Saturday, 31 December 2011

Edda Mussolini Ciano – a life spiralling out of control

[i]. Edda & Galeazzo Ciano were deeply divided over Italian relations with Germany. In early August 1942 the couple had a violent argument, with Edda attacking him for his attitude towards the Germans, but concerned for his well-being in a world where Germany appeared triumphant – by now the Germans ruled large swathes of Russia, & occupied most of Europe from France to the Baltic. Their forces were rampaging across northern Africa, while the Japanese fought the Allies in the Pacific
Edda was also concerned by her father’s infatuation with his mistress. Mussolini had become enamoured of Claretta Petacci, a woman two years younger than Edda. They first met by chance in 1933 in Ostia. Three days later Mussolini invited her to visit him at the Palazzo Venezia[ii], in the little room he kept for naps (and lovers). By 1936 Petacci was installed in an apartment in the Palazzo Venezia, her husband being sent off to Tokyo as an attaché.
Claretta Petacci
It did not take long for Roman society to notice the Duce’s ‘vulgar’ mistress, who wore a fur coat to the opera, combined with heavy make-up (definitely not acceptable by Fascist standards). Claretta’s influence over Mussolini was not lessened by his involvement with another young woman, Elena Curti, a 19 year old typist. Rachele appears to have known nothing about Claretta until 1943, after Mussolini’s arrest[iii].
Claretta’s exceptionally corrupt brother Marcello upset the Fascist prominente, more than Claretta upset the society matrons. In mid-April 1942 Mussolini’s sister Edvige called on Ciano to complain about the corruption of the Petacci clan, claiming she had proof. Edda had already told Galeazzo that she was going to discuss the matter with her father. By the end of the month the Prefect of Venice was informing Ciano of Petacci’s scandalous behaviour & the suppression of reports on the incident by Buffarini-Guidi[iv], who was also funding Claretta to the tune of 200,000 lira a month. Ciano did not feel in a strong enough position to raise the Petacci problems with Mussolini himself; although by the end of June Ciano had taken action to stop gold smuggling via the diplomatic bags – Petacci & his associates were heavily involved in the trade.[v]
In 1940 Claretta’s sister, Maria used the Mussolini connection, attempting to launch herself as a singer, under the name Myriam di San Servolo, despite a thin voice. She then moved into risqué films. In June 1942 Maria married a count, in a wedding that Ciano noted was talked of as having ’expensive & fantastic gifts, forests of flowers, and Lucullan banquets’. A friend of Ciano’s told him that Mussolini had taken more interest in Maria’s wedding, than in the weddings of his own children. At the end of the month Ciano was informed that the Carabinieri had declined to take action against a criminal, as he was a lover of Maria Petacci.[vi].

In August 1942 the Italian government was informed by Otto von Bismark, an attaché at the German embassy, of the fate of Europe’s Jews; when he visited the Foreign Ministry to present a demand that the Italians hand over the Jews in Italian occupied Croatia. Mussolini agreed, but when the army refused to comply with the German order Mussolini did nothing to ensure that it was carried out. Mussolini was not an extreme anti-Semite, but he was totally under Hitler’s influence by now, hypnotised & unable to act against the Fuhrer’s will [vii].
In November 1942 Edda presented Mussolii with irrefutable proof of the criminal behaviour of Claretta’s family. An allegedly shocked Mussolini promised to get rid of Claretta. There was little change – Mussolini did send Claretta away, but allowed her to return after 3 days. Not long after the meeting with her father Edda, rightly sceptical about her father’s promises, travelled to Sicily to continue her nursing career. The Petacci family then declared war on Edda & rumours of Ciano’s treason began to circulate[viii].
By the end of the year the Germans were facing the catastrophe, of Hitler’s making, that was Stalingrad. While in Europe the Jews were facing ever-increasing deprivation & ever increasing numbers were pushed into the ‘shower rooms’ at Auschwitz. In early January 1943 the German ambassador von Mackesen visited Ciano to explain the German position vis a vis the Jews. Later in the month Roosevelt announced that the Allies would only accept unconditional surrender – a blow for Ciano and his allies, who were hoping to extract Italy from the war crippling their country.
Mussolini was aware of Ciano’s flirting with the nascent opposition, one of his reasons for dismissing Ciano in February. Mussolini took the Foreign Affairs portfolio for himself, as part of a cabinet reshuffle. Dr Petacci then chose this moment to reveal his more than somewhat superficial plan to win the war, including attacks by Spain, Turkey & China on the Allies. Edda blamed the Petacci’s for Ciano’s downfall[ix].
Pope Pius XII
Offered a choice of other jobs Ciano elected to become the Ambassador to the Holy See. The family meeting with the Pope was a nightmare. Ciano had to drive the five of them to the Vatican himself in a tiny Fiat 500, as the family chauffeur had gone missing. Ciano was in full ambassadorial costume, while Edda was in evening dress & Raimonda was wearing her communion robe. During the meeting Marzio struggled with the Pope over possession of the Pope’s gold telephone. The Pope cut the meeting short[x].
In March 1943 the Italian army refused to hand over French Jews to the Germans, from the Italian occupied zone of France. During the spring & early summer Ciano was occasionally assisting Jews to escape, using his Vatican contacts to have false papers issued; though these actions may have been meant as an alibi when the war was finally lost.. Edda was still in Sicily in May when her father sent her 50,000 lira to distribute amongst the poor. By the time she returned to Rome in June Edda was exhausted & her German sympathies had evaporated.
The king was being pressed to take action. On the 12th May German & Italian forces surrendered in Africa & the Germans were busy building up their forces in Italy itself. Meanwhile Ciano had been in contact with the British in an attempt to take Italy out of a war that was obviously no longer winnable (in the eyes of most, with the notable exceptions of Hitler & Mussolini)[xi].
The Allied landings in Sicily, cutting up into the soft underbelly of the Axis, began on the night of 9th July, facing stiff opposition from the German troops Hitler was already in possession of intelligence reports showing that Mussolini was to be replaced by the Italian Chief of Staff Badoglio in a coup d’État, by the 20th July, the day after his meeting with Mussolini at Feltre. The king had agreed to Mussolini’s arrest, in principle on the 14th.

Dino Grandi, former Foreign Minister & former Ambassador to Britain, proposed a motion in the Fascist Council meeting called for the 24th, where a majority of the council, including Ciano, voted for the king to replace Mussolini as commander of the armed forces. A stunned Mussolini left the chamber without taking any action. He was arrested on the king’s order the following day after leaving an audience with the king. Mussolini was spirited away & Badoglio took over the running of the country[xii].
The scene was set for the tragedy to come.

[i] Diary 1937-1943 by Galeazzo Ciano 2002, Enigma Books, Mussolini’s Shadow by Ray Moseley 1999, Yale University Press
[ii] Prime Minister’s office
[iii] Mussolini by RJB Bosworth 2002, Arnold
[iv] Under-secretary of the Interior Ministry
[v] Diary – Ciano, Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley
[vi] Mussolini – Bosworth, Diary - Ciano
[vii] The Destruction of the European Jews by Raoul Hilberg, 1985 Holmes & Meier, The Italians & the Holocaust by Susan Zucotti, 1987 Basic Books, Mussolini – Bosworth, Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, Mussolini - Farrell
[viii] My Truth by Edda Mussolini Ciano 1977, Wiedenfeld & Nicholson, Mussolini: A New Life by Nicholas Farrell, 2004, Phoenix, Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley
[ix] Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, Mussolini - Bosworth
[x] My Truth - Ciano
[xi] Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, Mussolini - Bosworth
[xii] Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, Mussolini – Farrell, Hitler 1936-1945 Nemesis  by Ian Kershaw Penguin 2001

Friday, 30 December 2011

Edda Mussolini Ciano’s war 1939-1942

While Hitler was planning on invading Poland during the summer of 1939 the Germans repeatedly told Mussolini & Ciano that a war in Europe was still several years away. Mussolini was surprised to be informed, on 25th August, that Hitler was planning to attack Poland, over alleged problems in Danzig & maltreatment of the Volksdeutsche, before the end of the month[i].
Mussolini, on Ciano’s advice, informed Hitler that Italy was not ready for war. When being asked what Italy needed to place it on a war ready status Mussolini gave Hitler an impossible list of needed supplies. Hitler went to war anyway, without Italy as a partner. Mussolini then attempted a repeat performance of his success with the Munich Agreement the previous year. This meddling was not to Hitler’s taste & Mussolini’s final offer of intervention on 2nd September was brusquely turned down by Hitler, refusing all concessions. On the 9th September Ciano told Mussolini "If Germany wins before Christmas, well and good, otherwise she will lose the war"[ii].
Ciano’s sister Maria Magistrati died on 22nd October, from tuberculosis & complications caused by her anorexia. Ciano hoped to the end that Maria would rally & her death revived his feelings of loss for his father[iii].
Three weeks before Maria’s death Ciano had been back in Germany to meet Hitler, who was pressing Italy to join the war, to enable him to invade France. Ciano  spent a lot of time & energy in a successful attempt to keep Italy out of the war, which he instinctively felt would be bad for Italy. At their meeting Hitler informed Ciano that if Germany loses the war there will be no reason to live & "I would be the first to kill myself". Ciano’s Chef de Cabinet Ansaldo, accompanying Ciano, suggested to Ciano, sotto voce, that it would be a good idea if Hitler fulfilled his promise straight away. Edda added to her husband’s unhappiness, with her support for the Germans. Less far sighted than her husband, she was pressing her father to join the war on the German’s side[iv].
In June 1940 Ciano lost the personal battle he had fought with Mussolini since August 1939. Following the smashing victories won by the Wehrmacht in France & the Low Countries the Duce, eager for easy victories & a share of the spoils of war, signed up for the fight . Mussolini was desperate to join in the war, but Hitler was no longer in need of what little support that Italy could offer & only grudgingly accepted his offer.
Edda had been training to be a nurse with the Red Cross, but failed to complete the two year course. Nevertheless she wished to be involved & Mussolini persuaded the Red Cross to let her work for them.  The day Italy declared war on Britain & France Edda rushed to Turin just in time to share the bombardment of the city by the RAF, leaving her children to the tender mercies of others.
On the 11th June Ciano left to join his squadron in Pisa, taking part in an attack on 12th June on Toulon. On his return to base he phoned an unenthusiastic Edda, now back in Rome, to give her details of the attack. He continued flying on air raids for the next week & was then required to visit Munich with Mussolini for a conference with Hitler, thereafter returning to his duties as Foreign Minister. The problems caused by having his ministers on active duty did not seem to concern Mussolini – it was manly & therefore right.
By the end of the year Ciano had made a further six trips to Germany for discussions with Hitler & von Ribbentrop, whose dislike of Ciano was mutual. Ciano, although a diplomat by trade, was not a diplomat by nature. He was arrogant & frequently acted in a juvenile manner happy to offend those he did not like.
By October 1940 Edda was serving on a hospital ship & in March 1941 she was on the hospital ship Po, where she had her own cabin to separate her from the trained nurses. On the 15th the Po was sunk by a British torpedo plane[v] Edda, who had been reading a PG Wodehouse book at the time of the explosion, was among those rescued.
Galeazzo Ciano had never been popular with his mother-in-law, who despised his fancy ways & ‘aristocratic behaviour’. By the summer of 1941 Rachele Mussolini had come under the influence of a builder & entrepreneur called Pater. A former favourite of Rachele’s, her nephew, visited Ciano in his office at the Palazzo Chigi, in mid-May, complaining of Pater’s power over the Duce’s wife. Edda had already informed Ciano, earlier in the year, of her mother’s new favourite, wondering whether Rachele was suffering from the menopause. By early June the Duce’s eccentric wife was threatening to visit the Palazzo Chigi to ‘start shooting up the place’[vi].
Apparently Rachele amused herself by dressing up & snooping among the ‘great & good’ of the Fascist party, using her security detail to obtain information for her. She unmasked a minister who had a statue built of himself in his home village, & claimed that Mussolini’s secretary had built a luxury villa for himself – demanding his dismissal[vii].
Wreckage of Bruno's plane
On 7th August 1941 Edda’s brother Bruno died in a test plane accident. The Mussolini family were not ones to display their grief, nor to rally round in support of each other. Mussolini was soon in Russia visiting Hitler with Vittorio, covering for an indisposed Ciano. It was Ciano who saw his mother-in-law grieving for her lost son, the following March, as she attended a requiem mass for the Duke of Aosta. Despite their antipathy he was able to empathise with the grieving mother[viii].
Although Edda had started an affair with Marquis Emilio Pucci, during the summer on Capri, where the Cianos had a villa; in mid-August 1941 Edda was in Stalino in the Ukraine serving as a nurse. She spendt three months at a field hospital there. Ciano was ill with throat problems from July onwards, having an operation in September. His problems with asthma had started while he & Edda were in China.  
By late Autumn rumours were rife that Edda would leave Ciano to live with Emilio Pucci.  Edda returned from the Ukraine in November. She then travelled to Capri where she lost 2.5 million lire playing poker with guests. Security reports stated that she was oftne seen in public in scanty clothing & that she failed to act appropriately for one meant to be in mourning for Bruno.
By March 1942 rationing was biting in Italy & on the 28th there were demonstrations in Venice protesting against the bread shortages. Yet Edda, Galeazzo & the children saw no change to their home life style. There were rumours that that 2 wagon-loads of flour etc had been brought in to feed game birds at Ciano’s shooting reserve and that the family had plentiful supplies of milk for their dogs. Rumours were fed by the couple’s behaviour; when Edda stayed at a hotel in Abetone, with Caroline Ciano & the children she had pasta & beefsteak served to them every day in front of the other hotel guests. In contrast Mussolini refused to allow his family to use more than the ration allowance[ix].
In late April 1942 Edda visited Germany with her friend Princess Giovanelli – her first visit for 6 years. On 25th Edda attended a party given by Joseph & Magda Goebbels, impressing the Minister for Propaganda with her seriousness & intelligence. During her visit Edda also met Goering & Himmler (who she later claimed gave no external evidence of being a monster). Edda wanted to visit Hamburg, Lubeck & Bremen to see the effects of the bombing. After attempting to dissuade her, von Ribbentrop organised the trip & then gave a luncheon in Edda’s honour on 4th May on her return. While on her trip Edda visited a camp for Italian ‘guest’ workers & was horrified by the ill-treatment meted out by the German guards. Her response was to complain to Hitler, who promised to have the culprits arrested. An infuriated Ribbentrop complained to Ciano, who was visiting Hitler in Mussolini’s entourage. Ciano was not amused to receive complaints about his wife from a man he detested[x].
By now Ciano was having doubts about the outcome of the war & the position Italy would be in, left on the losing side. He enjoyed the confidence of the king to a certain degree. Mussolini on the other hand had persuaded himself that the Italian people were unhappy because the country was lending too little support to the Germans in Russia[xi].

[i] Ethnic Germans living outside Germany
[ii] Diary 1937-1943 by Galeazzo Ciano 2002, Enigma Books, Mussolini’s Shadow by Ray Moseley 1999, Yale University Press, Mussolini: A New Life by Nicholas Farrell, 2004, Phoenix, Hitler 1936-1945 Nemesis  by Ian Kershaw Penguin 2001
[iii] Diary – Ciano, Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley
[iv] Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, My Truth by Edda Mussolini Ciano 1977, Diary – Ciano, Mussolini - Farrell
[v] On 28th October 1940 the Italians attacked Greece. Mussolini failed to inform his ally of his intentions until it was too late for a furious Hitler to intervene. Unfortunately the Italian troops were not of the same quality as the Wehrmacht and failed to overrun a difficult & mountainous country. The Italian fleet had been attacked at Taranto on 11th November reducing their already limited capacity to act in the Mediterranean, where the Royal Navy reigned supreme, to Mussolini’s great indignation. In December Mussolini was forced to go cap in hand to Hitler to ask for his assistance.
[vi] Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, My Truth by Edda Mussolini Ciano 1977, Diary – Ciano, Mussolini - Farrell
[vii] The Real Mussolini by Rachele Mussolini, 1973 Saxon House
[viii] The Real Mussolini – Mussolini, Diary - Ciano
[ix] Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, The Real Mussolini – Mussolini, Mussolini –by Vittorio Mussolini 1973 New English Library
[x] Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, Diary – Ciano, My Truth - Ciano
[xi] Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Edda Mussolini Ciano – A Marriage in the Spotlight

Edda’s father was a man incapable of being faithful to one woman & she chose a man with similar proclivities for her husband. Edda met Count Gian Galeazzo Ciano on 27th January 1930, on his return from a diplomatic posting in China. She had already met his sister Maria, who introduced the couple. Ciano was the only son of Count Constanzo Ciano, Minister for Communications & a hero of the Great War. A quick worker, Ciano asked Edda to marry him on 1st February 1930[i]. Upon formal request to Mussolini for his daughter’s hand in marriage a bemused Ciano was informed that Edda could not cook.

Edda Mussolini & Galeazzo Ciano were married in San Guiseppe Via Nomentana Church in Rome on 24th April 1930. They spent their honeymoon on Capri, interrupted on the first night by a panic attack – Edda locked herself in the bathroom & had to be talked out by her husband[ii].
On the 1st September Ciano was appointed Consul General in Shanghai & for the next two years the couple lived in China. Their first child Fabrizzio was born on 1st October 1931. He was quickly nicknamed Ciccino by Edda, who, called her husband Gallo[iii] (she had a tendency to give people nicknames). During the 1931 Sino-Japanese conflict many foreigners left Shanghai, but Edda & Galeazzo remained; Edda watching the fighting from the city walls. While in China Edda lost large amounts of money playing poker (not the last time this happened)[iv].
In May 1933 the Ciano’s returned from China, moving in with Count & Countess Ciano. Edda disliked her mother-in-law, calling her ‘the Ape’. Her husband was appointed head of her father’s press office in June. At some point in the year the Ciano's moved to Via Angelo Secchi in Rome into two apartments - one for them and one for children & governess. Raimonda, called Dindina, was born in December 1933. After Dindina’s birth Mussolini paid a rare visit to his daughter’s home to see his granddaughter (he rarely if ever visited anyone including family)[v].
Sometime in 1934 Edda met the Marquis Emilio Pucci, later to become an internationally known designer, on the ski slopes at Cortina d’Ampezzo[vi]. Ciano was known for his liaisons with women & at some point Edda thought about leaving her husband. Following a talk with her father, another womaniser, she changed her mind[vii].  Edda was reproved by her mother-in-law for her indiscretions & she replied characteristically to the effect that Signora Ciano had persuaded herself that Madam de Pompadour & Madam de Maintenon were spotless in character compared with Edda[viii].
The couple’s last child Marzio, nicknamed Mowgli by his mother, was born in December 1937, again followed by a visit from his grandfather. The couple received congratulations from Hitler, Goering, Hess, Goebbels, Crown Prince Umberto, and the Italian Queen.

The press office was made a ministry in June 1935 & Galeazzo Ciano became a minister at the age of 32. In emulation of his father-in-law, whose mannerisms he began imitating, Ciano learned to fly. In 1935, probably not long before war was declared on Ethiopia, Ciano was given command of 15th Bombadier Squadron, stationed at Asmara, although he was not a particularly good pilot & had never been in the military. Mussolini declared that all ministers would be expected to participate in the war he was planning in Ethiopia in an attempt to gain an overseas empire[ix]. Victory in Ethiopia was declared on 5th May 1936 & in the same month Ciano was elevated to become a member of the Fascist General Council.
Prior to the invasion of Ethiopia Edda visited England, with instructions from her father to make sure that she informed any notables of Mussolini’s intention to invade. Ramsay MacDonald attempted to inform Edda of the consequences of such an action, but confirmed that the British would not go to war for Ethiopia. Amongst a crowded social itinerary Edda attended the races at Royal Ascot & met King George V[x].
On the 9th June 1936, after several broad hints from Edda, Mussolini made Ciano Foreign Minister. At the time of her husband’s promotion Edda was on a visit to Germany to see her sister-in-law, now married to Mario Magistrati - a diplomat posted to Berlin. Following the announcement of Ciano’s new job Edda met with Hitler at a tea hosted by Joseph Goebbels followed by a boat trip on the Wannsee. It was during this trip that Edda became intoxicated by the Nazi regime. Upon her return her husband demanded to know whether she had remained faithful to him during her trip[xi].
In October Ciano made his own visit to Germany & met Hitler at Berchtesgarden, being given an autographed copy of Mein Kampf. Unfortunately for Italo-German relations Ciano took an instant dislike to Joachim von Ribbentrop, an influential adviser to Hitler on foreign affairs.
In December 1936 came the abdication of Edward VIII, King of England. There were rumours in Italy that Ciano had had an affair with Wallis Simpson, on his first Shanghai posting, making her pregnant. The subsequent abortion had, allegedly left her sterile[xii].
By1937 Edda & Ciano were spending a lot of time apart; Edda staying at their home in Ponte a Moriano for much of the time, while Galeazzo worked in Rome. Edda was one of the first women in Italy to wear a two piece bathing suit in public. An intensly jealous husband was angry enough to slap her around the face becuase of the exhibition she made of herself[xiii].
 In July 1934 Mussolini thwarted a potential anschluss in Austria, following the assassination of Austrian Prime Minister Dollfuss, a friend of the Mussolini family, by moving Italian troops to the Italian-Austrian border. At the time Frau Dollffuss & the children were in Italy staying near the Mussolini holiday villa at Riccione[xiv]. But by the time of the Anschluss in March 1938, entrapped in Hitler’s web, Mussolini had already indicated to Hitler & his minions that he would not intervene in Austrian affairs again.
It was not until November 1938, after Reichskristallnacht, that Hitler finally persuaded Mussolini to implement a watered down version of the anti-Jewish legislation already in place in Germany. It was probably after this that the Ciano’s purchased a villa at Livorno at a knock down price from the Jewish owner. All of the Mussolini family were ambigious in their response to the legislation: Edda asked Galeazzo to help an ex-boyfriend of hers who was Jewish; Ciano asked for help for a man he had gone to school with; Vittorio & Bruno were worried about school friends, threatening their father with lodgers unless he helped their families emigrate. Mussolini himself assisted the emigration of his Jewish ex-lover Margareta Sarfatti to the States, despite being infuriated by the king’s mention of his compassion for the Jews three times in one meeting with his Prime Minister. Rachele pondered on the fate of Mussolini’s teeth, as the only dentist he allowed near them was Jewish [xv].

Riding high publicly following the ‘successful’ invasion of Albania in the spring, Ciano was cast down by the death of his father, who he idealised, on 26th June 1939. He fell into a depression, which was not helped by the increasingly obvious illness of his sister Maria, who was suffering from anorexia nervosa. On 24th July Edda was on the front cover of Time magazine, described as ‘One of Europe’s most successful intriguers & stringpullers’. She was credited with being the power behind many of Italy’s pro-German moves.
By now Italy was awash in rumours of the state of the Ciano marriage: Galeazzo taking his lovers from the Italian aristocracy; while Edda chose the company of athletic young men[xvi].

[i] My Truth by Edda Mussolini Ciano 1977, Wiedenfeld & Nicholson, Mussolini’s Shadow by Ray Moseley 1999, Yale University Press
[ii] Ibid
[iii] The short version of Galeazzo, gallo also means cock.
[iv] My Truth - Ciano
[v] My Truth – Ciano, Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, Mussolini: A New Life by Nicholas Farrell, 2004, Phoenix
[vi] They were to become lovers in 1941
[vii] My Truth – Ciano, Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley
[viii] Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley
[ix] Mussolini- Farrell, Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley
[x] My Truth - Ciano
[xi] Mussolini – Farrell, Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, My Truth - Ciano
[xii] Mussolini – Farrell.
[xiii] My Truth – Ciano, Diary 1937-1943 by Galeazzo Ciano 2002, Enigma Books,
[xiv] Hitler 1889-1936 Hubris by Ian Kershaw, 2001 Penguin, Mussolini – Farrell, My Truth – Ciano, The Real Mussolini by Rachele Mussolini 1974, Saxon House
[xv] My Truth – Ciano, Mussolini by RJB Bosworth 2002, Arnold,  The Real Mussolini - Mussolini, Diary - Ciano
[xvi] Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, My Truth - Ciano