Born in 1883 in Dovia di Predappio, Forlì, Italy, Benito Mussolini was an ardent socialist as a youth, following in his father's political footsteps, but was expelled by the party for his support of World War I. In 1919, he created the Fascist Party, eventually making himself dictator and holding all the power in Italy. He overextended his forces during World War II and was eventually killed by his own people, on April 28, 1945, in Mezzegra, Italy.
Born on July 29, 1883, in Dovia di Predappio, Forlì, Italy, Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was the eldest of three children. His father, Alessandro, was a blacksmith and an impassioned socialist who spent much of his time on politics and much of his money on his mistress. His mother, Rosa (Maltoni), was a devout Catholic schoolteacher who provided the family with some stability and income.
As a youth, Benito Mussolini showed much intelligence, but was boisterous and disobedient. His father instilled in him a passion for socialist politics and a defiance against authority. Though he was expelled from several schools for bullying and defying school authorities, he eventually obtained a teaching certificate in 1901 and, for a brief time, worked as a schoolmaster.
In 1935, determined to show the strength of his regime, Benito Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. The ill-equipped Ethiopians were no match for Italy's modern tanks and airplanes, and the capital, Addis Ababa, was quickly captured. Mussolini incorporated Ethiopia into the new Italian Empire. In 1939, he sent support to Fascists in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, hoping to expand his influence.
Impressed with Italy's early military successes, German dictator Adolf Hitler sought to establish a relationship with Benito Mussolini; he was flattered by Hitler's overtures and interpreted the recent diplomatic and military victories as proof of his genius. By 1939, the two countries had signed a military alliance known as the "Pact of Steel." Influenced by Hitler, Mussolini instituted discrimination policies against the Jews in Italy. In 1940, Italy invaded Greece with some initial success.
With Italy's resources stretched to capacity, many Italians believed the alliance with Germany would provide time to regroup. But Hitler's invasion of Poland and declaration of war with Britain and France forced Italy into war, and exposed weaknesses in its military. Greece and North Africa soon fell, and only German military intervention in early 1941 saved Mussolini from a military coup.
Italy's Defeat and Mussolini's Demise
In 1942, at the Casablanca Conference, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt devised a plan to take Italy out of the war and force Germany to move its troops to the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union. Allied forces secured a beachhead in Sicily and began marching up the Italian peninsula. With pressure mounting, Mussolini was forced to resign and arrested; German commandos later rescued him. Mussolini then moved his government to northern Italy, hoping to regain his influence. On June 4, 1944, Rome was liberated by Allied forces, who marched on to take control of Italy.
Mussolini and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, attempted to escape to Switzerland, but were captured by the Italian underground on April 27, 1945. They were executed the following day, on April 28, 1945, in Mezzegra (near Dongo), Italy, and their bodies were hung on display in a Milan plaza. The Italian masses greeted Mussolini's death without regret. Mussolini had promised his people Roman glory, but his megalomania had overcome his common sense, bringing them only war and misery.
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