Imagine if Hitler made a comeback in Germany. His merchandise started flying off the shelves. His birthplace in Braunau am Inn suddenly became a top tourist destination. A senior businessman declared that a major airport should be renamed “Hitler Airport.”
The world would be outraged, and perhaps even fearful.
But something similar is going on in Italy.
Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini never disappeared the way Hitler did. Hitler became the symbol of evil while Mussolini somehow escaped the same treatment. Praising Hitler is rightly anathema, but loving Mussolini is mainstream in Italy. And it’s growing.
Mussolini calendars appear every new year. A businessman proposed renaming Forli Airport “Mussolini Airport.” A headmaster tried to hang his portrait in his school. Predappio—Mussolini’s place of birth and burial—is a popular tourist destination. Hundreds of thousands visit Predappio every year, where they can buy all kinds of merchandise bearing Mussolini’s picture.
What’s more worrying is that Mussolini’s fan base is growing.
Demand for the Mussolini calendars is on the increase. “We are selling more than we did 10 years ago,” the head of a printer in Rome, Renato Circi, told the Guardian. “I didn’t think it was still a phenomenon, but young people are now buying them too.”
Last year, a town south of Rome unveiled a €127,000 memorial to one of Mussolini’s chief generals—Field Marshal Rodolfo Graziani. A memorial to Hermann Göring or Heinrich Himmler would have generated outrage across the world, and in Germany. But the response to Graziani? “Widespread indifference,” according to the Guardian. The Vatican sent a representative to the opening ceremony.
As this incident demonstrates, Mussolini’s fans come from all walks of life. Most of them “do not vote for far-right parties,” wrote Spiegel Online. “They check the box for Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party (PdL), for the Christian Democrats or center-left parties.”
That thousands of mainstream Italians revere the memory of this dictator should be deeply worrying. While these people would rightly oppose a new Hitler, this implies they would be open to the rise of a “good” dictator—a new Mussolini, as they would see it.
Italy has tragically failed to learn the history of World War ii. Spiegel writes, “The most successful of the Mussolini souvenir sellers … puts it this way: ‘Hitler was a criminal, but Mussolini was a man of honor.’”
Hitler souvenirs are available alongside some of the Mussolini ones. But the Italians don’t buy them. They don’t like Hitler. But Mussolini was different—they think.
“The general Italian public knows relatively little about this chapter of Italian history, trading mostly in myths and half-truths,” writes Spiegel.
Italy has long covered up its history—with the help of Britain and America. In Germany, ex-Nazis got off lightly as the Allies tried to build Germany up as an enemy to Russia. In Italy it was even worse. The Allies were worried that Italy would fall to communism, and so did almost nothing to punish those who worked under Mussolini. The war crimes were swept under the carpet.
The Vatican, which worked closely with Mussolini, was also keen to have this history forgotten.
“Of more than 1,200 Italians sought for war crimes in Africa and the Balkans, not one has faced justice,” wrote Rory Carroll in the Guardian over a decade ago. “Webs of denial spun by the state, academe and the media have reinvented Italy as a victim, gulling the rest of the world into acclaiming the Good Italian long before Captain Corelli strummed a mandolin.”
“In reality Benito Mussolini’s invading soldiers murdered many thousands of civilians, bombed the Red Cross, dropped poison gas, starved infants in concentration camps and tried to annihilate cultures deemed inferior,” he continued.
But Carroll had hope. Thanks to the work of a few good historians, “a tentative reappraisal may be under way,” he wrote. He was wrong about that. Ten years on, the Mussolini myth is as strong as ever.
This myth is not harmless nostalgia. Europe is in the early stages of a revolution. Unemployment in several countries has reached levels that threaten the stability of the state. Neo-Nazis are rising in Greece.
A new Mussolini, who can put people back to work, make the trains run on time and restore Europe’s prestige, is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition. An “honorable” dictator would seem the perfect solution to many.
Far-right parties aren’t on the point of being voted into office. But Mussolini’s fans don’t necessarily vote far right. This kind of dictator would appeal even to the mainstream.
It is often said that those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Italy hasn’t learned the lessons from its last disastrous dalliance with a dictator. It will be tempted to try it again.
The Trumpet has long warned of a coming strongman in Europe. But he won’t be a new Hitler. “The next political leader will be much more suave and sophisticated than Hitler was,” wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his booklet Daniel Unlocks Revelation. “Otherwise other nations would not be so easily deceived—even those that are members of the EU.”
Europe’s danger is not a new Hitler, but a new Mussolini. Not Mussolini as he really was, but as he has been idealized and idolized. A man thought of as honorable, endorsed by the pope, requesting more powers so he can fix Europe’s unemployment and fight terror, could receive widespread support.
Mussolini’s popularity proves there is plenty of room for a new “suave and sophisticated” dictator in Europe. For more information on this danger, see our article “A Deadly Secret Plot Has Been Uncovered.” ▪