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Post Execution of Galeazzo Ciano
Created by John Eipper on 04/12/13 2:10 AM

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Execution of Galeazzo Ciano (David Gress, Denmark, 04/12/13 2:10 am)

As those who have seen the newsreel of the execution of Ciano in Verona in January 1944, as I have, can attest, it was a by-the-book fucilazione alla schiena, a shooting in the back, such as Italian law prescribed for traitors. The condemned men were tied to chairs placed with their backs to the execution squad.

Ciano played a minor part in the coup against Benito Mussolini in the night of July 24-25, 1943. He had been sidelined by his father-in-law, the Duce, as ambassador to the Vatican, in February. The main agent of the coup was Dino Grandi, a former foreign minister, ambassador to London, and minister of justice or, as the Italians so significantly put it, Ministro de Grazia e Giustizia, minister for reprieval and justice.

Grandi, who had long since stopped believing in Mussolini as a savior of his country, hoped that toppling Mussolini by a vote in the Fascist Grand Council would impel the King to appoint a new prime minister able and willing to make peace with the Allies. Unfortunately for Italy, the King appointed the sleazebag, turncoat, and opportunist Pietro Badoglio, who had been conspiring in his ineffectual way too. Badoglio was so terrified of the Germans that he had the amazing gall to announce, the day after Mussolini's fall, that "the war continues," i.e. on the German side. Whereas Grandi had thought that a better prime minister, such as the venerable Marshal Caviglia, would immediately send him, Grandi, to Madrid to speak to his old friend, the British ambassador there, Samuel Hoare, Lord Templewood. Who knows what might have happened? In the event, Badoglio fumbled along until the Germans had occupied most of Italy, such that, when the inevitable surrender happened in September, the Allies had to fight a wholly unnecessary and bloody 18-month war up the peninsula. Had Grandi got his way, the Allies could have been put on the Brenner in August 1943, the war might have ended that year, and Stalin wouldn't have gobbled up Eastern Europe.

It is a cause of lasting regret that I did not take the opportunity of meeting Grandi, who was still alive in early 1984 when I visited his home city of Bologna. But then, what would I, then utterly ignorant of recent Italian history, have had to say to him?

About Ciano's execution, Mussolini was very well aware of its timing. He knew all about it and approved up to the last minute, despite the desperate appeals of his daughter Edda, Ciano's wife, who never forgave her father for not stopping the execution. Contrary tales, such as that Mussolini regretted it, are a myth, or rather, Mussolini may well have regretted it afterwards, but he did nothing to stop it, which he could have done.

I am quite willing to believe, in fact I do believe, that the Rosselli brothers were not killed on Ciano's orders--such a thing would be entirely out of character, including being far out of his authority, for that soft, feeble man--but by Communists. I do not take Ángel Viñas's faith (11 April) in his sources for this as seriously as he does. The other story makes far more sense to one such as myself, who has spent quite a lot of time looking into modern Italian history.

JE comments:  If Grandi had succeeded in orchestrating peace with the Allies earlier in 1943--might this have significantly shortened the war?  This is a WWII alternative scenario I've never heard before.  One might respond that it could have gone the other way:  had the Germans been able to shorten their lines in Italy, they could have thrown more resources into Eastern Europe.

On the topic of the Rosselli brothers, Ángel Viñas's account of Ciano's involvement seems pretty air-tight to me--especially the Emanuele testimony.  Why would Emanuele not blame the communists if he had nothing to lose by doing so?

Nigel Jones (next in the queue) has also sent a comment on the Ciano execution.

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  • Who Killed the Rosselli Brothers? It Wasn't the Communists (Nigel Jones, UK 04/12/13 12:47 PM)

    I can assure David Gress (April 12) that it certainly was not the Communists who killed the Rosselli brothers, but the French fascists of the Cagoule (more properly called the Committee for Social revolutionary Action-CSAR), acting on behalf of the Italian Fascist regime--though whether Ciano himself gave the direct order is uncertain.

    I have researched the subject in some depth, and have even visited the scene of the assassination--now marked by a memorial, but otherwise little changed--near Bagnole de l'Orne in Normandy.

    Not only are the names of the murderers known, but some were put on trial for the crime in post-war France and made full confessions.

    For more on the Cagoule (a subject in which I am deeply interested) I can recommend a remarkable book Murder on the Metro: Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France by two US historians, Gayle K. Brunelle and Annette Finley-Croswhite (University of Louisiana Press). Though focussed on the unsolved stabbing of the eponymous Laetitia--an Italian-born good time girl who got too close to the Cagoule via her lover--in the Paris Metro, the book also delves deeply into the Cagoule and their crimes, and indeed into their continuing influence in contemporary France. It's a fascinating read.

    I yield to no one, as David knows, in my detestation of Communism, but this is one crime that can't be pinned on them.

    JE comments:  Yes.

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