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.
VanillaNuns
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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’?

3/5

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

Post by J. Duncan » 20 Mar 2023 00:25

I think a good book to read is the one written by Edda herself titled “My Truth”. I read it a number of years ago and found it very engrossing. She speaks for herself, her life / her loves….and those she hated.
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Re: Edda Mussolini - The Most Dangerous Woman in Europe - book review

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 20 Mar 2023 02:10

NavyCdo412 wrote:
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
You should read Ciano's diary to balance your judgement. I guess it will be hard to find some honest political man in history... especially among fascists and nazis...
Ciano was mad after Mussolini because they had political disagreements. Problem with Ciano, I guess, is that he took Duce like a father or a Uncle. He married Edda his daughter. It was more than a political relationship. I think the young Ciano has been manipulated by the old Mussolini.They both ignored their disagreements in the name of their love for Edda.
When Hitler came to power, it was a big challenge for Mussolini. He never managed to deal with it. Before, Mussolini was the bad guy, the big guy of Europe... he was not dangerous like Hitler, but hue had this role in the press of the time, he was the "menace" very often mocked by everybody... Mussolini was associated with the image of a "dictateur de carnaval". That enraged him because he wanted to be taken seriously.
When Hitler came in 1933, suddenly the world faced a real menace, a real dangerous man... Hitler. Unfortunately, the rest of the world kept on mocking Mussolini and associating him with Hitler. Unfortunately, because Mussolini was closer to the French or English democrats than to Hitler... Mussolini feared Hitler. He was frigthened by this man. But he was completely lonely... nor France nor England would give their hands to him against Hitler. So, Mussolini had to deal with this freaky Hitler.
Ciano was totally against any alliance with Hitler. He was hostile to Germans like many Italians, like Mussolini. But Hitler played a very good game. Hitler understood the loneliness of Mussolini. And contrary to the "democracies" he had only good words for Mussolini, telling him he was his model, his father etc... that he wanted him to be his ally. Mussolini was of course reluctant. But, finally, during the Ethiopian crisis in 1935, only Hitler helped Mussolini. At this moment, Hitler won. The Duce agreed to be conciliatory to him.
But, still, Mussolini and Ciano were hostile to any political alliance with Germany.
They waited late in 1939... to signe the famous Steel Pact. Meanwhile Hitler invaded Austria... at the great shame and fear of Mussolini ! Mussolini feared at this time that Hitler's panzers would not stop at the Italian frontier and would invade Italy ! That's why Mussolini grouped 20 divisions there... Of course, Hitler had no idea to invade Italy. But Mussolini was in that state of mind : terribly scared. Hitler kept on being agressive : Sudeten, Czechoslovakia...
It is after that that Mussolini pressed Ciano to sign the Pact. In exchange of that Hitler agreed to transfer the German population to Germany. Mussolini and Ciano signed the Pact, but it was a defensive pact. And Hitler engaged himself not to declare war before 1942 or 1943...
We all know now that he lied. It was all lies from Hitler.

Ciano was infuriated. He was always an opponent to this alliance. That's why he started to write his diary. He knew the pact would bring only misfortune. He wanted to keep a written trail of what happened, of the German engagements, and subsequently of the German treasons. Ciano kept in mind that during WWI Italy was called a traitor. Ciano was not fool, and he wanted to prove that during WWII Italy would not be the traitor, but Germany will be. And he was right.
In may 1939 Hitler promised no war in Europe before 1942 or 1943. He promised he would do so only with Italian agreement. And in September he invaded Poland not even telling so to Italy...

Mussolini and Ciano were the Dupes of Hitler. Mussolini was never able to break this alliance. He never had enough courage for this. Ciano was angry after him because of that. On the other hand, Ciano had no idea of the consequences of such a decision. Mussolini feared Hitler would invade Italy and mistreat Italians like they did after September 1943.

Hitler betrayed Ciano Mussolini and Italy in 1939.

Ciano didn't betray Mussolini the 25 July of 1943. He voted his dismissal because Mussolini refused to break his alliance with Hitler and to sign a peace treaty with Allies.
Mussolini always refused because he feared German retaliation. He also didn't want to repeat the "WWI treason".

That's why the Great Council dismissed the Duce.

Was there any hate between Mussolini and Ciano ? I don't think so. I think Mussolini was aware of his weakness and treason... I think Ciano was mad after Mussolini because of this weakness... That explains the insults Ciano wrote to Mussolini. Edda also insulted her father. It was normal. Mussolini became the German Gauleiter... he imprisonned his own son in law... in his name his son in law was killed... it was a tragedy ! Mussolini himself was ashamed by his own act... his only justification was in the name of raison d'Etat... what did he mean ? He meant that he had to take into account the German occupation of the country... and the hate of many ultra fascists supported by Hitler. Mussolini feared that If he saved his son's life, he may lose his own and it would get worse for Italy.

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

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 20 Mar 2023 02:10

J. Duncan wrote:
20 Mar 2023 00:25
I think a good book to read is the one written by Edda herself titled “My Truth”. I read it a number of years ago and found it very engrossing. She speaks for herself, her life / her loves….and those she hated.
Yes. It's a great book.

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

Post by wm » 20 Mar 2023 02:28

Well, when France was defeated, Mussolini couldn't just sit in a corner and tremble. He had to ask for a piece of the pie; the Italian people wouldn't accept anything less.
And he asked for a (small) piece of France believed by the Italians to be rightfully theirs. And for a few colonies in a world where British/French/others colonies spanned the entire world.

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

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 20 Mar 2023 12:05

wm wrote:
20 Mar 2023 02:28
Well, when France was defeated, Mussolini couldn't just sit in a corner and tremble. He had to ask for a piece of the pie; the Italian people wouldn't accept anything less.
And he asked for a (small) piece of France believed by the Italians to be rightfully theirs. And for a few colonies in a world where British/French/others colonies spanned the entire world.
You are right. The fall of France was a huge blow to Mussolini's chin.
Ciano explained it very well in his diary.

The Duce thought that France would resist like in 14-18. He imagined that France and Germany would exhaust each other... indeed he thought that France would stop Hitler. And it would enhance Italy's place in Europe.

When France collapsed within a month, Mussolini shivered... He hoped that Germany would get weaker.... and now Germany became even stronger... For Mussolini it was a total disaster.
When he realised France was doomed, he declared war to France. Italian naitonalists always wanted Nice and Savoia. Mussolini argued that the Mediterranean Sea was an Italian thing following the terms of the Pact of Steel. But what Mussolini feared was that Germany surrounded totally Italy. Nazis were already at the northern border... Now they would be at the western border. Invading south of France would give Mussolini some space.

At the time of the fall of France, Mussolini was definitely convinced that Hitler had won the war in Europe, that it was the beginning of a very long reign of Germany over Europe. Even Ciano was stunned. Ciano could not believe Hitler succeeded. People often remembers that the German generals were suspicious to Hitler until the fall of France. The triumph of Hitler over France had muted all critics. Everybody thought England would make peace.

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