Biography31 May 2010 02:23 pm
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Biographies, will be available online and in stores on May 11. (Click here to pre-order your copy.) As the release date approaches, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from that book. Today’s entry on “Benito Mussolini” draws from the “Leaders” section of the Biographies edition.
At the close of his life, a still proud Benito Mussolini made the following prediction to one of his last interviewers: “After the defeat I will be covered furiously in spit but then they will come to clean me with veneration.” Ultimately, the man once referred to as, “Il Duce” was only half right.
The Fascist Party he founded in 1921, which held sway over Italy for just over two decades, failed to permanently transform his fellow countrymen (much less the entire world). The so-called “third way” that he foisted on Italy- an inchoate mix of militarism, hyper-nationalism, anti-intellectualism, and collectivism- ultimately took toll its toll on the country and engendered fanatical hatred and resentment towards the fascist dictator amongst many Italians. In fact, one need only look to the gruesome events surrounding his execution on April 29, 1945 to get a sense of the collective rage felt by the Italian people towards their fallen authoritarian leader.
Knowing his time was up during the last days of the war in Italy, Mussolini attempted to escape the advancing Allied Army by hiding in a German convoy headed toward the Alps. However, the dictator was discovered after a stop and search and immediately arrested, and was soon joined by his mistress, Clara Petacci. The council of partisan leaders, led by the Communists, secretly decided to execute Mussolini and his fifteen most powerful political followers.
On April 28, Colonel Valerio broke into the room where Mussolini and Clara were being held and told them that he had come to rescue them. They hurried to the awaiting car and were escorted about a mile away before being stopped near gate to the Villa Belmonte. Ordered to get out of the car and stand next to the stone wall, they were both summarily executed by a firing squad armed with machine guns. A guard was placed over their bodies, while Valero rounded up the remainder of the 15 prisoners selected for execution. They were hurriedly brought out to the square and given 3 minutes for the ministrations of a priest before joining their fallen leader’s fate.
However, Mussolini’s execution had not quelled the rage of the blood thirsty mob, and Mussolini’s executioners were more than willing to oblige…His dead body was dragged into the town square (as well as that of his mistress and sixteen other Fascists), and was subjected to a gruesome parade of terribles that shocked the world with its brutality. True to their mama bear reputation, a handful of vengeful Italian mothers were responsible for starting the orgy of violence against Ill Duce’s body. One mother produced a revolver and fired five shots into Mussolini’s head to “avenge my five dead sons”; another woman tore off a strip of his shirt, set fire to it and threw it in his face.
Whipped into a frenzy, the crowd surged forward and began beating Mussolini’s body into a bloody pulp- his skull was cracked and one of his eyes fell out of its socket. One woman squatted down, raised her skirt and urinated on his face. Others covered his face in spit (thus fulfilling his prediction). One man creatively attempted to put a dead mouse in Mussolini’s mouth, while cackling, “Make a speech now, make a speech.” The corpses of the executed fascists were dragged through the streets, hung on meat hooks, and displayed to the crazed crowd. When the mob became too frenzied, the police had to use water hoses to control the situation. Finally, the Allies ordered the bodies removed for burial.
When Adolf Hitler heard how Mussolini was executed and put on public display, he vowed he would not let this happen to him. A few days later, Hitler shot his mistress and new wife, Eva Braunn, swallowed some cyanide, he shot himself in the mouth for good measure. Following Hitler’s orders, their bodies were placed in a shell hole outside of his Berlin bunker and burned. Only his teeth were later discovered.
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