It’s 1943 and the Allies are gaining the upper hand in the war. Having landed in Sicily, the liberating troops are now marching northwards through the Italian Peninsula. The Italian King Victor Emmanuel III acts swiftly and on the 25th July, Mussolini and his Fascist Squaristi are booted out of power. The wily dictator wasn’t finished yet though. Oh no.
The Republic of Salò
On 23 September 1943, Mussolini reappeared, proclaiming the creation of a new fascist state in the North of Italy, The Italian Social Republic. Stretching as far south as Rome, this was to be the last bastion of Fascism in Italy. Essentially a puppet state propped up by the Nazi’s, it’s headquarters was in Salò on the shores of Lake Garda. Mussolini was tired and intent on being a recluse but Hitler encouraged him to help the Axis cause just one more time.
The Republic had its own currency, government and flag and had an army of 150,000 men loyal to Mussolini. It was, however, totally dependant on Germany to survive. Despite help from the Third Reich, unrest was common in the region. Guerilla warfare from resistance movements undermined Mussolini’s authority and was a constant thorn in the side of the regime. The resistance riled Hitler so much that he ordered the Ardeatine Massacre in April 1944 which brutally killed ten Italian civilians for every German killed by the partisans. This was an act of cruelty that even the Duce protested against.
Meanwhile, down south the advancing Allies were breaching every German defence line and were on the road North. As they marched ever nearer, Mussolini attempted to flee to Switzerland. He was captured by partisans near lake Como while attempting to escape and was taken to Milan where he was hung in front of cheering crowds.