Thirsting for power and dreaming of empire, a young Benito Mussolini left his socialist roots to become one of the key figures in the creation of fascism. After the Italian government collapsed in 1922, he became the nation's youngest prime minister and worked to established fascism as the majority party, thus beginning his reign as Il Duce, or "the leader." In the beginning, Mussolini gathered widespread popular support for his efforts to restore order and introduce public works improvements. But what began as a promising reign was derailed when he aligned himself with Germany during World War II. He was forced from his seat only to be rescued from prison by the Nazis and put in charge of Hitler's puppet-government in Northern Italy. When Germany's defenses collapsed in 1945, Mussolini was captured and executed by Italian partisans as he tried to escape to Austria. Despite Mussolini's obvious crimes, he is not universally hated like his compatriot, Hitler. In fact, his granddaughter, Alessandra, once served as an Italian parliamentarian.
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