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1943: Italian dictator Mussolini quits

AUDIO : Announcement of Italy's Benito Mussolini resignation

The Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, is reported to have stepped down as head of the armed forces and the government.

King Victor Emmanuel has assumed control of the army and issued a statement saying his country would "through the valour of her troops and the determination of her civilian population, find, in the respect of her old institutions, the way of recovery".

Marshal Pietro Badoglio is the new prime minister. He said the war would go on and he urged the people to rally round the King. He also gave a warning that any attempt to disrupt public order would be severely dealt with.

The resignation of Mussolini, Adolf Hitler's junior partner, will be seen as a blow to the Axis coming hot on the heels of the Allies' invasion of Sicily.


"Everybody went absolutely wild for about three days and every fascist emblem was torn down"


Reports from Sicily say most of the island is now in Allied hands, apart from the mountainous area in the north-east, where they are still meeting tough resistance from the German military.

The Times diplomatic correspondent says: "Mussolini, who will be 60 on Thursday, has been ill in recent months, but his resignation is not covered with the easy pretence of ill-health.

"The people know plainly that he has resigned because he is a failure - a failed criminal."

In fact, previous reports from Italy suggested the Duce was on his way out. He made no rallying call when the Allies invaded Sicily and all appeals to the people were made in the name of Italy, not in the name of Fascism.

There were also reports ten days ago he had met Hitler for talks in northern Italy. But little news came out of the meeting and that fact, together with the news now of his resignation, suggests if he had made any last appeal for help to Hitler then it was turned down.

Rome Radio announced the news of Mussolini's departure. Afterwards the Italian national anthem was played, rather than the Fascist hymn, "Giovenessa", which has previously ended all bulletins.

It is being seen as a further indication of the new Italian regime's wish to disassociate itself from the Fascist Party, the movement founded by Mussolini in 1919 as Fasci di Combattimento.

Many observers believe the removal of Mussolini is a first step towards Italy pulling out of the war altogether and declaring neutrality - but it seems clear the Allies are not prepared to accept anything less than unconditional surrender.

Berlin has tried to minimize the significance of Mussolini's departure. Reports on Berlin radio said the change at the top was a matter of "Italian internal politics".

In Context
Reports the following day said Italy had been placed under strict martial law. A curfew was introduced and military and civilian patrols were given orders to shoot if necessary.

The new government was led by Marshal Pietro Badoglio, who had emerged as Mussolini's most likely successor despite some disagreement over Italy's intervention in the war.

In the week following Mussolini's resignation it became clear the Duce had been forced to resign and the old Fascist regime dismantled.

It is now known his former Fascist colleagues turned against Mussolini at a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council on 25 July, which allowed the King to dismiss him and then have him arrested.

In early September 1943 Italy signed an armistice with the Allies, but the Germans forced the surrender of Italian troops on the mainland and occupied most of the country, apart from the far south which was held by Badoglio's government supported by US and British forces.

Mussolini was rescued by German paratroops from prison in northern Italy and put in charge of their new puppet regime, the Italian Social Republic in the north of the country. But he no longer commanded the authority he had before. He was shot by partisans on 28 April 1945 after attempting to escape to Switzerland.


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