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1943

Mussolini fires his son-in-law

Wary of his growing antiwar attitude, Benito Mussolini removes Count Galeazzo Ciano, his son-in-law, as head of Italy’s foreign ministry and takes over the duty himself.

Ciano had been loyal to the fascist cause since its inception, having taking part in the march on Rome in 1922, which marked the Black Shirts’ rise to power in Italy. He graduated from the University of Rome with a degree in law, and then went to work as a journalist. Soon thereafter he began a career in Italy’s diplomatic corps, working as consul general in China. He married Mussolini’s daughter, Edda, in 1930; from there it was a swift climb up the political ladder: from chief of the press bureau to member of the Fascist Grand Council, Mussolini’s inner circle of advisers.

Ciano flew a bombing raid against Ethiopia in 1935-36 and was made foreign minister upon his return to Rome. Both because of his experience in foreign affairs and personal relationship to the Duce, Ciano became Mussolini’s right-hand man and likely successor. It was Ciano who promoted an Italian alliance with Germany, despite Mussolini’s virtual contempt for Hitler. Ciano began to suspect the Fuhrer’s loyalty to the “Pact of Steel”–a term Mussolini used to describe the alliance between Germany and Italy–when Germany invaded Poland without consulting its Axis partner, despite an agreement to the contrary Ciano made with his German counterpart, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Despite his concern about Germany’s loyalty, he felt that Italy stood to profit nicely from an alliance with the “winning side,” so when France fell to the Germans, Ciano advocated Italian participation in the war against the Allies.

After humiliating defeats in Greece and North Africa, Ciano began arguing for a peace agreement with the Allies. Mussolini considered this defeatist–and dismissed him as foreign minister, taking control of that office himself. Ciano became ambassador to the Vatican until he and other members of the Grand Council finally pushed Mussolini out of power in July 1943. Mussolini never forgave his son-in-law for what he later considered a betrayal. Ciano soon fled Rome for the north when the new provisional government began preparing charges of embezzlement against him. Ciano unwittingly fled into the arms of pro-fascist forces in northern Italy and was charged with treason. He was executed on January 11, 1944 on his father-in-law’s orders–Mussolini was installed in a puppet government that had been set up by the Germans. Ciano’s diaries, which contained brutally frank and sardonic commentaries on the personalities of the war era, are considered an invaluable part of the historical record.

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