Building On the Past: The Fall of Mussolini
When the fascist Grand Council met on the morning of July 25, 1943, they voted Benito Mussolini out of power.
That’s right. Voted.
This comical end to the fascist dictator was due to lack of meaningful ambition on Mussolini’s part. Although he had been in power as il Duce (the leader) since 1925, he had failed to sell fascism the same way Hitler had sold it to the German people in the 1930s. In his dream of a new Roman Empire, the Duce had inadequately mobilized his nation for war and was not prepared for the seemingly endless resources afforded to the Allies.
This lack of foresight is common among dictators. The allure of power is often blinding to reality. Much like Hitler, Mussolini made fatal errors in waging war against a determined enemy. Neither dictator anticipated the resistance of the Red Army at Stalingrad or the resolve of Britain against almost impossible odds. The defeat at Stalingrad had resulted in the complete destruction of the Italian Army on the Eastern Front. After the Allied landing at Sicily on July 10, the Grand Council was forced to take action.
The Grand Council, which had not met since 1939, now looked to salvage what was left of their small country. In 1943, with coal, oil and food in short supply, the Italian public began openly expressing their disdain with the Duce. Realizing the facts, the Grand Council looked to craft an armistice with the Allies. Following his meek acceptance of the Council’s decision, Mussolini was arrested.
Although he was rescued by the Waffen-SS and charged by Hitler to continue the war in northern Italy, the anticlimactic end of this would-be Roman Emperor was completed with his capture and execution in 1945.