All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943

By Jonathan Steinberg | Go to book overview

THE LAST ACT

THE FALL OF FASCISM TO THE ARMISTICE

25 July 1943 to 8 September 1943

Hitler and his closest collaborators had always considered Mussolini as the guarantor of the Axis partnership. As Goebbels put it in March 1943, 'The Duce is really our only completely dependable support in Italy. As long as he is in control we need have no fear.' 1

How long would that be? In early April 1943 Hitler met Mussolini at Schloss Klessheim, a beautiful baroque palace which had once belonged to Mozart's patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg. The two dictators talked mainly in private, appearing more publicl y on ly at end, as they made their way down the grand staircase. The delegates were shocked: 'They seem like two invalids', said one. 'Rather like two corpses', said Dr Pozzi, Mussolini's personal doctor. 2

Bastianini, who saw Mussolini frequently, knew how ill the Duce really was. With one exception he took his meals, mostly of milk and biscuits, alone in his private train. His stomach pains had become so unbearable that much of the time with Bastianini he sat with his body rigidly distended supporting himself on his forearms. 3

Snow fell outside the richly curtained windows during most of the conference; the Italian delegates decided that 1943 would have no spring. The internal atmosphere was no less chilly in spite of elaborate courtesies on the German side. Bastianini had primed Mussolini to raise two issues in the private discussions: a separate peace with the Russians and some sort of 'European League of States' to counter the increasingly effective Allied propaganda. No interpreter accompanied the Duce to his private talks with Hitler but, when he emerged from the first three hour meeting, he told Bastianini with a gesture of disgust that Hitler had done all the talking: 'All he did was to play the same old record. I let him talk but tomorrow I shall talk and very clearly.' 4

He did not talk the next day or at all. He allowed Hitler, as always, to hypnotize him into cowed silence and said nothing of either theme. Not that it would have done much good with Hitler. The war

-135-

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All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Maps and Documents x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • Introduction xvii
  • The Problem 1
  • Part I - The Events 13
  • Phase One - Unsystematic Murder: War in the Balkans 15
  • Phase Two - Systematic Murder: the Italians Obstruct the Final Solution 50
  • Phase Three - The Net Widens: the Italians Defend Jews in Greece and France 85
  • The Last Act - The Fall of Fascism to the Armistice 135
  • Part II - Explanations 165
  • 1 - The Matrix of Virtue and Vice 168
  • 2 - Two Types of Charisma 181
  • 3 - The Two Armies 206
  • 4 - Germans, Italians and Jews 220
  • Conclusion 242
  • Bibliography of Works Since 1990 245
  • Sources and Bibliography 251
  • Notes 274
  • Index 307
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