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

By Jonathan Steinberg | Go to book overview

2

TWO TYPES OF CHARISMA

It is exceptionally difficult to get Mussolini into focus. The absurdities of his posture, his jutting jaw and contemptuous lip, his hands on hips, chest thrown out, the cult of personality which required that the Duce know everything, see everything, hear everything, understand everything, which required that the light be on in his office so that passers-by would note that at any hour of the day or night the Duce was at work, provide the stuff of caricatures and gave Charlie Chaplin one of his most effective inspirations. Yet for Bottai and his generation in Italy, for the young men maddened by the experience of the trenches and disorientated by the chaotic world of peacetime, the encounter with Mussolini was 'destiny'. Antonio Salandra, sometime Prime Minister and one of the old-style politicians whom Mussolini outplayed and outmanoeuvred, offered this portrait of him:

Enigmatic mixture alternatively of genius and vulgarity, of sincere profession of noble sentiments and of base instincts, of reprisal and vendetta, of rude frankness and badly dissimulated histrionics, of tenacious assertions and sudden changes, of effective and occasionally overwhelming eloquence adorned with culture and presumptuous ignorance expressed in plebeian language; at the core…an exclusive, I would say ferocious, cult of himself…no limits of discrimination between good and evil, no indication of a sense of the law, in general a force of nature containable only by greater forces. 21

The image of a natural force recurs in many descriptions of Mussolini by those who knew him well, an uncontainable, explosive personality. The Russian Jewish socialist, Angelica Balabanoff, knew him in his down-and-out phase before the First World War and recalled an occasion in Lugano when Mussolini suddenly burst out, waving his arms at the well-to-do in the restaurants, 'Look, people eating, drinking and enjoying themselves. And I will travel third class, eat miserable cheap food. Porca Madonna! how I hate the rich! Why must I suffer this injustice? How long must we wait?' 22 Yet it was not the things of this world, riches and luxuries, that Mussolini desired. He was no Göring who accumulated rings and furs but a

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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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