British Prime Minister Winston Churchill targeted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini for assassination in part to get rid of secret, potentially compromising letters he had written to the fascist leader, according to a leading French historian.
Churchill had expressed admiration for Mussolini in the letters and wanted them quashed, says Pierre Milza, an expert on fascist Italy, according to a report in the London Telegraph on Friday. He wrote the letters before the outbreak of World War II.
“There is no doubt, judging by his public declarations back in the 1920s and early 1930s, that Churchill was a fan of Mussolini. Roosevelt, too,” the Telegraph quotes Milza as saying.
“Churchill even once said: 'Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world . . . If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely,’” said Milza, author of “The Last Days of Mussolini.
“But that was understandable in 1927, as then a fascist did not mean a friend of Hitler and accomplice to genocide. But when you are head of state and legitimate war hero of the British people, you don’t really want all that put up in lights.”
The official story of Mussolini’s demise is that Italian Communist partisans seized him and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were seized on Lake Como as they tried to flee to Switzerland in April 1945. Both were shot and their bodies were displayed in a Milan square.
Milza’s book notes a theory suggesting that Churchill vacationed under a false name only a few miles from where Mussolini was seized so he could be close enough to help dispose of the letters.
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