Historical story

Why did Hitler admire Mussolini?

What the Duce needed three years for, the Führer would do in six months. But even in the early 1930s, attempts were made to create Hitler, the rally screamer, as the "German Mussolini".

When in the fall of 1922 Benito Mussolini - after the "black shirts" march to Rome - starts talking to King Victor Emanuel about the prime minister's seat, in Germany Adolf Hitler is still considered at best as a half-woman with demagogic talents. If at all someone outside Bavaria knows about its existence, because outside of Bavaria the Nazi party is banned, and Hitler himself - as Ian Kershaw writes in his latest book "To hell and back" - evokes enthusiasm mainly in Munich beer halls while rarely outside of them .

It is in such a place that one of the praise of the future Führer begins to shout that "the German Mussolini is called Adolf Hitler" . This quote does a good job of showing just how fascinated by Hitler's backers at the time was the fascist pattern. They had reasons.

The march for power broke up by the police

Fascists and Nazis grew out of a similar post-war resentment - Mussolini complained that Italy had won a "crippled victory" ( vittoria mutilata ), while Hitler eagerly referred to the legend of a "stab in the back" ( Dolchstoßlegende), allegedly inflicted on the Germans by "November criminals." By 1923 the Nazis already had well-developed paramilitary militias in the image of "black shirts", but a "march to Berlin" - like that carried out by the fascists in Italy - could only be dreamed of.

Hitler and his henchmen appealed to the "backstab" myth (source:public domain).

In Bavaria, which enjoys wide autonomy, the authorities looked through their fingers at the troublemakers who, like Hitler, demanded the overthrow of the government in Berlin. Hitler, however, unsuccessfully tried to win over the Bavarian army for this idea and unite the local parties.

In the end, fearing losing support, he tried to take the local leaders with a desperate bluff:he announced (significantly:in a beer hall) a coup d'état and the formation of a new government led by General Ludendorff.

The game is up. Ludendorff did not know anything and was furious with Hitler. The only "march" that the Nazi leader could afford was the march to the headquarters of Otto von Lossow, the commander of the Bavarian army. The march was dispersed by the police and Hitler was brought to trial. After the coup, Lossow mocked that the "German Mussolini" was in fact at most a "rally screamer". Hitler was to learn this and other lessons in the struggle for power much later.

The blacksmith's son ignites the imagination of nowhere man

One symptom of the unflagging fascination with Mussolini and the fascists was the acceptance by the Nazis of their greeting:the Roman salute (right hand thrown upwards). But most of all: Mussolini seemed impressively effective.

When the Nazis, with a few percent support, were still wandering around the fringes of German politics, within three years he managed to crack down on the communists, outlaw the opposition, introduce state censorship - simply:gain absolute power in the country, shaping it according to his own "will". After all, the Nazi leader had not been hiding his dreams for years.

Hitler, as Kershaw writes in his book, admired few people, but Mussolini was certainly one of them. Issues of origin were also important here. Hitler was a man from nowhere, he never hid his contempt for the so-called the old elite. The case of the son of a blacksmith and teacher, who became the youngest prime minister in Italian history, although he had never held any public office before, ignited his imagination.

At a time when Hitler only dreamed of power, Mussolini had had its fullness for years. No wonder then that he became a model for the Nazi leader (source:Bundesarchiv; lic. CC-BY-SA 3.0)

With power at hand, he learned from Duce experiences . Like Mussolini in 1922, the Nazi leader a decade later was not tempted simply by his position in the government - he agreed to coalition rule, but with him as chancellor. The fascists did not make a coup in the strict sense. Power was delegated to them in accordance with the constitution. Hitler remembered this as well, keeping the appearance of legality until the very last moment.

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during the first foreign visit of the German chancellor. Venice, June 1934 (source:public domain).

He dealt with political competition later. Thanks to Mussolini, he knew that he had to win over the army and skillfully play off the fear of the middle class and conservatives of the communists. Ian Kershaw aptly emphasizes that:

The unwritten "deal" between the Nazi leaders and representatives of the national-conservative ruling elite in Germany that led to Hitler's power was made along the lines of the one that had provided Mussolini with power in Italy .

Except that it took three years to consolidate power in the hands of the Duce, and Hitler did the same in six months.

Black uniform, worn coat and reversed roles

As late as 1934, Hitler felt respect for Mussolini. The course of his visit to Italy is telling (the first trip abroad as chancellor): Duce He almost embarrasses him by parading in his black uniform with a dagger and medals, while Hitler in a worn raincoat and muddy boots looks like a poor relative.

Hitler, as we read in his classic biography by Alan Bullock, returns from this journey "depressed and upset". But respect for Duce does not lose. Pieje about the "constructive power" of Mussolini, who managed to turn Italy into a "new empire". He describes him as "one of those lonely people of the century who are not a test of history but make history themselves". Even years later, when the defeat of the Axis is in sight, she will call Mussolini "the greatest son of Italian land since the fall of Rome" .

They are obvious allies, but as German expansion grows more predatory, the roles in this tandem begin to reverse. In 1937, Hitler, aware of the growing potential of Germany, invites Duce to the Reich. He welcomes him with a parade of SS troops, takes him around the Krupp factory, together they speak in Berlin to a crowd of 800,000.

After 1937, Mussolini had an inferiority complex to Hitler (source:public domain).

Mussolini returns to Rome with an inferiority complex against German power, which he will not get rid of for the rest of his life. He treats the German plans to subjugate Austria with less and less reluctance. Nevertheless, in March 1938, Hitler fears until the last minute that Rome - not so long ago ready to send troops to the Brenner Pass - will veto the Anschluss.

When the answer comes, " Duce he took it very kindly, ”Hitler gets euphoric. He dictates a telegram:"I will never forget this," and sends the message that after Mussolini "he will be ready to go into fire and water." According to Laurence Rees, author of The Nazis. A warning from history ", this episode may explain why the German tyrant remained personally loyal to the Italian tyrant until the very end of the war.

Hitler captures and sends notification

Even after Munich, Hitler owes Mussolini - Duce plays the role of an "impartial mediator" there, presenting German plans to neutralize Czechoslovakia as his own. But when Germany invades Prague in 1939, Duce already knows that he has irreversibly become the weaker partner in this arrangement.

At the turn of the 1930s and 1940s, both dictators were reluctant to share their conquest plans (source:public domain).

"Every time Hitler conquers a country, he sends me a notification," he says to Count Ciano, his son-in-law and minister of diplomacy. He is angry with the leader of the Reich, because he is going to war despite promises that he will not start it in a few years. The Germans will be irritated by the Italians' neutrality towards the invasion of Poland ("they behave like in 1914"), and even more disgusted when they join the war with France at the last minute.

Hitler played in those years, Bullock writes, on "Mussolini's internal conflict between fear and the desire to play a historic role." He did not tell him that he would attack Norway or Yugoslavia - and in return, Mussolini with "childish joy of doing someone out of spite" without warning ordered to attack Greece and Albania. When the news of the attack by the Reich from the USSR reached Rome, the Italian dictator loudly expressed his hope that the Germans would pluck some feathers.

At the same time, during a series of meetings in those years, Hitler surprisingly easily lifted Mussolini's spirits about the future of the war. Even in 1943, Duce, already tired and infirm, was bursting with energy after meeting the Führer.

I knew Adolf would not leave me

The fall of Mussolini (after the Allied invasion of Sicily) showed by the way that Hitler drew one more conclusion from the experiences of the fascists:he never allowed any organ comparable to the Fascist Great Council to survive in the Reich, which, in the face of defeat, could remove him from power.

Five years earlier, he had spoken of Mussolini:"If he ever needed help or was in danger, he could be sure that I would not abandon him" - and he persevered. As soon as it was established that the fallen dictator was being held in an inaccessible hotel on Mount Gran Sasso, German commandos under the command of Otto Skorzeny set off for a daring action.

Released Mussolini said: "I knew my friend Adolf would not leave me" . But Hitler expected his triumphant return, and the broken Duce could not fulfill these expectations. Created in the north of Italy, the Republic of Salò was more than just a puppet creation. Mussolini as its leader - described as the "gauleiter of Lombardy" - the Germans despised and the Italians hated him.

The pathetic end that met Mussolini shocked Hitler, who wanted to avoid a similar fate at all costs (photo:Renzo Pistone; source:public domain).

Alan Bullock wrote that Hitler never replenished his amazing loyalty to Mussolini with confidence. In the final weeks of the war, he admitted that "his unshakable friendship with Italy and with the Duce can be regarded as a mistake."

When the news about the fate of Mussolini and his mistress reached the bunker in Berlin - the partisans shot them and, to the delight of the crowd, hanged the bodies in the square in Milan - Hitler was sure that he did not intend to share this fate. Two dictators who considered themselves revolutionaries of the same cause were killed several dozen hours apart.