The Birth of the Italian Republic

Dear Editor:

Some 75 years ago, on April 28, 1945, Italian partisans executed Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. The death of Benito Mussolini represented a lot more than just the eradication of a Fascist dictatorship. That event signaled the beginning of the end to the Italian monarchy.

Francesco Crispi, one of the founding fathers of a unified Italy, proudly exclaimed: “La monarchia ci unisce, la repubblica ci divide” (“Monarchy unites us, republic divides us”). That was the prevailing political thought among the vast majority of the Italian people for approximately 85 years, until the referendum of 1946.

On October 28, 1922, Mussolini’s Fascist troops marched on Rome. Subsequently, on October 29, 1922, King Vittorio Emanuele III appointed Mussolini prime minister, thereby transferring political power to Mussolini and the Fascists. With that authority, Mussolini joined the Axis Powers and led Italy to war in 1940. Italy was unprepared for war; and, following numerous disasters on the battlefield, the king dismissed Mussolini from power in 1943, and imprisoned him. However, the damage to the monarchy’s credibility had begun to take root.

Otto Skorzeny freed Mussolini from captivity during the Gran Sasso raid. Afterwards, Adolf Hitler put Mussolini in charge of a puppet regime in northern Italy, La Repubblica Sociale Italiana (The Italian Social Republic). In April 1945, Mussolini and his mistress attempted to flee to neutral Switzerland. The partisans caught them, put him and his mistress to death, desecrated their remains; and, afterwards, hung them upside down from a girder at a service station in Milan. Hitler would commit suicide two days later.

Following Germany’s capitulation, King Vittorio Emanuele abdicated; and, his son, Umberto II, assumed the throne for some 30 days before the Italians voted in favor of a republic.

The Italian view of the monarchy had changed drastically following the Fascist fiasco; much of that debacle was blamed on the monarchy. The Italian people realized that the blessings of liberty – the freedom to select their national leaders – put the faith and destiny of the nation in their hands. And, although the Italian Republic has gone through numerous changes of government since 1946, the republic remains endearing to the Italian people – and, obviously, very enduring.

Very respectfully yours,
Albert J. Cupo, President of the Dante Alighieri Society