Death of Mussolini
The war was lost and they decided to head north to Switzerland. On April 25th Mussolini and a column of German vehicles set off from Milan.
Two days later the column was blocked in Masso by the partisans. The German commander, Lt. Fallmeyer, went to negotiate with the partisan commander, Count Pierluigi Bellini delle Stelle of the 52nd Garibaldi Brigade. The partisans agreed to allow the Germans to pass but not the Italians.
Mussolini was persuaded to put on a German greatcoat and helmet and hide in a lorry which he did. The column then passed through to the north.
Later that day in Dongo the column was stopped again by partisans who captured Mussolini who was found in the back of a truck wearing a private's overcoat over his striped general's trousers. His presence there may have been a tip off.
Shortly after, his mistress Clara Petucci and her brother were also captured heading north.
The partisan Liberation Committee was informed of Mussolini's capture and immediately issued orders that he was to be given fair treatment. The next day Bellini tried to transport his captors back to the Como area and Mussolini was wrapped in bandages to disguise him as a wounded partisan. After hearing about the nearby advance of Allied troops they decided to return along their route to Mezzegra and set up camp there.
What happened next is not clear and still remains hidden, however it is known that the secretary of the Communist Party, Togliatti, ordered the execution of Mussolini. Colonel Valerio was entrusted with this mission and when he arrived at Dongo there was as confrontation between the Communist leader and the partisan leader, Bellini. Colonel Valerio damanded to see the list of Fascist prisoners and he then revealed that he had orders to execute Mussolini. He arbitrarily selected 15 names from the list for execution.
Valerio found Mussolini and Petacci together and told them he had come to rescue them. Together they went to a waiting car and drove a short distance away and stopped near gate to the Villa Belmonte. They were ordered to get out of the car and stand next to the stone wall where they were shot. Leaving a guard with the bodies Valerio went back to Dongo where the 15 prisoners were read their last rights and then shot by the partisans.
The 15 bodies were then taken to Milan where in Piazzale Loreto they were abused by the hysterical crowd. The partisans tried to control the crowd along with the fire department who turned the hoses on the crowd.
Seven were then hung upside down outside an Esso petrol station:
- unknown - one of the list below
- Benito Mussolini
- Clara Petacci
- Francesco Barracu
- Alessandro Pavolini
- Fernando Mezzasomma
- Paolo Zerbino
The other bodies were left under them.
- Nicola Bombacci
- Luigi Gatti
- Pisenti Liverani
- Ruggero Romano
- Paolo Porta
- Alfredo Coppolo
- Ernesto Daquanno
- Mario Nudi
- Vito Casalinuovo
- Pietro Calistri
- Idreno Utimperghe
To them was added Archille Starace who had just been captured and summarily executed on the spot.
In 1944 15 partisans had been massacred at the same place and this was the probable reason why it was chosen to display the bodies there.
When the bodies were first hung up, Don Pollarolo who was a chaplain with the partisans took a safety pin off a woman in the crowd to pin together Petacci's skirt. By all accounts it hung down exposing her thighs. This didn't work so the fire department attached a rope around the skirt to keep it up.
There were American troops in the square at the time. Eventually the Allies ordered the bodies removed for burial.
A number of photographs were taken of the event and sold as souvenirs; some purport to show Petacci with her skirt hanging down. These photos were still on sale in Milan to foreign soldiers and the like more than a year after the end of the war.
When Hitler heard how Mussolini had been executed and put on public display, he vowed he would not let this happen to him. A few days later Hitler watched his mistress and new wife, Eva Braun, swallow some poison and then he shot himself in the mouth. In keeping with his orders, their bodies were placed in a shell hole outside his Berlin bunker and burned.
Mussolini's body was taken down and buried in a secret grave in Musoco Cemetery. Almost a year later he was exhumed and his remains placed in a small trunk which was hidden for 10 years by the police. After many requests by Donna Rachele, Mussolini's wife, the police released the body and in September 1957 his remains were buried in a private ceremony at the family vault at Predappio.
Some investigations suggest that Petacci had been gang-raped before she was shot. The evidence was circumstantial and based around inconsistencies such as their being an official order that no autopsy be carried out on her and a stand-off between the partisans transporting the bodies to Milan and another group of partisans who were not allowed to see the bodies.
Other historians have dismissed these suggestions.
Short contemporary film of Mussolini's body on display in Milan.
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