.. s and then later arrested him. After his arrest, Mussolini was taken to a ski lodge on Gran Sasso dItalia in the Apennine mountains about 75 miles north-west of Rome. The lodge was accessible only by a railroad and had been built so recently that it was not marked on military maps or on mountain climbers charts. But German intelligence agents under the direction of SS Captain Otto Skorzeny had learned of Mussolinis whereabouts, and at Hitlers direction a rescue mission was organized.
To determine how safe the landing will be, Skorzeny flew over the Gran Sasso at 15,000 feet in a Heinkel-111. Leaning out the window in a numbing 200-mile-an-hour wind, he took pictures while his friend held tightly to his legs. These pictures showed a spot where they could land their planes. When Skorzeny and his 90 men swept silently down on the lodge in 12 gliders, they discovered to their great dismay that the meadow had a rapid drop-off at its end. It was much like the platform for a ski jump, Skorzeny later said. He ordered his pilot to make a vertical landing which tore open his flimsy glider but brought it to a halt in less than 30 yards.
Jumping from the plane, Skorzeny and his men swept past shocked guards and without firing a shot made their way to Mussolini. I knew that my friend Adolf Hitler would not desert me, the old dictator said. Soon a small plane came into the meadow. When Skorzeny and Mussolini climbed in it, the pilot was shocked. With both men in it the plane would probably crash.
Yet Skorzeny insisted that they go ahead. The plane bounced along the meadow, brushed off a rock and staggered over the edge of the plateau. It dropped through the thin air, but made its way to Rome.9 From Rome, Mussolini was flown to Vienna and finally to Wolfs lair, Hitlers headquarters at Rastenburg in East Prussia. Hitler very much wanted to restore Mussolinis power. Yet Duce thought they should retire from the public life so as to avoid having Italy in the Civil War. Hitler was quite upset.
He argued that only a strong fascist government in northern Italy could save the Italian people, and that Mussolini could lead such a regiment. Hitler was really upset because Mussolini showed no enthusiasm to wreak retaliation on the members of the Grand Council who had betrayed him-presumably because one of the traitors was his son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano. After the meeting Hitler told his Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebels, of his frustration with Mussolini saying that the Duce, whom he had once greatly admired, seemed a far smaller man than before. Hitler and Mussolini discussed for three days, and the Fuhrer finally had his way. On September 15, Mussolini approached him and said, I have come for my instructions. The instructions were very harsh: A new Fascist republic would be established in Northern Italy under Mussolini, but the Germans would assume control of its foreign policy and many of its economic resources and would govern part of the country.
Also, all the members of the Grand Council that had voted against Mussolini would be tried and executed. On September 27, the Duce flew to Gargnano, north of Salo, to establish the headquarters of his new republic in German-occupied northern Italy. As Hitlers puppet, Mussolini came to be called the prisoner of Gargnano. German guards tapped his phone lines and watched his every move. They are always there, like the spots of the leopard, Mussolini once said.
His key appointments had to be approved by the Germans, and each Italian official was assigned a German adviser. Mussolini tried to revitalize the army and to swell the ranks of his new social fascist party by promising better working and living conditions. But his time was running out: the people had deserted him, the Allies were penetrating deeper into Italy, and he was growing physically and mentally weaker. The people turning on him, and the king arresting him and taking away his powers destroyed Mussolini leading him to a morphine addiction. 10 This caused him to become too weak to work long hours, although he kept a light on at night in his empty office for show.
His moods changed daily between outbursts of anger and periods of deep despair. He compared himself to Jesus and Napoleon, and blamed his failure on others-especially the Italian people. He proclaimed that the people of Italy were a mediocre race of good-for-nothings only capable of singing and eating ice cream, and he expressed sickly happiness when Naples was bombed by the Allies. He lived for almost two years after his arrest. He participated in a series of bizarre and humiliating experiences before finally coming to a gruesome end.
Mussolini died on a clear spring day in April 1945. Allies had moved into the northern part of Italy during the same month. Mussolini attempted to flee to Austria. Near the town of Dongo his truck convoy was ambushed by partisans. The Duce was dressed as a German soldier, in a greatcoat and steel helmet, but his expensive leather boots gave him away. The partisans took him to a farmhouse.
He was then joined by his mistress, Claretta Petacci. Claretta had begged to be reunited with Mussolini. The next day the communist partisan drove both Claretta Petacci and Benito Mussolini to a nearby villa. He ordered the both of them out of the car and stuck a machine gun in their guilty as sin faces. This gun jammed but he got another one and quickly shot at Claretta Petacci and killed her instantly. Mussolini holding back the lapels of his jacket, said Shoot me in the chest.
The partisan shot him twice in the chest and Mussolini was dead. The morning after Mussolini and his mistress were slain, the partisans dumped their bodies in front of a garage in Milans Puzzle Laureate. A crowd gathered around; some people shouted foul language, others just stood there and laughed. One woman fired a pistol at Mussolini five times to avenge her five dead sons. Eventually, the two mutilated bodies were strung upside down for everyone to see.
For hours the crowd laughed and spit at Mussolinis body. On the following day he was buried in the family tomb in Predappo. by Susie.