July 25, 1943, Mussolini's inertia. With the «Corriere» the essay by Emilio Gentile-Corriere.it

July 25, 1943, Mussolini's inertia.  With the «Corriere» the essay by Emilio Gentile-Corriere.it


On 25 July the historian's book on the fate of the disarmed dictator comes out with the newspaper. In the meeting of the Grand Council the Duce kept a passive attitude. Then the king had him arrested and replaced him with Badoglio as head of government

We believe we know everything or almost everything about some historical events. There are consolidated versions, which are handed down over time in the mass media and enter the collective imagination. But it may happen that, with the discovery of unpublished documents, perspectives change and different reconstructions and interpretations make their way. A case of this kind is the session of the Fascist Grand Council in which the famous Grandi agenda was voted, decisive for setting in motion the events that led to the fall of Benito Mussolini. Emilio Gentile's book July 25, 1943on July 25th on newsstands with the «Corriere della Sera»constitutes in this regard an important turning point, which allows us to resolve several questions and to deny the convenient versions provided by the protagonists of that dramatic story.

The premises of the session of the Grand Council are well known. After three years of war, the military situation of Italy and the political stability of fascism were largely compromised. On 10 July 1943 the Anglo-Americans had landed in Sicily and were preparing to complete the occupation of the island. The meeting between Mussolini and Adolf Hitler held near Feltre on 19 July ended in stalemate: the hypothesis of negotiating a separate peace with the Soviet Union to turn all forces against the Allies, raised by the Duce, did not interest the German dictator at all. On July 19, Rome had also been heavily bombed by the Allies, with a large number of civilian casualties.

Three days earlier, a delegation of fascist leaders had presented themselves to Mussolini to ask for the convening of the Grand Council. In reality, the supreme organ of the regime was not such, because the Duce conceived it as a seat of mere ratification of his decisions. Among other things, it hadn't met for a long time: the last meeting was in December 1939, when the war had already begun, but Italy was still in the ambiguous condition defined as «non-belligerence». However in July 1943 the regime was crumbling and Mussolini accepted the confrontation.

During the meeting, which was held between 17.15 on 24 July and the early hours of the following day, the agenda presented by Dino Grandi, at the time president of the Chamber of Fasci and Corporations, was voted by majority. It he invited Mussolini to pray to King Vittorio Emanuele III to assume «with the effective command of the Armed Forces», delegated in 1940 to the Duce, «that supreme decision-making initiative that our institutions attribute to him».

The following day Mussolini went to the king at Villa Savoia and the sovereign announced his decision to revoke his office of prime minister to replace him with marshal Pietro Badoglio. On leaving the now ex dictator was stopped by the carabinieri, who loaded him into an ambulance and took him to a barracks. Then he would be transferred to the island of Ponza. On the evening of July 25, 1943, the news of the change of government was spread and Badoglio turned to the Italians, announcing that the war would continue.

These are the established facts, which however leave open numerous questions about the progress of the Grand Council, the intentions of Grandi and the other signatories of the approved agenda, the behavior of Mussolini. An official record of the debate does not exist. Many of the protagonists, starting with the Duce, have left memoirs, given interviews, written books. But these are gravely contradictory or "adjusted" testimonies over time. In his book Emilio Gentile analyzes them with extreme attention and evaluates their reliability with philological scruple. The resulting picture is a summation of different versions. It is no coincidence that the historian evokes in this regard Rashomonthe film by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa in which the characters provide completely divergent reconstructions of the same tragic episode.

Gentile in his work, originally released at Laterza in 2018, makes use of hitherto unpublished papers from the Luigi Federzoni archive, former minister and former president of the Senate. These are the notes taken by the Bolognese hierarch during the session of the Grand Council and a "handwritten report compiled by several hands in the form of minutes in the Federzoni house, probably between the end of July and the beginning of August" of 1943. To these documents, precious because they were drafted at a hot shot, are added the annotations of Alfredo De Marsico, Minister of Justice at the time, reproduced photographically in 1983 as an appendix to a memoir on 25 July and overlooked you by scholars.

The examination of these acquisitions and the close comparison with the other testimonies allows Gentile to reach conclusions that may appear surprising. To give just one significant example, a fundamental point in the version provided by Mussolini in 1944 is unreliable. The Duce wrote in the Corriere della Sera that during the fateful session he had warned the signatories of the Grandi agenda, before and after the vote, emphasizing that that document would have provoked "the crisis of the regime". But no trace of these expressions can be found in the most reliable documents and it must therefore be concluded that they were the result of an invention useful to justify the shooting of Galeazzo Ciano and four other hierarchs convicted of "treason" following the show trial in Verona in January 1944.

Gentile's essay therefore marks a big step forward in the knowledge of a crucial episode in the twentieth-century history of our country. It highlights the resigned and helpless attitude of a Mussolini aware of having lost his grip on the people and on the fascist leaders themselves. Analyze the confused motivations of the various protagonists, their intentions far from clear. Above all, it gives us an eloquent picture of the state of chaos in which a liberticidal regime with immoderate ambitions was reduced, which made the country pay a very dear price for its wicked political choices.

The volume on newsstands for a month

Emilio Gentile's book will be released on newsstands with the Corriere della Sera on 25 July "July 25, 1943", at the price of 8.90 euros plus the cost of the newspaper. The volume, which remains on sale for a month, constitutes the most up-to-date and precise reconstruction of the events which, eighty years ago, led to the fall of the fascist regime following the disastrous course of the Second World War, into which our country had entered three years earlier, by decision of Benito Mussolini, on 10 June 1940. In this essay, originally published by Laterza in 2018, Emilio Gentile also makes use of hitherto unpublished documents to correct various inaccuracies that have been committed, even very recently, in recounting the progress of the meeting that took place in Palazzo Venezia between 24 and 25 July 1943. In that session of the Grand Council of Fascism, the agenda presented by Dino Grandi as the first signatory was approved: a document that appealed to King Vittorio Emanuele III to resume the supreme command of the armed forces in operation, which he had delegated to Mussolini in 1940. And the Duce, contrary to what he himself would later write, did nothing to avoid the outcome of the vote. The political novelty constituted by the pronouncement of the Grand Council provided the army and the king with the opportunity to implement the plan, already developed to get rid of Mussolini. But the most serious problem remained that of ending the war. And the ruling class proved unable to do so without causing a vertical collapse of the state and the armed forces in the face of the reaction of the former German allies. September 8 came and Italy found itself split in two.

July 24, 2023 (change July 24, 2023 | 21:10)

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