Mussolini Biography


“His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire”

An overblown title for an overblown life – introducing Benito Mussolini, fascism’s founding father and the Italy’s leader during much of World War II.

Raised hell at school

mussolini-biography-rare-photoA young Benito Mussolini
as editor of La Lotta di
Classe (Class Struggle).
@ Mussolini Biography

Mussolini (29 July, 1883-28 April, 1945) was born to working-class parent in Dova di Predappio in Italy’s north.
His early life reads like that of a beat poet on heat – expelled from church at age eight, expelled from school for stabbing another pupil in the arse (with a pen knife), became a school teacher, arrested for vagrancy, writes a novel and joins a newspaper.
In his early days, Mussolini was a socialist and supported the Allies during World War I.
He even founded his own newspaper,
Popolo d’Italia
, to encourage Italy to join the British-led coalition.

Grappled for power

But after the war he swung the other way and took up fascism.
It was a new political concept that pushed glorification of the state and government control over all aspects of public life.
Mussolini was elected to parliament in 1921 and seized control of the government after his fascist followers marched on Rome in October 1922. Mussolini’s newspaper experience came in handy – he became a master of propaganda and hoodwinked the vast majority of Italians into his fanbase.
At the same time Mussolini transformed Italy into a dictatorship. All media organizations were nationalized and opponents were rubbed out by a secret police force.
Mussolini adopted the name “il Duce” meaning “the Leader” in 1925. Mussolini wanted to create a “New Roman Empire” that would make the Mediterranean an Italian lake, just like in the days of Julius Caesar.

Path to war

Mussolini ordered the bombing the Greek island of Corfu in 1923 and invaded Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1935-36. Though Mussolini was initially at odds with Hitler he warmed up to the Nazis when the League of Nations condemned his African exploits.

mussolini-biographyMussolini rides in an open-topped car with Hitler
in Florence, 1938.
@ Mussolini Biography

Il Duce coined the term “Axis Powers” when he spoke of Rome-Berlin axis in 1936.
He set up a puppet regime in Albania in April 1939 after a brief but costly invasion. But when World War Two rolled around his armies weren’t yet ready to fight. Mussolini decided to stay out of the war until he was sure which side would win.
When the Germans reached the English Channel, Mussolini threw his lot in with Hitler and the two leaders agreed to an alliance. Mussolini dubbed it the “Pact of Steel” and declared war on Britain and France on June 10, 1940.

Losing run

italian-soldiers-world-war-2Italian soldiers in
World War 2.
@ Mussolini Biography

Mussolini seemed to be a lot better at creating terror among his own people than in the countries he wanted to conquer.
His disastrous campaign in Greece would have failed if the Nazis hadn’t come and bailed the struggling Italian troops out, and they lost about a third of the newly conquered Albania in the process.
In step with Hitler, Mussolini declared war on the Soviet Union in June, 1941 and on the United States in December.
It was all distinctly downhill from there.
Mussolini’s political support at home began to crumble as the tide of war turned against the Axis in North Africa in 1942.
Italy’s industry ground to a halt due to a shortage of raw materials and a lack of food throughout the country nullified Mussolini’s propaganda machine. Mass strikes gripped the country and Italy’s army seemed about to collapse.
Rome was bombed for the first time ever on July 19.
The final straw was the Allied invasion of Sicily in August 1943.
The war now on Italy’s doorstep, Mussolini’s former comrades went after him all guns blazing. He was forced to summon the Grand Council of Fascism on July 24, 1943, the first time the ruling body had met since the start of the war.

Ousted from office

pietro-badoglioPietro Badoglio

The council voted Mussolini out of power and Italy’s King Emmanuel III replaced il Duce with Marshall Pietro Badoglio.
Bodoglio continued to (at least publically, anyway) support the Nazis, but signed a peace treaty with the Allies on September 3, 1943.
He declared war on Nazi Germany on October 13. Mussolini was arrested straight after his overthrow and put under house arrest at a mountain resort in Abruzzo.
A daring raid by German paratroopers got him out of Italy, but this salvation turned out to be more of a damnation.

Dying days

Mussolini was taken to Hitler’s command bunkers in East Prussia (now Poland) in September 1943. Hitler held onto the hope of victory, but Il Duce had seen the handwriting on the wall.
Mussolini’s health was deteriorating and he would have been happy to bow out of the limelight and fade into obscurity. But the Führer would have none of that.
Hitler basically ordered Mussolini to return and set up a new fascist state, to be known as the Italian Social Republic.
It was naught but a puppet regime kowtowing to its Nazi overlords.
Mussolini holed up in a town by Lake Como in northern Italy and whiled the days away penning his memoirs, later published as “My Rise and Fall.”

mussolini-photo-deadMussolini hanging
from the roof .
@ Mussolini Biography

Mussolini’s death (in the dying days of the war) was just despicable.
Communist Italian partisans intercepted Il Duce, his mistress Claretta Petacci and 16 of his followers on the road out of Italy.
They were trying to escape to Switzerland and then onto Spain, where Mussolini hoped to find asylum from Franco’s fascist Spanish government.
The captors held the group for one night and executed them all on April 28, 1945.
The bodies were driven to Milan and hung upside-down from the roof of a petrol station, to be pelted with stones by the crowd.

Had lovers and children

Mussolini was married twice and like any old-school Italian man, about 500 lovers. He had four children. His most splashy successor is granddaughter Alessandra Mussolini (born December 30, 1962).
Alessandra is herself a politician and leader of Italy’s conservative Social Action party. She’s known for speaking her mind and generally getting in people’s faces.

Lost his faith

Though his mother was bible-bashing Catholic Mussolini rejected the church and became an atheist. But there would be no persecution of Christians as there was under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
On the contrary, Mussolini tried to appease Italy’s Catholic majority and had his kids given communion for appearance’s sake.
Mussolini signed a treaty with the Catholic Church in 1929 in which the church recognized the Italian state (modern Italy had only been around since the 1860s) and Italy recognized Vatican City’s independence.

Written by C. Anderson, 2010. Last updated December 2013.
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References for Mussolini Biography

The Oxford Essential Dictionary of the U.S. Military, 2001

World Encyclopedia, 2005

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2008

Photo sources for Mussolini Biography

• Young Benito Mussolini

• Mussolini and Hitler in car

• Itaian soldiers

• Pietro Badoglio

• Mussolini hanging

Unless otherwise stated, all photos used on the page Mussolini Biography are, to our knowledge, in the public domain. If you think otherwise, please let us know.