Benito Mussolini was executed exactly 73 years ago. However, there are still some controversies around the dictator’s death and his killer. Evidence comes basically from partisan testimony and from a large number of different sources. All these sources claim that Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci died in Giuliano di Mezzegra, a small village near Lake Como.
The Spectator’s Nicholas Farrell states: “If your destiny is to be shot dead with your mistress, where better than Lake Como, which, in the words of Shelley, ‘exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty, with the exception of the Arbutus Islands in Killarney’?”
Mussolini was a fascist who ruled Italy since 1922, and he was called Il Duce, which means Leader. He led the country into the Second World War, joining the side of Nazi Germany in June 1940, but most of the Italian forces suffered defeat after defeat in North Africa. By the fall of 1943, Mussolini led the German puppet state while waiting for the Allied counter-attack from the south. When he realized that Germany had no chance to win the war, he fled with his mistress for the Swiss border.
However, the anti-fascist partisans stopped the convoy and Professor David Kertzer, the author of The Pope and Mussolini, told Foreign Policy: “You can imagine the shock when they found him. They had no idea what to do with him.” In fear that the Nazis would do anything to liberate Mussolini, “the partisans hid the pair in a remote farmhouse for the night,” says History.com.
The Day of Execution
Mussolini and his mistress were driven just outside Giulino di Mezzegra, and they had to stand in front of a stone wall of a manor house, Villa Belmonte. They were executed by machine-gun fire. History.com writes: “The identity of the triggerman remains a point of contention, but it was likely communist partisan commander Walter Audisio.”
The bodies were taken to Milan and laid out on the ground together with the other dead fascist leaders. “The mob surged and swayed around the grisly spot,” Ingraham wrote. “One woman emptied a pistol into Il Duce’s body. ‘Five shots!’ she screamed.’ Five shots for my five murdered sons!’ Others cried: ‘He died too quickly! He should have suffered!’ But the hate of many was wordless. They could only spit.” Mussolini and his mistress Petacci were hung from a scaffold for everyone to see.
How did Mussolini’s Death Affected WWII?
The Allied nations celebrated Mussolini’s death and The New York Times reported: “The wretched end of Benito Mussolini marks a fitting end to a wretched life. Shot to death by a firing squad, together with his mistress and a handful of fascist leaders, the first of the fascist dictators, the man who once boasted that he was going to restore the glories of Ancient Rome, is now a corpse in a public square in Milan, with a howling mob cursing and kicking and spitting on his remains.”
Hitler was in his Fuhrerbunker below Berlin, hiding, when the news reached him, according to Foreign Policy magazine. Some historians claim that Mussolini’s death influenced Hitler to kill himself instead of surrender. The others were not so convinced that was the reason.
What are some other theories?
Italians question Mussolini’s death after the war and numerous conspiracy theories became popular. According to one, it was Winston Churchill who sent the British secret agents to assassinate the Italian dictator.
Churchill “is said to have made all sorts of embarrassing offers to keep Mussolini out of the War,” says The Spectator’s Farrell. He wanted to destroy the evidence which pointed to the relationship between the two leaders. However, “not a shred of hard evidence has ever come to light” to support the claim, Farrell concludes.