The Enigma of Benito Mussolini: Dictator to Rubber Stamp

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The Enigma of Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini in his PrimeBenito Mussolini in his Prime

Mussolini was a leader in his own right and was the senior of Hitler. He was the man who ushered in Fascism in Italy and led his ‘Brown shirts’ to seize power in Rome. At that time Mussolini was a leader on the world stage and he relished his status as a ‘strong leader’. Mind you initially he did a lot of good for Italy and for the first time trains began to run on time in Italy.
At that time he was a role model for Hitler, but his charisma began to wane after Italian defeats in the Second World War and this came to a head in 1943 when he was deposed and arrested on orders of the King of Italy. This removal and arrest and the fact that he was taken away in an ambulance van preyed on his mind. His imprisonment also affected him and he began to have self doubts. Perhaps psychologists have not studied this aspect of Mussolini’s character.Marshal Badoglio took over the leadership of Italy and Mussolini was imprisoned. He was shifted regularly from prison to prison as the Italians feared that Hitler may get him rescued.

By this time Mussolini of the thirties, a man had led the brown shirts in the famous march on Rome was dead and in his place had emerged a broken man. Hitler however had vowed to rescue Mussolini and accordingly he launched plans to save Mussolini. Intelligence reports told the Germans that Mussolini was kept imprisoned in a mountain Chateau in North Italy. This was an inaccessible place , but a daring operation by glider borne troops rescued Mussolini.

But the Mussolini who was rescued was a shadow of the earlier Mussolini and all he desired was to be with his young mistress Clara. He abdicated all responsibility and despite being re-installed as Il Duce in North Italy did everything at the behest of Hitler. He on orders of Hitler had his own son-in-law Count Ciano executed. He was now a real puppet and in all meetings with his German advisors he just sat and listened and signed decrees as desired by them. This was a far cry from the man who sat in an imposing office in Rome and created the aura of power and invincibility.

Italians were incensed and looked to capture him. He was captured in early 1945 by the members of the Italian resistance and shot dead with his beloved Clara. It was a sad end to a great man who had plummeted to the depths of despair. The last phase of Mussolini’s life when he became a de-facto puppet of Hitler is very sad indeed. But one reason could be the hypnotic and mesmerizing character of Hitler. If Chamberlain could be charmed by it , so could Mussolini be faulted. But Mussolini’s descent from leader to puppet is something that just happened and shows that man can have many facets in his character.

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