On April 26, 1945, Benito Mussolini – Italy's fascist 'Il Duce' during WWII – was shot and killed by communist partisans in northern Italy. The day before, on April 25, Mussolini had finally seen the writing on the wall – Nazi surrender to Allied forces was imminent, and his hold over northern Italy was loosening by the minute. Though he tried to flee the country dressed as a German officer, Mussolini was killed, desecrated, and strung up at a gas station in Milan.
The photo of Mussolini's death documents the tail end of what was a full day of desecrating his corpse. Though he was killed by machine gun fire before being dumped into a central square in Milan, that didn't stop swells of people from beating, shooting, spitting on, and screaming at his lifeless body. Along with his mistress Clara Petacci and 14 other fascists, Benito Mussolini's body was beaten beyond recognition and hung above a gas station – a symbol of what the world thought of fascist leaders at the end of WWII.
Mussolini's murder at the hands of Italian partisans wasn't the first time Italians had expressed their disapproval of Mussolini's leadership, however. Though he was elected democratically in 1922, Mussolini only pretended to respect this form of governance for a short time; within five years, Mussolini and his Fascist Party had established a dictatorship in Italy. When he allied his country with Germany at the advent of WWII, Italians were none too happy with his choice. He was even captured and imprisoned by the Italian government in 1943; Hitler's troops freed him, however. From then, until his death, he ruled over the German puppet state of the Italian Social Republic in northern Italy. That is, until he met his brutal end in April of 1945.
WARNING: There's a graphic video below.
He Was Trying To Flee To Switzerland When Mussolini Was Caught And Killed
Il Duce, along with his mistress Clara Petacci, was attempting to flee Italy when he was captured and killed by communist partisans on April 25, 1945. WWII was at its end; his stranglehold on Italy was being forcibly loosened by anti-fascist forces; and his vision of a new Roman Empire was never to be. That morning, in the palace of Cardinal Alfredo Schuster in Milan, Mussolini learned that Nazi forces were negotiating surrender; the Nazi puppet state in Northern Italy over which Mussolini nominally ruled would be no more.
So, on April 26, he loaded up his lady in the 1939 Alfa Romeo he had bought her, disguised himself in German SS garb, and sped to the Swiss border. There, on April 27, he was seized by communist partisans. No disguise could hide the squarest jaw and shiniest head in Italy – it had been emblazoned on posters hung throughout the country for nearly two decades.
Minutes After This Photo Was Taken, People Began Stoning The Bodies... And It's All Captured On Video
After the partisans seized Mussolini and Petacci, they hid them in a remote northern Italian farmhouse for a night. From there, they took them to a village near Lake Como where the two were placed in front of a stone wall and executed by machine gun fire.
After their executions, the bodies of Mussolini, Petacci, and 14 other fascists were driven to a central square in Milan where vast crowds of seething anti-fascists awaited their moment to desecrate the bodies – letting Mussolini know just what they thought of his politics. The GRAPHIC video above showcases just what happened in the square that day. The bodies were stoned, beaten, hit with vegetables, shot with guns, and eventually strung up at a gas station on one side of the square. By the end of the day – when it could finally be taken to the morgue – Mussolini's body had become unrecognizable.
Mussolini Wasn't Alone – His Mistress Clara Petacci Suffered The Exact Same Fate
It really doesn't pay to consort with detested fascists – this is the lesson that one of Mussolini's many mistresses, Clara Petacci, learned on the morning of April 27. Though she herself was simply Mussolini's lover – and only 33 at the time of their capture – crowds had little regard for Petacci and no remorse for her death. She was killed and strung up along side her lover, and Petacci's slender legs and skirt are visible right next to Mussolini in the unsettling image that captured their desecration.