests and bishops, recognized religious marriages (previously couples had to have a civil ceremony) and brought religious instruction into the public schools. In turn, the bishops swore allegiance to the Italian Fascist régime, which had a veto power over their selection. A third agreement paid the Vatican 1.75 billion lira (about $100 million) for the seizures of Church property since 1860. The Catholic Church was not officially obligated to support the Fascist régime and the strong differences remained, but the seething hostility ended. The Church especially endorsed foreign policies such as support for the anti-communist side in the Spanish Civil War and support for the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Friction continued over the Catholic Action (Azione Cattolica) youth network, which Mussolini wanted to merge into his Fascist youth group. [17] In 1931, Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno ("We do not need") that denounced the regime's persecution of the Church in Italy and condemned "pagan worship of the state". [18]

Clerical fascism

The Papal spiritual rule over Italy was restored by the Italian Fascist régime (albeit on a greatly diminished scale) in 1929 as head of the Vatican City state [16] under Mussolini's dictatorship, Roman Catholicism became the State religion of Fascist Italy. [16] [19] In March 1929, a nationwide plebiscite was held to publicly endorse the Treaty. Opponents were intimidated by the Fascist régime: the Catholic Action instructed Italian Roman Catholics to vote for Fascist candidates to represent them in positions in churches and Mussolini claimed that "no" votes were of those "few ill-advised anti-clericals who refuse to accept the Lateran Pacts". [20] Nearly 9 million Italians voted or 90 percent of the registered electorate and only 136,000 voted "no". [21] The Lateran Treaty remains in place to this day.

In 1938, the Italian Racial Laws and the Manifesto of Race were promulgated by the Fascist régime, enforced to outlaw and persecute both Italian Jews [22] and Protestant Christians, [19] [23] [24] [25] especially Evangelicals and Pentecostals. [23] [24] [25]

In Jan. 1939, The Jewish National Monthly reports "the only bright spot in Italy has been the Vatican, where fine humanitarian statements by the Pope have been issuing regularly". When Mussolini's anti-Semitic decrees began depriving Jews of employment in Italy, Pius XI, on his own initiative, admitted Professor Vito Volterra, a famous Italian Jewish mathematician, into the Pontifical Academy of Science. [26]

Despite Mussolini's close alliance with Hitler's Germany, Italy did not fully adopt Nazism's genocidal ideology towards the Jews. The Nazis were frustrated by the Italian authorities' refusal to co-operate in the round-ups of Jews, and no Jews were deported prior to the formation of the Italian Social Republic following the Armistice of Cassibile. [27] In the Italian-occupied Independent State of Croatia, German envoy Siegfried Kasche advised Berlin that Italian forces had "apparently been influenced" by Vatican opposition to German anti-Semitism. [28] As anti-Axis feeling grew in Italy, the use of Vatican Radio to broadcast papal disapproval of race murder and anti-Semitism angered the Nazis. [29]

Mussolini was overthrown in July 1943, the Germans moved to occupy Italy, and commenced a round-up of Jews. Thousands of Italian Jews and a small number of Protestants died in the Nazi concentration camps. [22] [25]


Until Mussolini's alliance with Adolf Hitler, he had always denied any antisemitism within the Fascist Party. In an early 1920s, Mussolini wrote an article which stated that Fascism would never elevate a "Jewish Question" and that "Italy knows no antisemitism and we believe that it will never know it" and then elaborated "let us hope that Italian Jews will continue to be sensible enough so as not to give rise to antisemitism in the only country where it has never existed". [30] In 1932 during a conversation Emil Ludwig, Mussolini described antisemitism as a "German vice" and stated: "There was 'no Jewish Question' in Italy and could not be one in a country with a healthy system of government". [31] On several occasions, Mussolini spoke positively about Jews and the Zionist movement. [32] Mussolini had initially rejected Nazi racism, especially the idea of a master race, as "arrant nonsense, stupid and idiotic". [33]

On the issue of antisemitism, the Fascists were divided on what to do, especially with the rise of Hitler in Germany. A number of Fascist members were Jewish and Mussolini himself did not personally believe in antisemitism, but to appease Hitler antisemitism within the Fascist Party steadily increased. In 1936, Mussolini made his first written denunciation of Jews by claiming that antisemitism had only arisen because Jews had become too predominant in the positions of power of countries and claimed that Jews were a "ferocious" tribe who sought to "totally banish" Christians from public life. [34] In 1937, Fascist member Paolo Orano criticized the Zionist movement as being part of British foreign policy which designed to secure British hold of the area without respecting the Christian and Islamic presence in Palestine. On the matter of Jewish Italians, Orano said that they "should concern themselves with nothing more than their religion" and not bother boasting of being patriotic Italians. [35]

The major source of friction between National Socialist Germany and Fascist Italy was Italy's stance on Jews. In his early years as Fascist leader, while Mussolini harbored racial stereotypes of Jews, he did not hold a firm stance on Jews and his official stances oscillated and shifted to meet the political demands of the various factions of the Fascist movement, rather than having any concrete stance. [36] Of the 117 original members of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento founded on 23 March 1919, five were Jewish. [37] Since the movement's early years, there were a small number of prominent openly antisemitic Fascists such as Roberto Farinacci. [38] There were also prominent Fascists who completely rejected antisemitism, such as Italo Balbo, who lived in Ferrara, which had a substantial Jewish community that was widely accepted and suffered few antisemitic incidents. [39] Mussolini initially had no antisemitic statements in his policies. [40] However, in response to his observation of large numbers of Jews amongst the Bolsheviks and claims (that were later confirmed to be true) that the Bolsheviks and Germany (that Italy was fighting in World War I) were politically connected, Mussolini made antisemitic statements involving the Bolshevik-German connection as being "an unholy alliance between Hindenburg and the synagogue". [40] Mussolini came to believe rumors that Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin was of Jewish descent. [40] Mussolini attacked the Jewish banker Giuseppe Toeplitz of Banca Commerciale Italiana by claiming that he was a German agent and traitor of Italy. [41] In an article in Il Popolo d'Italia in June 1919, Mussolini wrote a highly antisemitic analysis on the situation in Europe involving Bolshevism following the October Revolution, the Russian Civil War and war in Hungary involving the Hungarian Soviet Republic. [41] In June 1919, Mussolini wrote on Il Popolo d'Italia:

If Petrograd (Pietrograd) does not yet fall, if [General] Denikin is not moving forward, then this is what the great Jewish bankers of London and New York have decreed. These bankers are bound by ties of blood to those Jews who in Moscow as in Budapest are taking their revenge on the Aryan race that has condemned them to dispersion for so many centuries. In Russia, 80 percent of the managers of the Soviets are Jews, in Budapest 17 out of 22 people's commissars are Jews. Might it not be that bolshevism is the vendetta of Judaism against Christianity?? It is certainly worth pondering. It is entirely possible that bolshevism will drown in the blood of a pogrom of catastrophic proportions. World finance is in the hands of the Jews. Whoever owns the strongboxes of the peoples is in control of their political systems. Behind the puppets (making peace) in Paris, there are the Rothschilds, the Warburgs, the Schiffs, the Guggenheims who are of the same blood who are conquering Petrograd and Budapest. Race does not betray race . Bolshevism is a defense of the international plutocracy. This is the basic truth of the matter. The international plutocracy dominated and controlled by Jews has a supreme interest in all of Russian life accelerating its process of disintegration to the point of paroxysm. A Russia that is paralyzed, disorganized, starved, will be a place where tomorrow the bourgeoisie, yes the bourgeoisie, o proletarians will celebrate its spectacular feast of plenty. [41]

This statement by Mussolini on a Jewish-Bolshevik-plutocratic connection and conspiracy was met with opposition in the Fascist movement, resulting in Mussolini responding to this opposition amongst his supporters by abandoning and reversing this stance shortly afterwards in 1919. [40] In reversing his stance due to opposition to it, Mussolini no longer expressed his previous assertion that Bolshevism was Jewish, but warned that—due to the large numbers of Jews in the Bolshevik movement—the rise of Bolshevism in Russia would result in a ferocious wave of anti-Semitism in Russia. [40] He then claimed that "anti-Semitism is foreign to the Italian people", but warned Zionists that they should be careful not to stir up antisemitism in "the only country where it has not existed". [40] One of the Jewish financial supporters of the Fascist movement was Toeplitz, whom Mussolini had earlier accused of being a traitor during World War I. [42] Early on there were prominent Jewish Italian Fascists such as Aldo Finzi, [42] who was born of a mixed marriage of a Jewish and Christian Italian and was baptized as a Roman Catholic. [43] Another prominent Jewish Italian Fascist was Ettore Ovazza, who was a vocal Italian nationalist and an opponent of Zionism in Italy. [44] 230 Italian Jews took part in the Fascists' March on Rome in 1922. [37] In 1932, Mussolini made his private attitude about Jews known to the Austrian ambassador when discussing the issue of the antisemitism of Hitler, saying: "I have no love for the Jews, but they have great influence everywhere. It is better to leave them alone. Hitler's anti-Semitism has already brought him more enemies than is necessary". [40]

At the 1934 Montreux Fascist conference chaired by the Italian-led Comitati d'Azione per l'Universalita di Roma (CAUR) that sought to found a Fascist International, the issue of antisemitism was debated amongst various fascist parties, with some more favorable to it and others less favorable. Two final compromises were adopted, creating the official stance of the Fascist International:

[T]he Jewish question cannot be converted into a universal campaign of hatred against the Jews . Considering that in many places certain groups of Jews are installed in conquered countries, exercising in an open and occult manner an influence injurious to the material and moral interests of the country which harbors them, constituting a sort of state within a state, profiting by all benefits and refusing all duties, considering that they have furnished and are inclined to furnish, elements conducive to international revolution which would be destructive to the idea of patriotism and Christian civilization, the Conference denounces the nefarious action of these elements and is ready to combat them. [45]

Italian Fascism adopted antisemitism in the late 1930s and Mussolini personally returned to invoke antisemitic statements as he had done earlier. [46] The Fascist regime used antisemitic propaganda for the Spanish Civil War from 1937 to 1938 that emphasized that Italy was supporting Spain's Nationalist forces against a "Jewish International". [46] The Fascist regime's adoption of official antisemitic racial doctrine in 1938 met opposition from Fascist members including Balbo, who regarded antisemitism as having nothing to do with Fascism and staunchly opposed the antisemitic laws. [39]

In 1938, under pressure from Germany, Mussolini made the regime adopt a policy of antisemitism, which was extremely unpopular in Italy and in the Fascist Party itself. As a result of the laws, the Fascist regime lost its propaganda director, Margherita Sarfatti, who was Jewish and had been Mussolini's mistress. A minority of high-ranking Fascists were pleased with the antisemitic policy such as Roberto Farinacci, who claimed that Jews through intrigue had taken control key positions of finance, business and schools and he claimed that Jews sympathized with Ethiopia during Italy's war with it and that Jews had sympathized with Republican Spain during the Spanish Civil War. [47] In 1938, Farinacci became the minister in charge of culture and adopted racial laws designed to prevent racial intermixing which included antisemitism. Until the armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the Italian Jewish community was protected from deportation to the German death camps in the east. With the armistice, Hitler took control of the German-occupied territory in the North and began an effort to liquidate the Jewish community under his control. Shortly after the entry of Italy into the war, numerous camps were established for the imprisonment of enemy aliens and Italians suspected to be hostile to the regime. In contrast to the brutality of the National Socialist-run camps, the Italian camps allowed families to live together and there was a broad program of social welfare and cultural activities. [48]

Antisemitism was unpopular throughout Italy, including within the Fascist Party. Once when a Fascist scholar protested to Mussolini about the treatment of his Jewish friends, Mussolini is reported to have said: "I agree with you entirely. I don't believe a bit in the stupid anti-Semitic theory. I am carrying out my policy entirely for political reasons". [49]


The Fascist government endorsed a stringent education policy in Italy aiming at eliminating illiteracy, which was a serious problem in Italy at the time, as well as improving the allegiance of Italians to the state. [50] To reduce drop-outs, the government changed the minimum age of leaving school from twelve to fourteen and strictly enforced attendance. [51] The Fascist government's first minister of education from 1922 to 1924 Giovanni Gentile recommended that education policy should focus on indoctrination of students into Fascism and to educate youth to respect and be obedient to authority. [51] In 1929, education policy took a major step towards being completely taken over by the agenda of indoctrination. [51] In that year, the Fascist government took control of the authorization of all textbooks, all secondary school teachers were required to take an oath of loyalty to Fascism and children began to be taught that they owed the same loyalty to Fascism as they did to God. [51] In 1933, all university teachers were required to be members of the National Fascist Party. [51] From the 1930s to 1940s, Italy's education focused on the history of Italy displaying Italy as a force of civilization during the Roman era, displaying the rebirth of Italian nationalism and the struggle for Italian independence and unity during the Risorgimento. [51] In the late 1930s, the Fascist government copied Nazi Germany's education system on the issue of physical fitness and began an agenda that demanded that Italians become physically healthy. [51]

Intellectual talent in Italy was rewarded and promoted by the Fascist government through the Royal Academy of Italy which was created in 1926 to promote and coordinate Italy's intellectual activity. [52]

Social welfare

A major success in social policy in Fascist Italy was the creation of the Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro (OND) or "National After-work Program" in 1925. The OND was the state's largest recreational organizations for adults. [53] The Dopolavoro was so popular that by the 1930s all towns in Italy had a Dopolavoro clubhouse and the Dopolavoro was responsible for establishing and maintaining 11,000 sports grounds, over 6,400 libraries, 800 movie houses, 1,200 theaters and over 2,000 orchestras. [53] Membership was voluntary and nonpolitical. In the 1930s, under the direction of Achille Starace, the OND became primarily recreational, concentrating on sports and other outings. It is estimated that by 1936 the OND had organized 80% of salaried workers. [54] Nearly 40% of the industrial workforce had been recruited into the Dopolavoro by 1939 and the sports activities proved popular with large numbers of workers. The OND had the largest membership of any of the mass Fascist organizations in Italy. [55] The enormous success of the Dopolavoro in Fascist Italy prompted Nazi Germany to create its own version of the Dopolavoro, the Kraft durch Freude (KdF) or "Strength through Joy" program, which was even more successful than the Dopolavoro. [56]

Another organization the Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was widely popular and provided young people with access to clubs, dances, sports facilities, radios, concerts, plays, circuses and outdoor hikes at little or no cost. It sponsored tournaments and sports festivals. [57]

Between 1928 and 1930 the government introduced pensions, sick pay and paid holidays. [58] In 1933, the government established unemployment benefits. [58] At the end of the 1930s, 13 million Italians were enrolled in the state health insurance scheme and by 1939 social security expenditure accounted for 21 per cent of government spending. [59] In 1935, the 40-hour working week was introduced and workers were expected to spend Saturday afternoons engaged in sporting, paramilitary and political activities. [60] [61] This was called Sabato fascista ("Fascist Saturday") and was aimed mainly at the young exceptions were granted in special cases but not for those under 21. [61] According to Tracy H. Koon, this scheme failed as most Italians preferred to spend Saturday as a day of rest. [61]

Police state

For security of the regime, Mussolini advocated complete state authority and created the Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale ("National Security Volunteer Militia") in 1923, which are commonly referred to as "Blackshirts" for the color of their uniforms. Most of the Blackshirts were members from the Fasci di Combattimento. A secret police force called the Organizzazione di Vigilanza Repressione dell'Antifascismo ("Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism") or OVRA was created in 1927. It was led by Arturo Bocchini to crack down on opponents of the regime and Mussolini (there had been several near-miss assassination attempts on Mussolini's life in his early years in power). This force was effective, but unlike the Schutzstaffel (SS) in Germany or the NKVD of the Soviet Union, the OVRA caused far fewer deaths of political opponents. However, Fascists methods of repression were cruel which included physically forcing opponents of Fascism to swallow castor oil which would cause severe diarrhea and dehydration, leaving the victim in a painful and physically debilitated state which would sometimes result in death. [62] [63] [64] [65]

To combat Italian organized crime, notably the Cosa Nostra in Sicilia and the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, the Fascist government gave special powers in 1925 to Cesare Mori, the prefect of Palermo. [66] These powers gave him the ability to prosecute the Mafia, forcing many Mafiosi to flee abroad (many to the United States) or risk being jailed. [67] [68] However, Mori was fired when he began to investigate Mafia links within the Fascist regime and was removed from his position in 1929, when the Fascist regime declared that the threat of the Mafia had been eliminated. Mori's actions weakened the Mafia, but did not destroy them. From 1929 to 1943, the Fascist regime completely abandoned its previously aggressive measures against the Mafia and the Mafiosi were left relatively undisturbed. [69]


The Fascists paid special attention to the role of women, from elite society women to factory workers [70] and peasants. [71] Fascist leaders sought to "rescue" women from experiencing emancipation even as they trumpeted the advent of the "new Italian woman" (nuova italiana). [72] The policies revealed a deep conflict between modernity and traditional patriarchal authority, as Catholic, Fascist and commercial models of conduct competed to shape women's perceptions of their roles and their society at large. The Fascists celebrated violent "virilist" politics and exaggerated its machismo while also taxing celibate men to pay for child welfare programs. Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 and the resulting League of Nations sanctions shaped the tasks assigned to women within the Fascist Party. The empire and women's contribution to it became a core theme in Fascist propaganda. Women in the party were mobilized for the imperial cause both as producers and as consumers, giving them new prominence in the nation. The Fascist women's groups expanded their roles to cover such new tasks as running training courses on how to fight waste in housework. Young Italian women were prepared for a role in Italy's "place in the sun" through special courses created to train them for a future as colonial wives. [73]

The government tried to achieve "alimentary sovereignty", or total self-sufficiency with regard to food supplies. Its new policies were highly controversial among a people who paid serious attention to their food. The goal was to reduce imports, support Italian agriculture and encourage an austere diet based on bread, polenta, pasta, fresh produce and wine. Fascist women's groups trained women in "autarkic cookery" to work around items no longer imported. Food prices climbed in the 1930s and dairy and meat consumption was discouraged, while increasing numbers of Italians turned to the black market. The policy demonstrated that Fascists saw food—and people's behavior generally—as strategic resources that could be manipulated regardless of traditions and tastes. [74]

Mussolini and the Fascist Party promised Italians a new economic system known as corporatism, an outgrowth of socialism into a new economic system where the means of production were nominally left in the hands of the civil sector, but directed and controlled by the State. In 1935, the Doctrine of Fascism was published under Mussolini's name, although it was most likely written by Giovanni Gentile. It described the role of the state in the economy under corporatism. By this time, Fascism had been drawn more towards the support of market forces being dominant over state intervention. A passage from the Doctrine of Fascism read:

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production. State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management. [75]

Fascists claimed that this system would be egalitarian and traditional at the same time. The economic policy of corporatism quickly faltered: the left-wing elements of the Fascist manifesto were opposed by industrialists and landowners who supported the party because it pledged to defend Italy from socialism. As a result, corporatist policy became dominated by the industries. Initially, economic legislation mostly favoured the wealthy industrial and agrarian classes by allowing privatization, liberalization of rent laws, tax cuts and administrative reform. However, economic policy changed drastically following the Matteotti Crisis where Mussolini began pushing for a totalitarian state. In 1926, the Syndical laws (also known as the Rocco laws) were passed, organizing the economy into 12 separate employer and employee unions. [76] The unions were largely state-controlled and were mainly used to suppress opposition and reward political loyalty. While the Fascist unions could not protect workers from all economic consequences, they were responsible for the handling of social security benefits, claims for severance pay and could sometimes negotiate contracts that benefited workers. [77]

After the Great Depression hit the world economy in 1929, the Fascist regime followed other nations in enacting protectionist tariffs and attempted to set direction for the economy. In the 1930s, the government increased wheat production and made Italy self-sufficient for wheat, ending imports of wheat from Canada and the United States. [78] However, the transfer of agricultural land to wheat production reduced the production of vegetables and fruit. [78] Despite improving production for wheat, the situation for peasants themselves did not improve, as 0.5% of the Italian population (usually wealthy) owned 42 percent of all agricultural land in Italy [79] and income for peasants did not increase while taxes did increase. [79] The Depression caused unemployment to rise from 300,000 to 1 million in 1933. [80] It also caused a 10 percent drop in real income and a fall in exports. Italy fared better than most western nations during the Depression: its welfare services did reduce the impact of the Depression. [80] Its industrial growth from 1913 to 1938 was even greater than that of Germany for the same time period. Only the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian nations had a higher industrial growth during that period. [80]

Italy's colonial expansion into Ethiopia in 1936 proved to have a negative impact on Italy's economy. The budget of the colony of Italian East Africa in the 1936–1937 fiscal year requested from Italy 19.136 billion lire to be used to create the necessary infrastructure for the colony. [81] At the time, Italy's entire revenue that year was only 18.581 billion lire. [82]

In 1933, Italy made multiple technological achievements. The Fascist government spent large sums of money on technological projects such as the construction of the new Italian ocean liner SS Rex, which in 1933 made a transatlantic sea crossing record of four days, [83] funded the development of the Macchi M.C.72 seaplane, which became the world's fastest seaplane in 1933 and retained the title in 1934 [ citation needed ] . In 1933, Fascist government member Italo Balbo, who was also an aviator, made a transatlantic flight in a flying boat to Chicago for the World's Fair known as the Century of Progress. [ citation needed ]

Stephen Lee identifies three major themes in Mussolini's foreign-policy. The first was a continuation of the foreign-policy objectives of the preceding Liberal regime. Liberal Italy had allied itself with Germany and Austria and had great ambitions in the Balkans and North Africa. It had been badly defeated in Ethiopia in 1896, when there was a strong demand for seizing that country. Second was a profound disillusionment after the heavy losses of the First World War. In the eyes of many Italians the small territorial gains from Austria-Hungary were not enough to compensate for the war's terrible costs, especially since countries, such as Poland and Yugoslavia, who contributed far less to the allied victory but received much more. Third was Mussolini's promise to restore the pride and glory of the old Roman Empire. [84]

Mussolini promised to revive Italy's status as a Great Power in Europe, carving out a "New Roman Empire". Mussolini promised that Italy would dominate the Mediterranean Sea. In propaganda, the Fascist government used the originally ancient Roman term "Mare Nostrum" (Latin for "Our Sea") to refer to the Mediterranean Sea. The Fascist regime increased funding and attention to military projects and began plans to create an Italian Empire in Northern and Eastern Africa and reclaim dominance in the Mediterranean Sea and Adriatic Sea. The Fascists launched wars to conquer Dalmazia, Albania and Greece for the Italian Empire.


Colonial efforts in Africa began in the 1920s, as civil war plagued Italian North Africa (Africa Settentrionale Italiana, or ASI) as the Arab population there refused to accept Italian colonial government. Mussolini sent Marshal Rodolfo Graziani to lead a punitive pacification campaign against the Arab nationalists. Omar Mukhtar led the Arab resistance movement. After a much-disputed truce on 3 January 1928, the Fascist policy in Libya increased in brutality. A barbed wire fence was built from the Mediterranean Sea to the oasis of Jaghbub to sever lines critical to the resistance. Soon afterwards, the colonial administration began the wholesale deportation of the people of the Jebel Akhdar to deny the rebels the support of the local population. The forced migration of more than 100,000 people ended in concentration camps in Suluq and Al-'Aghela where tens of thousands died in squalid conditions. It is estimated that the number of Libyans who died – killed either through combat or starvation and disease – was at least 80,000, including up to half of the Cyrenaican population. After Al-Mukhtar's capture on 15 September 1931 and his execution in Benghazi, the resistance petered out. Limited resistance to the Italian occupation crystallized around Sheik Idris, the Emir of Cyrenaica. [ citation needed ]

Negotiations occurred with the British government on expanding the borders of the colony of Libya. The first negotiations began in 1925 to define the border between Libya and British-held Egypt. These negotiations resulted in Italy gaining previously undefined territory. [85] In 1934, once again the Italian government requested more territory for Libya from British-held Sudan. The United Kingdom allowed Italy to gain some territory from Sudan to add to Libya. [86] These concessions were probably allowed because of the relatively good relations between Italy and Britain prior to 1935. [ citation needed ]

In 1935, Mussolini believed that the time was right for Italy to invade Ethiopia (also known as Abyssinia) to make it a colony. As a result, the Second Italo-Abyssinian War erupted. Italy invaded Ethiopia from the Italian colonies of Eritrea and Somaliland. Italy committed atrocities against the Ethiopians during the war, including the use of aircraft to drop poison gas on the defending Ethiopian soldiers. Ethiopia surrendered in 1936, completing Italy's revenge for its failed colonial conquest of the 1880s. King Victor Emmanuel III was soon proclaimed Emperor of Ethiopia. The international consequences for Italy's belligerence resulted in its isolation at the League of Nations. France and Britain quickly abandoned their trust of Mussolini. The only nation to back Italy's aggression was Germany. After being condemned by the League of Nations, the Grand Council of Fascism declared Italy's decision to leave the League on 11 December 1937 and Mussolini denounced the League as a mere "tottering temple". [87]

Race Laws

Until 1938, Mussolini had denied any antisemitism within Fascist Italy and dismissed the racial policies of Nazi Germany. However, by mid-1938 Hitler's influence over Mussolini had persuaded him to make a specific agenda on race, the Fascist regime moved away from its previous promotion of colonialism based on the spread of Italian culture to a directly race-oriented colonial agenda.

In 1938, Fascist Italy passed the Manifesto of Race which stripped Jews of their Italian citizenship and prohibited them from any professional position. The racial laws declared that Italians were of the Aryan race and forbid sexual relations and marriages between Italians and Jews and Africans. [88] The Fascist regime declared that it would promote mass Italian settlements in the colonies that would—in the Fascist government's terms—"create in the heart of the African continent a powerful and homogeneous nucleus of whites strong enough to draw those populations within our economic orbit and our Roman and Fascist civilization". [89] Fascist rule in its Italian colonies differed from region to region. Rule in Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana, or AOI), a colony including Ethiopia, Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, was harsh for the native peoples as Fascist policy sought to destroy native culture. In February 1937, Rodolfo Graziani ordered Italian soldiers to pillage native settlements in Addis Ababa, which resulted in hundreds of Ethiopians being killed and their homes being burned to the ground. [90] After the occupation of Ethiopia, the Fascist government endorsed racial segregation to reduce the number of mixed offspring in Italian colonies, which they claimed would "pollute" the Italian race. [91] Marital and sexual relationships between Italians and Africans in its colonies were made a criminal offense when the Fascist regime implemented decree-law No. 880 19 April 1937 which gave sentences of one to five years imprisonment to Italians caught in such relationships. [91] The law did not give any sentences to native Africans, as the Fascist government claimed that only those Italians were to blame for damaging the prestige of their race. [91] Despite racist language used in some propaganda, the Fascist regime accepted recruitment of native Africans who wanted to join Italy's colonial armed forces and native African colonial recruits were displayed in propaganda. [92] [93]

Fascist Italy embraced the "Manifesto of the Racial Scientists" which embraced biological racism and it declared that Italy was a country populated by people of Aryan origin, Jews did not belong to the Italian race and that it was necessary to distinguish between Europeans and Jews, Africans and other non-Europeans. [94] The manifesto encouraged Italians to openly declare themselves as racists, both publicly and politically. [95] Fascist Italy often published material that showed caricatures of Jews and Africans. [96]

In Italian Libya, Mussolini downplayed racist policies as he attempted to earn the trust of Arab leaders there. Individual freedom, inviolability of home and property, right to join the military or civil administrations and the right to freely pursue a career or employment were guaranteed to Libyans by December 1934. [91] In a famous trip to Libya in 1937, a propaganda event was created when on March 18 Mussolini posed with Arab dignitaries who gave him an honorary "Sword of Islam" (that had actually been crafted in Florence), which was to symbolize Mussolini as a protector of the Muslim Arab peoples there. [97] In 1939, laws were passed that allowed Muslims to be permitted to join the National Fascist Party and in particular the Muslim Association of the Lictor (Associazione Musulmana del Littorio) for Islamic Libya and the 1939 reforms allowed the creation of Libyan military units within the Italian Army. [98]


The Fascist regime also engaged in interventionist foreign policy in Europe. In 1923, Italian soldiers captured the Greek island of Corfu as part of the Fascists' plan to eventually take over Greece. Corfu was later returned to Greece and war between Greece and Italy was avoided. In 1925, Italy forced Albania to become a de facto protectorate which helped Italy's stand against Greek sovereignty. Corfu was important to Italian imperialism and nationalism due to its presence in the former Republic of Venice which left behind significant Italian cultural monuments and influence, though the Greek population there (especially youth) heavily protested the Italian occupation.

Relations with France were mixed: the Fascist regime consistently had the intention to eventually wage war on France to regain Italian-populated areas of France, [99] but with the rise of Hitler the Fascists immediately became more concerned of Austria's independence and the potential threat of Germany to Italy, if it demanded the German-populated areas of Tyrol. Due to concerns of German expansionism, Italy joined the Stresa Front with France and Britain against Germany which existed from 1935 to 1936.

The Fascist regime held negative relations with Yugoslavia, as they long wanted the implosion of Yugoslavia in order to territorially expand and increase Italy's power. Italy pursued espionage in Yugoslavia, as Yugoslav authorities on multiple occasions discovered spy rings in the Italian Embassy in Yugoslavia, such as in 1930. [99] In 1929, the Fascist government accepted Croatian extreme nationalist Ante Pavelić as a political exile to Italy from Yugoslavia. The Fascists gave Pavelić financial assistance and a training ground in Italy to develop and train his newly formed fascist militia and terrorist group, the Ustaše. This organization later became the governing force of the Independent State of Croatia, and murdered hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Roma during World War II. [100]

After Germany annexed Czechoslovakia, Mussolini turned his attention to Albania. On 7 April 1939, Italy invaded the country and after a short campaign Albania was occupied and its parliament crowned Victor Emmanuel III King of Albania. The historical justification for the annexation of Albania laid in the ancient history of the Roman Empire in which the region of Albania had been an early conquest for the Romans, even before Northern Italy had been taken by Roman forces. However, by the time of annexation little connection to Italy remained amongst Albanians. In actuality, the annexation of Albania was far from a military conquest as the country had been a de facto protectorate of Italy since the 1920s and much of its army were commanded by Italian officers sent from Italy. The occupation was not appreciated by King Emmanuel III, who feared that it had isolated Italy even further than its war against Ethiopia. [101]


In 1936 in Spain, the Fascist regime made its most significant pre-war military intervention. The Spanish Republic was divided in the Spanish Civil War between the anticlerical socialist Republicans and the Church-supporting nationalists led by Francisco Franco under fascist Falange movement. Italy sent aircraft, weapons and a total of over 60,000 troops to aid the Spanish nationalists. The war helped train the Italian military for war and improve relations with the Roman Catholic Church. It was a success that secured Italy's naval access in and out of the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and its ability to pursue its policy of Mare Nostrum without fear of opposition by Spain. The other major foreign contributor to the Spanish Civil War was Germany. This was the first time that Italian and German forces fought together since the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870s. During the 1930s, Italy built many large battleships and other warships to solidify Italy's hold on the Mediterranean Sea.


When the Nazi Party attained power in Germany in 1933, Mussolini and the Fascist regime in public showed approval of Hitler's regime, with Mussolini saying: "The victory of Hitler is our victory". [102] The Fascist regime also spoke of creating an alliance with the new regime in Germany. [103] In private, Mussolini and the Italian Fascists showed disapproval of the National Socialist government and Mussolini had a disapproving view of Hitler despite ideological similarities. The Fascists distrusted Hitler's Pan-German ideas which they saw as a threat to territories in Italy that previously had been part of the Austrian Empire. Although other National Socialists disapproved of Mussolini and Fascist Italy, Hitler had long idolized Mussolini's oratorical and visual persona and adopted much of the symbolism of the Fascists into the National Socialist Party, such as the Roman, straight-armed salute, dramatic oratory, the use of uniformed paramilitaries for political violence and the use of mass rallies to demonstrate the power of the movement. In 1922, Hitler tried to ask for Mussolini's guidance on how to organize his own version of the "March on Rome" which would be a "March on Berlin" (which came into being as the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923). Mussolini did not respond to Hitler's requests as he did not have much interest in Hitler's movement and regarded Hitler to be somewhat crazy. [104] Mussolini did attempt to read Mein Kampf to find out what Hitler's National Socialist movement was, but was immediately disappointed, saying that Mein Kampf was "a boring tome that I have never been able to read" and remarked that Hitler's beliefs were "little more than commonplace clichés". [99] While Mussolini like Hitler believed in the cultural and moral superiority of whites over colored peoples, [91] he opposed Hitler's antisemitism. A number of Fascists were Jewish, including Mussolini's mistress Margherita Sarfatti, who was the director of Fascist art and propaganda, and there was little support amongst Italians for antisemitism. Mussolini also did not evaluate race as being a precursor of superiority, but rather culture.

Hitler and the National Socialists continued to try to woo Mussolini to their cause and eventually Mussolini gave financial assistance to the Nazi Party and allowed National Socialist paramilitaries to train in Italy in the belief that despite differences, a nationalist government in Germany could be beneficial to Italy. [99] As suspicion of the Germans increased after 1933, Mussolini sought to ensure that Germany would not become the dominant nationalist state in Europe. To do this, Mussolini opposed German efforts to annex Austria after the assassination of fascist Austrian President Engelbert Dollfuss in 1934 and promised the Austrians military support if Germany were to interfere. This promise helped save Austria from annexation in 1934.

Public appearances and propaganda constantly portrayed the closeness of Mussolini and Hitler and the similarities between Italian Fascism and German National Socialism. While both ideologies had significant similarities, the two factions were suspicious of each other and both leaders were in competition for world influence. Hitler and Mussolini first met in June 1934, as the issue of Austrian independence was in crisis. In private after the visit in 1934, Mussolini said that Hitler was just "a silly little monkey".

After Italy became isolated in 1936, the government had little choice but to work with Germany to regain a stable bargaining position in international affairs and reluctantly abandoned its support of Austrian independence from Germany. In September 1937, Mussolini visited Germany in order to build closer ties with his German counterpart. [105] On 28 October 1937, Mussolini declared Italy's support of Germany regaining its colonies lost in World War I, declaring: "A great people such as the German people must regain the place which is due to it, and which it used to have beneath the sun of Africa". [106]

With no significant opposition from Italy, Hitler proceeded with the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria in 1938. Germany later claimed the Sudetenland, a province of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by Germans. Mussolini felt he had little choice but to help Germany to avoid isolation. With the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938, the Fascist regime began to be concerned about the majority ethnic German population in South Tyrol and whether they would want to join a Greater Germany. The Fascists were also concerned about whether Italy should follow National Socialist antisemitic policies in order to gain favor from those National Socialists who had mixed feelings about Italy as an ally. In 1938, Mussolini pressured fellow Fascist members to support the enacting of antisemitic policies, but this was not well taken as a number of Fascists were Jewish and antisemitism was not an active political concept in Italy. Nevertheless, Mussolini forced through antisemitic legislation even while his own son-in-law and prominent Fascist Count Galeazzo Ciano personally condemned such laws. In turn for enacting the extremely unpopular antisemitic laws, Mussolini and the Fascist government demanded a concession from Hitler and the National Socialists. In 1939, the Fascists demanded from Hitler that his government willingly accept the Italian government's plan to have all Germans in South Tyrol either leave Italy or be forced to accept Italianization. Hitler agreed and thus the threat to Italy from the South Tyrol Germans was neutralized.

Alliance with Germany

As war approached in 1939, the Fascist regime stepped up an aggressive press campaign against France claiming that Italian people were suffering in France. [107] This was important to the alliance as both regimes mutually had claims on France, Germany on German-populated Alsace-Lorraine and Italy on Italian-populated Corsica, Nizza and Savoia. In May 1939, a formal alliance was organized. The alliance was known as the Pact of Steel, which obliged Italy to fight alongside Germany if war broke out against Germany. Mussolini felt obliged to sign the pact in spite of his own concerns that Italy could not fight a war in the near future. This obligation grew from his promises to Italians that he would build an empire for them and from his personal desire to not allow Hitler to become the dominant leader in Europe. [108] Mussolini was repulsed by the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact agreement where Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to partition the Second Polish Republic into German and Soviet zones for an impending invasion. The Fascist government saw this as a betrayal of the Anti-Comintern Pact, but decided to remain officially silent. [109]

World War II

Italy's military and logistical resources were stretched by successful pre-WWII military interventions in Spain, [110] Ethiopia, Libya, and Albania and were not ready for a long conflict. Nevertheless, Mussolini went to war to further the imperial ambitions of the Fascist regime, which aspired to restore the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean (the Mare Nostrum).

Italy joined the war as one of the Axis Powers in 1940, entering after it appeared France was likely to lose to Germany. The Italian invasion of France was brief as the French Third Republic surrendered shortly afterward. Italy readied to fight against the British Empire in Africa and the Middle East, known as the "parallel war", while expecting a similar collapse of British forces in the European theatre. The Italians bombed Mandatory Palestine, invaded Egypt and occupied British Somaliland with initial success. The Italian military machine showed weakness during the 1940 Greco-Italian War, a war of aggression Italy launched unprovoked, but where the Italian army found little progress. German help during the Battle of Greece would eventually bail the Italians out, and their grander ambitions were partially met by late 1942 with Italian influence extended throughout the Mediterranean. Most of Greece was occupied by Italy Italians administered the French territories of Corsica and Tunisia following Vichy France's collapse and occupation by German forces and a puppet regime was installed in Croatia following the German-Italian Invasion of Yugoslavia. Albania, Ljubljana, coastal Dalmatia, and Montenegro had been directly annexed by the Italian state. Italo-German forces had also achieved victories against insurgents in Yugoslavia, and had occupied parts of British-held Egypt on their push to El-Alamein after their victory at Gazala.

However, Italy's conquests were always heavily contested, both by various insurgencies (most prominently the Greek resistance and Yugoslav partisans) and Allied military forces, which waged the Battle of the Mediterranean throughout and beyond Italy's participation. German and Japanese actions in 1941 led to the entry of the Soviet Union and United States, respectively, into the war, thus ruining the Italian plan of forcing Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement. [111] Ultimately the Italian empire collapsed after disastrous defeats in the Eastern European and North African campaigns. In July 1943, following the Allied invasion of Sicily, Mussolini was arrested by order of King Victor Emmanuel III, provoking a civil war. Italy's military outside of the Italian peninsula collapsed, its occupied and annexed territories falling under German control. Italy capitulated to the Allies on 3 September 1943.

The northern half of the country was occupied by the Germans with the cooperation of Italian fascists, and became a collaborationist puppet state (with more than 500,000 soldiers recruited for the Axis), while the south was officially controlled by monarchist forces, which fought for the Allied cause as the Italian Co-Belligerent Army (at its height numbering more than 50,000 men), as well as around 350,000 [112] Italian resistance movement partisans (mostly former Royal Italian Army soldiers) of disparate political ideologies that operated all over Italy. On 28 April 1945, Benito Mussolini was executed by Italian partisans, two days before Adolf Hitler's suicide.

Most of the historiographical controversy centers on sharply conflicting interpretations of Fascism and the Mussolini regime. [113] The 1920s writers on the left, following the lead of communist theorist Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), stressed that Fascism was a form of capitalism. The Fascist regime controlled the writing and teaching of history through the central Giunta Centrale per gli Studi Storici and control of access to the archives and sponsored historians and scholars who were favorable toward it such as philosopher Giovanni Gentile and historians Gioacchino Volpe and Francesco Salata. [114] In October 1932, it sponsored a large Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution, featuring its favored modernist art and asserting its own claims to express the spirit of Roman glory. [115] After the war, most historiography was intensely hostile to Mussolini, emphasizing the theme of Fascism and totalitarianism. [116] An exception was conservative historian Renzo De Felice (1929–1996), whose four volumes and 6,000 pages of biography (1965–1997) remain the most exhaustive examination of public and private documents and serves as a basic resource for all scholars. De Felice argued that Mussolini was a revolutionary modernizer in domestic issues, but a pragmatist in foreign policy who continued the Realpolitik policies of liberal Italy (1861–1922). [117] In the 1990s, a cultural turn began with studies that examined the issue of popular reception and acceptance of Fascism using the perspectives of "aestheticization of politics" and "sacralisation of politics". [118] By the 21st century, the old "anti-Fascist" postwar consensus was under attack from a group of revisionist scholars who have presented a more favorable and nationalistic assessment of Mussolini's role, both at home and abroad. Controversy rages as there is no consensus among scholars using competing interpretations based on revisionist, anti-Fascist, intentionalist or culturalist models of history. [119]

  1. ^ Harrison, Mark (2000). The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers in International Comparison. Cambridge University Press. p. 3. ISBN9780521785037 . Retrieved 2 October 2016 .
  2. ^ Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism, 1914–1945 (1996) p 212
  3. ^ Mussolini, Benito. 1935. Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions. Rome: Ardita Publishers. p. 14.
  4. ^ Pauley, Bruce F (2003) Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini: Totalitarianism in the Twentieth Century Italy, Wheeling: Harlan Davidson, Inc., p. 107.
  5. ^ Gentile, Emilio. The Struggle For Modernity Nationalism Futurism and Fascism (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003), p. 87.
  6. ^ Gentile, p. 81.
  7. ^ Gentile, p. 146.
  8. ^ Pauley, p. 108.
  9. ^ Federico Caprotti, "Information management and fascist identity: newsreels in fascist Italy". Media history (2005) [email protected] pp: 177–191.
  10. ^ Pauley, p. 109.
  11. ^ Gigliola Gori, "Model of masculinity: Mussolini, the 'new Italian' of the Fascist era". International journal of the history of sport (1999) 16#4 pp: 27–61.
  12. ^ Lesley Caldwell, "Madri d'ltalia: Film and Fascist Concern with Motherhood". in Zygmunt G. Bara'nski and George N. Yannopoulos, eds. Women and Italy: Essays on Gender, Culture and History (1991) pp: 43–63.
  13. ^Italy, 24 May 1929: Fascist single list Direct Democracy (in German)
  14. ^ Smith, Italy, pp 40–443.
  15. ^
  16. Pollard, John F. (2014). The Vatican and Italian Fascism, 1929-32: A Study in Conflict . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 53. ISBN978-0-521-26870-7 .
  17. ^ abc

In the period following the signing of the 1929 Lateran Pact, which declared Catholicism as Italy's state religion in the context of a comprehensive regulation of Vatican and Italian government relations, Catholic cultural support for Mussolini is consolidated.

13 Facts About Benito Mussolini

For a brief moment in time, Benito Mussolini was an Italian hero, praised by millions for giving the nation a taste of its lost greatness. But he’s better known as the father of fascism, a brutal dictator, and Hitler’s role model. Here are 13 facts about one of the darkest political figures of the 20th century.


Born in 1883 in Verano di Costa, about 40 miles southeast of Bologna, Benito Mussolini was a difficult child. His father was a blacksmith and a devout Socialist. Prone to insolence and violence, Mussolini was sent by his parents to a strict Catholic boarding school. But the new environment hardly tempered his behavior, and at age 10 he was expelled for stabbing a fellow student with a penknife. Before turning 20 he stabbed a few more peers, including one of his girlfriends.


Mussolini was deeply moved by Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables. How he first encountered the novel isn't clear. Some historians say that Mussolini’s father used to read it aloud to the family at home, while other accounts claim that Mussolini heard it read in public by the residents of his hometown in winter gatherings.


In 1909, Mussolini penned The Cardinal’s Mistress, a lurid historical fiction set in 17th-century Italy. Originally published as an anti-religious newspaper serial, the book version became wildly popular and was contemporaneously translated into 10 languages. Mussolini himself described it as “a novel for seamstresses and scandal” and “a nasty book.” With its unbridled language and licentious plot, the novel made fun of the Catholic Church.


Mussolini’s first direct stab at politics was with the Fascist Revolutionary Party, which he founded in 1915. The “Fascist Manifesto,” circulated in 1919, was an early blueprint for a populist movement, calling for full voting rights for men and women, abolition of the Senate (which was dominated by the aristocracy), and massive taxation on the wealthy.

But in 1921 Mussolini rebranded and reorganized the party as the National Fascist Party, this time putting much more emphasis on honoring (and even glamorizing) Italian national identity.


Nostalgia was central to Mussolini’s fascist movement. To engage the public, Mussolini repurposed many antiquated symbols associated (whether accurately or not) with Rome’s historical glory, like the stretched-arm salute and the perched eagle. Even the word fascist echoes the Roman fasces, a bundle of sticks bound together that were used in ancient Rome to signify authority. But Mussolini was actually using an existing term, fascis, which was popular with Italian radical groups as early as the 1890s.


Though fascism valorized traditional values and national unity, in practice Mussolini and his followers acted more like a homicidal mob. They terrorized northern Italy by targeting Communists and vandalizing newspaper offices and social clubs. Within two years, Mussolini oversaw the murder of nearly 2000 political opponents within Italy.


Victor Emmanuel III was king of Italy when Mussolini launched his grassroots party. But in October 1922, when Mussolini and his followers marched on Rome, Emmanuel feared that resisting the fascists would only result in more bloodshed and chaos. The king put up no resistance as Mussolini’s mob barged into the area. In fact, he ended up legitimizing the march by appointing Mussolini prime minister, thinking that the appointment would push Mussolini to cooperate with parliament. It didn’t quite turn out that way. Instead, Mussolini leaned on his popularity to establish a dictatorship in 1925.


Unlike the führer in Nazi Germany, Il Duce didn’t focus too harshly on Jews—up to a point. Until 1938, Italian Jews were seen as part of the nation, and were allowed to join the Fascist Party. “The Fascist government has no intention whatsoever of taking political, economic, or moral measures against Jews,” an official memo from the time reassured the public.

But this changed almost overnight. In July 1938, the government began passing anti-Jewish laws. A few months later Mussolini announced that “foreign Jews” would be deported and those naturalized after January 1919 would lose their citizenship. Exactly what led to the change is unclear historians debate the extent to which Mussolini himself harbored anti-Semitic beliefs. It’s thought to be likely that he considered expelling Jews an easy way to ingratiate himself to his Nazi allies.


For Adolf Hitler, Mussolini was a role model. Hitler admired his political skill, his dramatic style, and his talent for using brute nationalism to mobilize the masses. In 1923 Hitler tried and failed to replicate Mussolini’s power grab in Germany the botched “Beer Hall Putsch” would land Hitler in jail for a time. Once in power, Hitler adopted many of his Italian counterpart’s dictatorial affectations, including the infamous salute.

Mussolini relished Hitler’s adoration. He told his mistress, Claretta Petacci, in 1938 that Hitler “had tears in his eyes” when the two had met. “At heart, Hitler is an old sentimentalist,” Mussolini said, according to Petacci’s journals.


By the middle of World War II, Hitler’s Germany became the unmistakable leader of the Axis Powers in Europe. Throughout the war, Italy’s influence diminished, and by 1943 Mussolini had become a liability to his Nazi ally. The Italian Grand Council voted to depose Il Duce. To everyone’s surprise, King Emmanuel asserted his power and had Mussolini arrested—after informing him that he was, at that moment, “the most hated man in Italy.”

Hitler came to the rescue. On September 12, 1943, a group of German glider pilots rescued Mussolini from his prison in a mountainside hotel in central Italy. The colonel in charge of the mission told Mussolini that Hitler had sent him and that he was now free. Mussolini reportedly responded, “I knew my friend Adolf wouldn’t desert me.”


At Hitler’s command (and with the help of German forces), Mussolini seized power again in northern Italy. Upon regaining control, he immediately sought revenge on members of his close circle who he believed had betrayed him. One of them was his own son-in-law, Galeazzo Ciano, the Fascist government’s foreign minister. Ciano’s son later wrote a memoir on this historical moment titled When Grandpa Had Daddy Shot.


In the final years of the war, Mussolini was able to keep his power only through German force, which was dwindling as well. He knew his time was running out. “Seven years ago, I was an interesting person. Now, I am little more than a corpse,” he said in a 1945 interview. “I do not feel any more an actor. I feel I am the last of spectators.” He ended up fleeing with Claretta Petacci and others to the Swiss border, disguised as a member of the Luftwaffe. But he was recognized by Communist partisans, who shot him and Petacci on April 28, 1945 (two days before Hitler’s suicide). His body was brought back to Milan, where it was dragged along the streets and hung upside-down for public display.


As a populist leader, Mussolini loved speaking directly to the people. Thousands would flock to the crowded square to watch the charismatic orator opine about national greatness. But perhaps his most famous aphorism—“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep”—isn’t a Mussolini original. According to etymologist Barry Popik, Mussolini used the quote to commemorate WWI’s Battle of the Piave River, where an infantryman wrote on a wall, “Better live one hour like a lion than a hundred years like a sheep.” But even that wasn’t the origin of the saying—as early as 1800, Tipu Sultan of Mysore in modern India is credited with saying that he “would rather live two days like a tiger, than two hundred years like a sheep.”


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