Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011

Benito Mussolini

Unlike the mystery surrounding the death of Adolf Hitler, the end of Benito Mussolini was indisputable. The "Duce of Fascism" ruled Italy from the time of his election as Italian Prime Minister in 1922 until he was deposed and imprisoned by the Grand Council of Fascism in 1943 as the Allies invaded Italy. Hitler personally ordered a mission to get Mussolini out of prison, and after German commandos freed him in a daring raid, Il Duce led the Italian republic in areas outside Allied control.

As the Allies pushed north, Mussolini tried to flee to Switzerland. He was captured and executed by communist partisans near Lake Como in April 1945. His body was hung upside down in the Piazzale Loreto in Milan. "Mussolini, as much as any man, had planted the cancer that had spread beyond his homeland into Germany, Spain, Central Europe and the Balkans," TIME wrote in 1943. "The removal of the Italian dictator was, in a sense, preliminary surgery on the malignance still afflicting mankind."