Can Italy cope with its fascist history

The controversy has reignited a debate in Italy about how to deal with fascism.

Emanuele Fiano of the Democratic Party, a member of parliament, came up with a law a few days after La Repubblica published its story. The new law is intended to “severely penalize those who apologize for Italian fascist propaganda or German Nazi propagandist.”

Both the extreme right-wing Lega Nord and the populist Cinque Stelle condemned the proposal as “liberticidal.”

The national debate on fascism has centered on a museum that, according to former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in 2016, will be partial -funded by the Italian government. Giorgio Frassinetti, a member of the Democratic Party, first proposed the landmark. It would be located in Predappio and could open as early as 2019.

Predeappio, a town of only 6,500 residents, has been a famous place since the end of the Second World War. Mussolini was born here, and his family’s mausoleum is located there. In 1957, the body of Il Duce was laid to rest.

Mussolini’s body was executed in 45, but it went through several adventures and controversies after his death. The body was moved around by fascist nostalgia and post-war Italian authorities who wanted to avoid glorification. It ended up in several places in Italy, including a convent in Milan.


It would be naive of me to expect to die in peace. No peace can exist around the graves of the revolutionaries who led the major changes we call revolutions. But all that has happened cannot be erased… My only wish is to lie next to my parents in the San Cassiano cemetery.

A fascist pilgrimage

Predappio is visited by 50,000 people every year who pay homage to Il Duce. This is especially true on the anniversaries of his birth (July 29, 1883), death (April 28, 1945), and his March on Rome, which brought Mussolini into power (October 28, 1922).

Although the tourists’ presence is beneficial to the local economy, Predappio, which has been under left-wing leadership since 1945, struggles with how to handle them. Predappio has seen fascism commercialized as a result of the pilgrimage.

Vendors sell T-shirts, mugs, and glasses with the slogan “I love Duce.” Even wine labels honor Mussolini. These include “Nero di Predappio Eia Eja Alala,” Vino del Camerata (which refers to Mussolini’s armed squad, the Black Shirts), and Italy for the Italians.

The 2012 documentary ‘La Duce Vita,’ by Cyril Berard and Samuel Picas, is about the fascist pilgrimage in Predappio.

A museum that counters fascist thoughts

Some people are not in favor of adding a Fascism Museum to the mix.

The memorial will be located in the former National Fascist Party headquarters, the 2,400 square meter Casa del Fascio. The Dokumentationszentrum zum Nazismus inspire it in Munich. According to Mayor Frassinetti, he aims to turn Predappio’s propaganda tourism into the tourism of knowledge.

Some are in agreement with him. The Italian history Marcello Flores and museum promoters Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci Maurizio Rdolfi believe that the initiative will change people’s perception of Predappio by distancing it from fascism.

The sites have been transformed into educational centers that teach about Nazism.

Many well-known intellectuals and historians are opposed to the plan for a fascist museum. Giulia Albanese, Patrizia Dogliani, Simon Levis Sullam, and Carlo Ginzburg argue the museum will actually reinforce Predappio’s symbolism of fascism.

It would be surrounded by shops, which would make this 20th-century ideology officially celebrated. Italians have been reminded that Adolf Hitler didn’t get a monument in Braunau am Inn – his hometown – nor did El Ferrol, in Spain, dedicate a museum for General Francisco Franco.

Historians say that the Museum of Fascism would be better located in Milan or Rome. Both cities played a central role during the fascist period.

The proposed monument could give the impression that fascism was solely associated with Mussolini and absolved Italians from their collective responsibility of the period 1925-1940 centennial when Italy turned fascist.

All parties agree on one thing: Italians prefer to tell passive stories in which they play the victim rather than reflect upon the crimes committed under Mussolini. Italian collective history portrays a nation that suffered from fascism and then revealed its true antifascist nature once these leaders fell.

This view has led Italians to ignore fundamental questions about their history, such as the extent of the popular support for fascism and the Italians’ role in the persecution of Jews.

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