Benito Mussolini was the fascist leader of Italy from 1925 to 1945. He led the country through the World War II and remained one of the closest allies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Mussolini championed a dictatorial style of leadership that suppressed all opposition and used nationalist hyperbole to achieve political and military ends.
Benito Mussolini was born in 1883. His parents were ardent socialists and he inherited this quality. He was initially enrolled at boarding schools to gain early education. But the acts of violence he committed towards other students led to his expulsion. Mussolini became involved with the socialist movement at an early age.
Mussolini began his involvement with the socialist movement as a newspaper editor. He was jailed in 1910 where he began writing his autobiography. Although he was an ardent supporter of socialism, he split from the movement in 1914 and established his own party, the Fascist Party. He also launched his own newspaper in which he encouraged people to use violence to achieve political ends.
During World War I, Italy fought on the side of the Allied powers. The country sustained a huge number of casualties and a crushing economic burden – and the major Allied powers reneged on their promise to reward Italy for playing its part.
This left Italians like Mussolini highly indignant. Mussolini supported calls for a dictator to take over the country and expressed open dissatisfaction with the Treaty of Versailles, which was a humiliation for Italy.
By 1919, Mussolini was fairly well-known across Italy. He contested elections in 1919 but lost. The elected parliament was dissolved by the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, in 1921. New elections took place and Mussolini and his fascist party was able to muster significant numbers in the parliament.
In 1922, Mussolini started organizing party members as black-shirts, men in a specific uniform who were often armed. With the black-shirts, Fascist Party attacked and destroyed socialist offices across the country.
In 1922, Mussolini and his party members marched on to Rome, the capital of Italy. With hundreds of thousands of men pouring into the capital, the King dissolved the parliament and asked Mussolini to form a government. With this power, Mussolini effectively assumed dictatorial powers and soon became the absolute ruler of Italy. He suppressed opposition, especially the socialists and maintained an iron grip on the power.
When World War II broke out, Mussolini initially decided to stay neutral. But when he saw Hitler’s Germany make significant territorial gains, he entered the war on the side of Germany. As the tide of the war turned, Germany began to lose the war.
At the same time, support for Mussolini began to decline in Italy and he was arrested in 1943. A daring rescue mission by German military forces helped him escape and become ruler of a puppet republic in northern Italy. By 1945, German had lost the war and Allied forces were pouring into Italy. Mussolini tried to escape to Spain but was intercepted, caught and executed.