The Shadows of Total War: Europe, East Asia, and the United States, 1919-1939

By Roger Chickering; Stig Förster | Go to book overview

17

Total Colonial Warfare
Ethiopia

GIULIA BROGINI KÜNZI

Like no other Italian city, Rome symbolized the Fascist experience. The past was evoked by a huge monument with the inscription "Mussolini Dux" near the sports center Foro Italico, and by a series of architectural reminders in the form of bombastic buildings, large avenues, and spacious squares, which formed an ideal background for military parades and mass meetings. Even the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935–6 left its footprint in the old capital of the Impero dell'Africa Italiana. One of the famous Axumite monoliths, which dates from the fourth century, still stands next to the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, although the Italian government has now promised to return it to Ethiopia as soon as possible. The obelisk was transported to Rome as a war trophy in 1937. Rome's northeastern districts also display reminders of colonial times. "Viale Eritrea," "viale Etiopia," "viale Somalia," "via Adua," "via Dessiè," "via Tembien," "via Endertà," and "Piazza Addis Abeba" all refer to geographical locations in eastern Africa, which were sites of major battles in the Italo-Ethiopian War.

Even though the signs of the colonial past are still manifest, historians and the general public have until recently suppressed memories of the ItaloEthiopian War.1 In contrast to the interwar commentary, Italian historiography has since 1945 been reticent about the Italian colonial experience and the colonial wars on the African continent, even though these conflicts had exercised a formative influence on the young nation-state for seventy-five years. The subject was long regarded as unworthy of mention. Defeat in World War II and the resulting loss of the Italian colonies as a status symbol led to this state of affairs.2 As a result, Italian historiography remained

1 Angelo Del Boca, "Il mancato dibattito sul colonialismo," in Angelo Del Boca, ed., L'Africa nella
coscienza degli italiani: Miti, memorie, errori, sconfitte
(Rome, 1992), 111–27.

2 The colony Africa Orientale Italiana (AOI) was founded in 1936 and comprised 1.73 million square
kilometers and 11.45 million inhabitants. With the addition of this territory to its other holdings in

-313-

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