Edda Mussolini - The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe - book review

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
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Edda Mussolini - The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe - book review

Post by VanillaNuns » 21 Nov 2022 22:20

Book review on Edda Mussolini's new biography courtesy of UK The Daily Telegraph. I've reproduced it here in full because the article is behind a paywall.

Sounds a bit disappointing. Not much new information but here goes anyway:
Was Mussolini’s daughter Edda ‘the most dangerous woman in Europe’?


Edda blackmailed Nazis to try and save her husband, but this biography struggles to present evidence of how she influenced political events.

Review by Nicholas Farrell

Edda Mussolini makes only fleeting appearances in much of this book, which is strange, as it is meant to be her biography. Instead, large chunks are taken up discussing her father, Benito Mussolini, and his invention, Fascism. This is done very competently, and sometimes bravely, as for instance when the author, Caroline Moorehead, notes that Italian Fascism was not anti-Semitic until Mussolini’s fatal alliance with Hitler in the late 1930s, and then only half-heartedly. It is also timed well to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Fascist seizure of power. But I cannot help wondering: what has all that got to do with Edda?

Moorehead, who has written well-regarded biographies of Freya Stark, Iris Origo and Martha Gellhorn, makes the excuse that “Mussolini and Fascism made Edda what she was: to understand her, you have to understand what Italians call il ventennio Fascista, the 20 years of Fascist rule, when Mussolini’s vision and will ruled over every facet of Italian life – sport, education, leisure, health, culture, work – and most of all over Edda, who loved, admired and, for a while, hated him.” This is arguably true, but no justification for reducing Il Duce’s daughter to a walk-on part in her own life story. Perhaps, though, Moorehead had little choice. This is the first book on Edda in English, and the explanation is simple: on the surviving ­evidence, there is really not all that much to say about her.

True, it was always said that Edda was Mussolini’s favourite of his children, one of the few people he listened to and trusted. She was also the wife of Galeazzo Ciano, his foreign minister. She appeared on the cover of Time ­magazine in July 1939, with the headline: “She wears the diplomatic trousers”.

A Swiss newspaper called her “the most influential woman in Europe”, a line twisted into the more sensational claim of this book’s subtitle, “The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe”. But was she? Try as she might, Moorehead can find little evidence that shows Edda ever actually influenced events. She even finds herself admitting that Edda was “averse to high political intrigue” and “preferred to spend her time on Capri”.

Nevertheless, Edda was a key player in a tragedy whose plot was so extraordinary that the ancient Greeks would have been seriously proud had they thought of it, and Moorehead tells it well.

With the Allies in Sicily, and Fascist Italy facing military defeat, Edda’s husband, Ciano, was one of a group of senior Fascists who in July 1943 voted against Mussolini at the Fascist Grand Council, thus providing the king, Victor Emmanuel III, with an excuse to arrest him, and replace him as prime minister with Marshal Pietro Badoglio, who signed an armistice with the Allies.

But the Germans swiftly flooded Italy with troops and rescued Mussolini in a dramatic airborne raid on the mountaintop hotel in the Abruzzo where he was held prisoner. They installed Mussolini as the puppet dictator of a new Fascist state – the Repubblica Sociale Italiana – in the north of Italy. Ciano thought that his marriage to Edda would protect him from retribution, but he was imprisoned in Verona, awaiting trial for treason.

The Cianos had had an open ­marriage since he began to betray her on a regular basis soon after their wedding in 1930, and both had countless affairs. She was a heavy drinker, smoker and gambler. Yet in those dark and desperate final days in Verona – the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – they found true love, perhaps for the first time.

Edda tried to move heaven and earth to save Ciano’s life. She had furious rows with both her father and her mother, Rachele, who retained her peasant mentality to the end and, unlike Mussolini, despised their suave son-in-law. All it required was one word. Yet even though Mussolini liked Ciano, and loved Edda, he could not bring himself to do it.

Edda’s last hope was to threaten to publish Ciano’s diaries abroad, which they said would destroy the reputations of senior Nazis. The SS had sent a pretty undercover agent, Hildegard Beetz, to Ciano’s prison cell each afternoon to seduce him and get him to reveal the whereabouts of the diaries.

But Beetz fell in love with Ciano (she confirmed this after the war) and offered to help him and Edda in their plot to blackmail the Nazis. Edda was not allowed to see her husband and could communicate with him only via Beetz. Incredibly, Himmler agreed to do a deal, and did not tell Hitler: if Edda would hand over one diary beforehand and the rest afterwards, then an SS commando unit would overpower Ciano’s prison guards and whisk him off to neutral Turkey.

Edda arrived at the late-night roadside rendezvous point two hours late because the car she was in, driven by Emilio Pucci, a former lover and future fashion designer, developed punctures in both rear tyres and she had to proceed on foot. No one was there. When she got back to Verona, Beetz told her that Himmler had cancelled the deal because Hitler had found out.

Ciano and four other traitors were found guilty and sentenced to death by firing squad. The night before the executions on January 11 1944, Mussolini, at home on Lake Garda, was heard pacing his bedroom. At 3am, he called Karl Wolff, SS commander in Italy, to ask him if a pardon would harm him in Hitler’s eyes. “Very much so,” replied Wolff.

Ciano was shot, and Edda fled to Switzerland, with Pucci’s help. At the end of the war, she sold the diaries to the Chicago Daily News amidst huge fanfare and gave a copy to the American OSS, but they contained little of major interest.

Edda died in 1995. Moorehead concludes that she “really hated” her father because she “really loved” him. Some of the best passages in this book are about the island of Capri, which bewitched Edda. Not yet a holiday resort, it was home to an eccentric, cosmopolitan crowd of bohemians, artists and exiles. Donkeys, named after Roman emperors, were the only means of transport. Edda built a house there. “Capri” – Moorehead writes – “was everything that Edda most liked: unconventional, tolerant and amusing.” The very anti­thesis of Fascism.
I'm hoping there's a lot more. Edda despised the Petacci family and the influence that Clara had on her father.

I also believe that she visited Hitler alone at Wolfsschanze sometime in the summer of 1943 whilst her father was still under arrest. Would love to know more about that.
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Re: Edda Mussolini - The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe - book review

Post by VanillaNuns » 21 Nov 2022 22:40

The Guardian review (see below) is slightly kinder but notes that only 25 pages - approximately 4% of the book - examine Edda's life after the end of the war in 1945. She was still only 34 years old then so it's a bit bizarre that more was not written about her later years.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/ ... cal-figure

Will wait for this to go on sale. 👍

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Re: Edda Mussolini - The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe - book review

Post by CogCalgary » 22 Nov 2022 03:11

More evidence that the diaries are garbage.
Plenty of anti Semitic views within the Fascist hierarchy.
LA Difesa Della Razza,a bi monthly magazine iirc, published in the 30s is an eye opener.

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Re: Edda Mussolini - The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe - book review

Post by NavyCdo412 » 23 Nov 2022 12:13

Claretta Petacci in the letters with Mussolini in 1944 asked him to kill Edda because dangerous. Ciano was a coward, he was a spoiled person, not self made man but made by Mussolini.

He when lost everything wrote letters against the Duce, when in the past he had to thank him for his career. Alessandro Pavolini, Black Brigades commander, even in the end showed loyalty remembering that he was famous and full of honor thanks to the fascism.

Mussolini had a bad choice: even with Petacci he committed a mistake. Petacci family clan took advantages from Claretta's relationship and Marcello, the brother, was rich thanks to unclear trades during the Fascism and Social Republic.

Edda once wrote to Mussolini to left that Petacci and his family. To be honest, Costanzo Ciano, Galeazzo's father, was a corrupted man too.

In 1918 he wanted to earn the money prize for the sinking of Viribus Unitis (Austrian K.u.K. Marine) as Admiral but he did not manage to do so when the real two heroes, authors of the sinking, promised a legal battle with lawyers against that coward and opportunist man

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Re: Edda Mussolini - The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe - book review

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 21 Dec 2022 22:01

I appreciate that a book enlights Edda Ciano.
But the author is completely wrong by stating that she had some influence on her father and even less on Hitler !
Edda was not fond of politics. She was very fond of her father despite being critical of him, she was quite admirative of Hitler at the beginning. She thought she could influence Hitler because she thought he had a crush on her. She was completely wrong. Hitler described Edda like a whore to Goebbels. Hitler was very clever and made Edda think she had some influence on him, but it was completely wrong of course.

After the Badoglio coup d'Etat (25 july) and the assassination of Ettore Mutti, Ciano feared for his life. He wanted to flee in Spain but Badoglio would not let him go. That's why Edda proposed to ask for help to the Germans and the SS... she thought Hitler was friendly to her although she knew her husband and him were not in good terms. In the end of august 43, Edda asked Dollmann the SS leader in Roma to help her family to flee to Spain. Hitler agreed but instead of flying them to Spain, he flied them to Munich in a golden jail, a castle.
Ciano did not feel comfortable there, he felt like a prisoner. In september 43 when Hitler freed Mussolini, Hitler thought that Mussolini would seek revenge over Ciano, but he did not and reconcialiated with him. But Hitler wanted to punish Ciano, he saw him like a traitor and he did not want any German to imitate Ciano.

That's why Hitler ordered Ciano to be sent back in Verona, in the hands of the ultra fascists. Mussolini finally refused to save his son in law, he felt himself like a prisoner in the hands of his "friend" Hitler.He said he could not save his son in law for "political reasons". Edda was very mad after the Duce. Ciano too. It is understandable. But somehow Ciano understood that Mussolini was somehow himself Hitler's prisoner, and he pardoned him just before his execution. Edda never pardoned him. He made her a widow and her children with no father. She never pardoned.

Edda surely loved her fame and her role in the prewar Italy. But she never had any political ambitions, ideas or influence on Duce or Hitler.

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Re: Edda Mussolini - The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe - book review

Post by wm » 21 Dec 2022 23:26

It's hard to believe that Himmler would send a commando unit to kill other innocent Germans.
He didn't do it during a similar and much more important Operation Himmler.

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