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Post How Many did Mussolini Kill?
Created by John Eipper on 10/27/17 3:59 AM

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How Many did Mussolini Kill? (Istvan Simon, USA, 10/27/17 3:59 am)

Now come on, Eugenio. I did provide sources for my post of October 26th. Your saying that something is propaganda does not make it so. WAIS is full of serious, professional historians. They can correct me if I am wrong.

But as John Eipper noted, I am not wrong about Mussolini's death toll. You're the one who is mistaken, with your rose-colored glasses about a bloody dictator.

By the way, Mussolini in the Salò Republic was just a puppet of Hitler. And he allowed Hitler to deport and kill Italian Jews. How can you excuse such a murderer and justify all the fascist propaganda that you have been sending to WAIS?

JE comments:  My first "encounter" with the Salò era was Pasolini's vile film 120 Days of Sodom, so it's been an eye-opener to read Eugenio Battaglia's praise of the short-lived Social Republic.  Little facts stick in my mind from Eugenio's posts, such as the Republic's extensive laws in defense of workers' rights, and the balanced budget.  How could such things happen in a stillborn country at war and largely under occupation?  Still, how can the Socializzazione ever be justified, given the deportations and its prolonging a war already lost?

The "W" of WAIS could, or perhaps should, stand for "wide tent."  I recently rediscovered a quip I first made in 2010, and it's truer now than ever:  if you agree with every posting you read on WAIS, you must be at some other website.


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  • Mussolini's Death Toll (Nigel Jones, -UK 10/28/17 8:48 AM)
    As someone who has devised and will lead a tour next year on the rise and fall of Italian fascism (details on www.historicaltrips.com), can I contribute my bit to the debate on the number of deaths Mussolini caused?

    I find myself, as I will try to explain, somewhere midway between Eugenio Battaglia's low "score" of three and Istvan Simon's hundreds of thousands.

    During Fascism's rise to power in 1919-22, scores of Italians died in brawls between Fascists and their equally violent Socialist opponents. This was par for the course in political battles in many European states between the wars--e. g. Germany and Spain.

    Mussolini, before he became disastrously entangled with Hitler, was a relatively benign dictator by Latin standards. It is true, as even Eugene admits, that Fascist thugs murdered the prominent Socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti, but it is unlikely that Mussolini ordered the killing as it nearly caused his downfall.

    Significantly, and typically for the regime, Fascism's internal enemies were not killed, or sent to concentration camps, but were exiled to Italian islands where they lived fairly comfortably. Prominent post-war Italians who experienced this and lived to tell the tale included later Premier Pietro Nenni, later President Sandro Pertini, and the poet Cesare Pavese. The Communist theorist Antonio Gramsci was even allowed to write his most important works from a Fascist jail cell. (Unfortunately, given the disastrous current influence of his Cultural Marxism.)

    The Rosselli brothers, one of whom led the main anti-fascist movement abroad, Justice and Liberty, were murdered in France in 1937 by the French fascist Cagoule group, but on the orders of Count Ciano, Mussolini's foreign minister and son-in-law, rather than the Duce himself.

    It was only when Mussolini let himself fall under the baleful influence of Hitler that the body count started to mount, but the thousands of dead in the Ethiopian, Spanish, Albanian, Greek and WWII conflicts occurred in war; they were not ordered by Mussolini, though his policies undoubtedly caused or contributed to them.

    As Istvan says, Mussolini's greatest crime was to allow the deportation to their deaths in German camps of some 9,000 Italian Jews. Though this was done under Nazi influence when Mussolini was little more than a puppet, this is no excuse for such a crime.

    To get a second opinion I phoned a friend who wrote a biography of Mussolini and lives in Italy.  He opined that Il Duce was directly responsible for the deaths of 17 opponents--including his own son-in-law Ciano: bad enough, but low on the genocidal scale of other 20th-century tyrants. Among them, Communist dictators like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Mengistu & Co. killed 100 million people.

    JE comments:  Nigel Jones's characterization of a "relatively benign dictator" sounds about right for Mussolini--at least for inside Italy.  Ethiopia and Spain certainly missed the "benign" part.

    Thank you for phoning your biographer friend, Nigel!   This is WAIS investigative prowess at its best.  Next up:  Eugenio Battaglia responds.

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  • Mussolini's Death Toll, and Deportation of Jews (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/27/17 5:00 PM)
    In response to Istvan Simon (27 October), first of all we cannot consider killing in war murder. Otherwise, what should we say about the US killings during the 93% of its history that it has been at war? How many millions of deaths have been caused?

    The Repubblica Sociale Italiana (John, please do not use the ridiculous name Salò Repubblica) continued the war, because a people with dignity cannot accept a shameful change of sides, even if historically this was a practice for the Savoys. Furthermore the RSI returning as an ally of the Axis prevented, as far as possible, a German occupation of Italy.

    Mussolini never allowed the deportation of Jews. The infamous and terrible deportation of 1023 Jews from Rome on 16 October 1943 happened when the rule of the RSI was not yet in full force. Only 17 of those deported returned alive. We may say the same thing about the deportations from Fossoli, among whom was the writer Primo Levi (1919-1987).

    The total of Italian Jews who died, included those who joined the partisans and those deported to Germany, were about 8000. This was from a population of 58,500 Jewish Italians, plus several thousand foreign Jews who arrived in Italy before the war and the closing of borders.

    On Mussolini's orders, the Italian troops in Greece, France, Tunisia and Yugoslavia were ordered to protect the Jews. None were handed over to the Germans, the Vichy collaborators or the Croatian Ustasha, in spite of various notes of protest from the Germans authorities and actions of the German Ambassador.

    On 21 March 1943 the High Italian Command confirmed to all troops, "As per order of Il Duce, the Action No. 1 is to save the Jews who live in the area of Italian occupation, whatever nationality they may be."

    You may refer to the accounts of Simone Veil plus Professor Robert Paxton and Michael Marrus in their book Vichy, France and the Jews, and the books of Leon Poliakov. The British historian Nicholas Farrel wrote that the Italians under Mussolini did much more than the British of Churchill in saving Jews. Furthermore, you may consult the books of Renèe Poxzanski, and articles by Yehoshua Porat. Let me also mention Menachem Shelac in his book A Debt of Gratitude:  History of the Relations between the Italian Army and the Jews in Dalmatia 1941-43.

    I could go on.

    Finally about the numbers we use, how accurate are they? For instance, how many Germans were killed at Dresden by the Allied bombing--25,000 or 200,000? Sources give conflicting numbers.

    JE comments:  I'll avoid calling the RSI the Salò Republic.  I thought this was a neutral term, like Vichy France.  A curiosity:  beyond Salò and Vichy, can WAISers think of any other minor cities that became infamous as capitals of failed or unsavory regimes?  Weimar, sort of, but it was never a capital.

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    • Top-Ten Genocidal Demons; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 10/30/17 2:33 PM)

      Ric Mauricio writes:

      This string on Mussolini's "death toll" is getting "Curiouser and curiouser!"

      I find Eugenio's response to Istvan (October 28) that "we cannot consider killing in war murder" quite intriguing.

      I beg to differ. I would define murder as the taking of lives not in defense of your own life.  When the Japanese killed captured Filipino POWs in Bataan, beheading them to make a point, that I call murder.

      When someone knowingly sends people to camps where they will be exterminated, that I call murder.

      But looking at the list of dictators, Mussolini doesn't even make the Top Ten.

      Kim Il Sung of North Korea, the father of the current crazy one, killed 1.6M of his own people. That is murder.

      Ismail Pasha of Turkey killed 800,000 to 1.8M in the Armenian genocide. Murder.

      Vladimir Lenin, through his war killed 7 to 12M, but according to Eugenio, that is not murder.

      Hideki Tojo killed 5M Japanese, millions in China and thousands of POWs. That is murder.

      Emperor Hirohito killed 8 million, although part of that is a war that he started. The Rape of Nanking is part of that. I classify these events as murder.

      Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of the Kuomintang that lost to Mao and went to Taiwan and committed genocide there is responsible for 10M Chinese deaths. I would say that is murder.

      King Leopold II of Belgium is responsible for working to death 8M in the Congo and 15M total in Africa. Absolutely murder.

      Then, of course, there is Adolf Hitler, who started WWII and was then responsible for millions of deaths. Taking Jews and their protectors to extermination camps is murder, plain and simple. 6M murdered. Lesser known is his genocide of Slavs, whom he felt were inferior. 4.5 to 13.7M. Overall, 30M deaths due to his insanity.

      Josef Stalin, committed genocide of his own people, sending them the Gulags. He is responsible for 40 - 62M deaths. Murder.

      But numero uno is Mao, responsible for 80M Chinese deaths. Definitely murder. And yet, his visage is plastered all over China and to the entrance to the Forbidden City. My wife, when we were in Beijing, asked me if I was going to buy anything with Mao on it. I told her the only I will have with his picture is the yuan. I could never be a good Communist.

      If one studies the history of the rise of any of the above, one is sure to spot certain characteristics of why these men came to power. There is a commonality. Can anyone spot it?

      JE comments:  We shouldn't overlook Pol Pot and his 1 to 3 million killed out of Cambodia's small population of 8 million.  WAISers will certainly have others to add to our List of Infamy.

      So what is it that makes the genocidal demon "click"?  Extreme paranoia?  Some sort of messianic complex?  I hope Leo Goldberger, WAISdom's dean of psychologists, will weigh in.

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      • Death Tolls and War Crimes (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 10/31/17 7:39 AM)
        Responding to Ric Mauricio (30 October), I have clearly stated in previous WAIS posts that all acts in war contrary

        to the international Conventions of Geneva and The Hague are crimes.

        These criteria are much more important then the various a posteriori calculations of death tolls. No country is innocent.

        JE comments:  For his part, Ed Jajko forwarded this quote from Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen: “The murder of a man even in wartime, is still murder."

        Who is versed on the Red Baron?  Does the quote come from Christian convictions, or some other perspective?

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      • Visiting Mao's Tomb (Istvan Simon, USA 11/02/17 5:00 PM)
        I enjoyed Ric Mauricio's list (30 October) of genocidal maniacs of the 20th century, a terrible century by any human standards.

        Though I believe some of Ric's numbers may be a bit on the higher end of the true figure, his general ideas are absolutely right. He forgot Pol Pot, Idi Amin Dada, the Rwanda horrors, the Ibos in Nigeria, the current terrible persecution of Rohynga, the horror story and terrible tragedy of the Yazidis whose persecution by ISIS, but also previously by Iraq's Sunnis, should weigh on any decent person's conscience. Though their numbers may be small because their overall numbers are small, yet percent-wise this qualifies as a terrible genocide.


        Regarding the arch murderer Mao Zedong, I may have already mentioned in WAIS my experience in 2004, but perhaps it is worth repeating.

        I went to see Mao's rotten corpse in his Mausoleum on Tiananmen square. The Mausoleum itself sticks out as an ugly sore thumb and an intrusion on the beautiful buildings on this immense square in Beijing. I went to see the Chairman not because of any morbid interest on his rotten corpse, but to observe the people, and how they would react to this terrible murderer. I had a fanny pack that I had to leave behind with my wife, for obviously the Chinese authorities are afraid that someone will blow this arch murderer to smithereens. There is a kind of marked path on the pavement, where people can walk to their encounter with the Chairman in rows of four people. When one enters the complex, there is a place to buy flowers. First observation post for me of the people. About half of them bought flowers. One man, was trying to be nice to me and he bought two bunches of white flowers, and offered one to me. It was a nice gesture, and I felt bad that I had to refuse it, because under no circumstances I would ever put flowers on this mass murderer's site, so though I felt bad for having to refuse such a nice and undoubtedly friendly gesture, I did refuse it. One continues to the next stop, which is an immense counter where the people deposit the flowers in front of a giant statue of the mass murderer. Then the people are divided in two rows to file past the corpse in a glass casket, and immediately they are ushered out between 2 machine-gun armed soldiers back to Tiananmen square.

        Later when we traveled back to Nanning and I resumed my daily routine of walking a 6-mile circuit from our apartment to a park and back every early morning, I met many of the regulars who also exercised in the park. They greeted me with glee, and one that spoke English much better than the others asked me where had I been. I told him we were in Beijing and that I had visited the Mausoleum of Mao. He contorted his face, and said to me "a terrible man, a Saddam Hussein."

        A few days later, in the same park, I was approached by a man holding the hand of his 2-year-old little son. He was an economist and we started to chat. At one point he looked at his son sadly and movingly said: "I'd like him to grow up in a free country." I said I thought he would grow up in a free country. He asked why I thought so. I said, look at the tremendous progress that has been made since Mao's time. He said, yes true, but the same way the government gave these freedoms, they can take them away. I said I did not think that would happen.

        He asked why I thought so. I said for 2 reasons: as the economy grows and diversifies, to continue the economic progress would require the government to grant more and more freedoms; and the second reason was the Internet. The Internet cannot be successfully censored, and so it would become kind of like the free press in China. He looked at me admiringly and said: China needs people like you who can think. I thanked him for his compliment and we parted. That young boy should be now 15 years old, and I am sorry to say that he is growing up in a country no freer today than in 2004. I had grossly under-estimated the time it would take for China to become a multi-party democratic society. In spite of the fact that the two reasons I gave were both correct, even if Beijing tries to censor the Internet, it is truly unable to do so very effectively, just as I predicted that it would not. But the Communist Party is still entrenched as ever before on maintaining by hook or crook its monopoly grip on power.

        JE comments:  I do not recall Istvan Simon telling us this story before.  But even if he did, it deserves a replay.

        What can our China-watchers tell us about the recently concluded Party Congress?

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