Mussolini fans celebrate his birth

Veronese

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Sep 10, 2007
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Mussolini fans celebrate his birth

Admirers of Benito Mussolini flocked to the his tomb Wednesday to celebrate the anniversary of his birth despite a plea from the mayor of the Fascist dictator's northern hometown for them to stay away.

Mussolini fans came from as far as Naples, Bari and Rome to visit the tomb in Predappio cemetery and leave a message in the visitors' book, while Fascist memorabilia on sale in the town's shops was doing a roaring trade.

Early on Wednesday a parish priest held Mass at the crypt in the presence of Mussolini's daughter-in-law, Monica, the widow of his son Vittorio, among fresh flowers sent by fans from across the country.

Predappio Mayor Giorgio Frassineti, of the centre-left Democratic Party, had appealed to the thousands of people who arrive each year not to come to the town, saying he did not appreciate ''blackshirt tourism''.

''Fascism tourists, please, stay at home,'' he said Tuesday on the eve of the anniversary.

Frassineti described gatherings of Mussolini sympathisers as a ''sad and surreal carnival''.

''These people are the enemies of our future. We are victims of these boorish waves that make Italy's history vulgar and marginalise us. The demonstrations often happen at the cemetery, a place of sorrow for the town's residents,'' he said.

''The name of our town is inextricably linked with that of Mussolini, but we would like to become a place where history is discussed, not a theatre for these sad demonstrations,'' Frassineti added.

Mussolini admirers were resolute on Wednesday, however.

''I don't give a damn what the mayor says,'' said one, echoing the Italian Fascist motto coined by Mussolini.

''I've been coming here every year for 30 years,'' said Sandro from Orvieto, making it clear that he would continue to do so.

Pierluigi Pompignoli, the owner of a memorabilia shop, stressed that the arrival of Mussolini fans in the town has never resulted ''even in a cuff around the ears''.

''If sometimes a young guy goes over the top with bad behaviour we're the first to take him down a notch,'' Pompignoli said.

The head of the Emilia Romagna branch of the tiny right-wing political party Forza Nuova, Gianni Correggiari, also dismissed the mayor's plea.

''It's the tens of thousands of people who pay homage to Mussolini each year who are fuelling the economy of the town.

''The mayor's invitation is stupid, but maybe it's motivated only by concern that Mussolini has left something at an emotional level,'' he said, adding that people did not make pilgrimages to the graves of founding members of Italy's Communist or Christian Democrat parties.

MEMORABILIA BAN.

In a bid to spruce up the town's image Predappio banned the display in shops of swastikas, cudgels and merchandise bearing Fascist mottos in April.

The town council approved a 500-euro fine for shops caught displaying items harking back to the Fascist era in their windows or anywhere visible from the street.

But souvenir hunters are still able to freely browse Mussolini memorabilia at one of several Predappio shops with Internet stores.

At one website, shoppers can pick up a 'Dux Mussolini' cudgel for five euros, a wide range of swastika-decorated daggers from 30 euros and a selection of beers bearing the faces of Fascist leaders for 2.6 euros each.

Born in Predappio in 1883, Mussolini led Italy from 1922 to 1943.

Using his charisma, control of the media, and violence, he dismantled the country's democratic government system and created a Fascist state.

In 1940, he made the decision to enter the Second World War in alliance with Hitler. Three years later he was deposed and arrested.

With Nazi help, he set up a Fascist mini state, the Republic of Salo', at Lake Garda in northern Italy.

As the Allies advanced he tried to flee to Switzerland but was captured and shot by Italian partisans in April 1945.

His body was strung upside down in Milan with that of his mistress, Clara Petacci.