On April 26, 1945, Benito Mussolini – the fascist 'Il Duce' of Italy during WWII – was cornered by communist partisans in northern Italy. The day before, on April 25, Mussolini had finally seen the writing on the wall – the fall of Hitler's regime 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 final fate documents a full day of fury acted out on the reviled leader. Though he was already deceased when his body was dumped into a central square in Milan, that didn't stop swells of people from beating, spitting on, and screaming at his remains. 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 Axis leaders at the end of WWII.
Mussolini's fate 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 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 on, 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 by communist partisans in April of 1945. WWII was at its end; his stranglehold on Italy was being forcibly loosened by forces from the South; 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 the Third Reich's forces were negotiating surrender; the puppet state in Northern Italy over which Mussolini nominally ruled would be no more.
So, on April 26, he and his mistress, Clara Petacci, loaded into the 1939 Alfa Romeo he had bought her and sped to the Swiss border, with Mussolini wearing German SS garb as a disguise. Despite his costume, he was seized by communist partisans a day later. No disguise could hide the most recognizable face 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 Was 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.
Afterwards, the bodies of Mussolini, Petacci, and 14 others were driven to a central square in Milan where vast crowds awaited their chance to channel their rage. The GRAPHIC video above showcases just what happened in the square that day. The bodies were stoned, beaten, hit with vegetables, used for target practice, 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 was unrecognizable.
Mussolini Wasn't Alone – His Mistress Clara Petacci Suffered The Exact Same Fate
There's rarely a happy ending to relationships with detested despots – 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, crowds had little regard for Petacci and her fate. She was killed and strung up right next to her lover.