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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book, 9 Aug 2007
By 
Jocko (Cambridgeshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Last Days of Mussolini (Hardcover)
For over 40 years the standard English-language study of Mussolini's war and the Italian Social Republic (RSI) has been F.W. Deakin's magisterial "The Brutal Friendship". That book remains indispensible, but is essentially a work of austere political history and impersonal brilliance. Inevitably, it does not address issues raised in recent years.

Deakin's work is ideally complimented by Moseley's vivid, powerful and scholarly book. An interwoven history of the RSI and Mussolini the man, it also deals in some detail with revisionist history and the mass of conspiracy theories and myths which have sprung up around the dictator's death.

Moseley's impeccable sourcing is matched by careful use of material and astute historical judgment. Without a trace of prurience or sensationalism he reveals an Italy of astonishing corruption, self-deception and cruelty - a world straight from the pages of De Sade. A few shining examples of decency emerge, but whatever their party, most of the major protagonists prove to be ruthless, amoral and in some cases wholly depraved. Having had the honour to know a number of veterans of the Italian campaign, I have often been struck by how they recall single incidents as moments of illuminating truth amid a surreal situation. This book matches that atmosphere - there are images and moments which will live with the reader, much as he or she might wish they did not.

Given such a background, it would be easy for Mussolini to emerge as a rather decent figure. He was enormously charismatic, personally brave, surrounded by troubles and painfully aware of his status as a plaything of the Nazis. Yet Moseley, whilst fully revealing and acknowledging his human qualities, is careful to point out that he had ruined Italy and now made not the slightest serious effort to protect her people. For all that, it is the nature of biography that one cannot help feel admiration and compassion at his end, for he died bravely, killed by the agents of a far darker and more efficient tyrant.

The book also deals with the endless (and ultimately rather pointless) negotiations between certain German officers and the Allies, directly betraying Mussolini. The Germans, anally obsessed with protocol and orders, are not impressive. Nor are the masterminds of allied intelligence. Post-war, in general, the guilty escaped, the innocent were punished and the old world kept on turning. This is not a pretty story, but Moseley has told it superbly well and left a valuable trail of broken myths. I warmly recommend this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good and thorough book, 9 Feb 2007
By 
J. E. Parry "Jeff Parry" (Pontypool, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Last Days of Mussolini (Hardcover)
This books covers the downfall of Mussolini and Italian Facism from the setting up of the Salo Republic until his execution by partisans in April 1945.

Mussolini is something of a tragi-comic figure in world history. He is overshadowed by Hitler, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt and remains as more of a footnote in the history of WWII. This is down to the role of Italy in the war and its marginalisation throughout the period.

Here Mussolini comes across as a tragic figure playing out his role as a leader in a puppet government. By the time he was freed by the Germans from captivity there was no real role for him to play. He was despised by his own people and seen as a joke to almost everyone.

He was a virtual prisoner to the Germans and ahd little to offer in the way of leadership or decision making. Most of his requests to Hitler were ignored. He had no control over his own followers, most of whom come across as self-serving martinets.

They gave him a false image of the morale of his followers and the numbers that were under their control. The Germans refused to put Italian troops into the frontlines to fight the allies. General Wolf and the other German leaders in Italy carried out peace initiatives with the allies and not only excluded him but failed to tell him what they were doing.

He was indecisive and seemed to be in a constant depression. He realised that the end was near and that he'd probably be dead soon. Throughout the period he alternatively criticised the Germans and held faith in Hitler's promise of ultimate victory.

His end came in a very unheroic manner. He made his way from Milan towards the Italian Alps for his last stand. On the way he found that the 50,000 troops he was assured were to stand with him numbered no more than 4,000. Instead of making his way directly to the redoubt he took the opposite route, despite warnings that the partisans controlled the area.

He was discovered dressed as a German soldier in the back of a truck. He was arrested by Italian partisans and moved into the mountains while a decision was made on what to do with him. He knew what was coming though. He was taken, with his mistress, driven back down the mountain and they were shot, by Communist partisans, by the roadside.

He met his end bravely. There is still controversy over exactly what happened and why his mistress was shot as well. Yet his final end was grisly and somewhat undeserving. His body, that of his mistress and 18 other senior members of his government were put on public display in the Piazzale Loreto before being defiled by the mob and hung from the girders of an unfinished petrol station.

The book is informative and easy to read. It follows the fall of Italy and the German attempts to find peace with the allies, all within the framework of Mussolini's downfall. Sometimes you feel that everything else is covered more than he is but that sums up his marginalisation throughout this period.

The bombastic pre-madonna died a quiet death on a remote alpine road. There was to be no trial to embarass the Italian people, no captivity, no chance of justification and no heroic end. He died quietly and with dignity. There were no final pleas for mercy, just a request that the end came quickly.
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Last Days of Mussolini
Last Days of Mussolini by Ray Moseley (Hardcover - 29 Jun 2006)
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