Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, son of Italian blacksmith, moved to Switzerland at the age of 19 due to poverty, where he became involved in socialist politics. He returned to Italy in couple of years, and worked as a journalist in the socialist press, but he abandoned his party to advocate Italian intervention in World War I. Following the war, in which he served as a rifleman, Mussolini decided his destiny was to rule Italy as a modern Caesar and re-create the Roman Empire. In March 1919, Mussolini formed the Fascist Party, galvanising the support of many unemployed war veterans. He organised them into armed squads known as Black Shirts, who terrorised their political opponents.
By October 1922, Italy seemed to be slipping into political chaos. The Black Shirts marched on Rome and Mussolini presented himself as the only man capable of restoring order. King Victor Emmanuel invited Mussolini to form a government. Mussolini gradually dismantled the institutions of democratic government and in 1925 made himself dictator, taking the title ‘Il Duce’. He set about attempting to re-establish Italy as a great European power. The regime was held together by strong state control and Mussolini’s cult of personality. In 1935, Mussolini invaded Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and incorporated it into his new Italian Empire. He provided military support to Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Increasing co-operation with Nazi Germany culminated in the 1939 Pact of Steel. Influenced by Hitler, Mussolini began to introduce anti-Jewish legislation in Italy. His declaration of war on Britain and France in June 1940 exposed Italian military weakness and was followed by a series of defeats in North and East Africa and the Balkans.
After the Allied victories of November 1942, Mussolini implored Hitler to make peace with Joseph Stalin and concentrate on defeating the British-American forces. Hitler’s refusal and the Sicilian invasion convinced the king and high command to overthrow Mussolini in July 1943. In September, Italy signed an armistice with the Allies. Mussolini was rescued by German commandos and was installed as the leader of a new government, but had little power. The April 1945 German surrender in Italy forced Mussolini to flee. Insurgents captured and shot him.
During World War II, in November 1943, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt met together in Teheran, Iran, to discuss military strategy and post-war Europe, in a conference codenamed Eureka. Ever since the Soviet Union had entered the war, Stalin had been demanding that the Allies open-up a second front in Europe. Stalin, who always favoured in offensive strategy, believed that there were political, as well as military reasons for the Allies’ failure to open up a second front in Europe. Stalin was still highly suspicious of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt and was worried about them signing a peace agreement with Adolf Hitler. The foreign policies of the capitalist countries since the October Revolution had convinced Stalin that their main objective was the destruction of the communist system in the Soviet Union. Stalin was fully aware that if Britain and the USA withdrew from the war, the Red Army would have great difficulty in dealing with Germany on its own.
At Teheran, Joseph Stalin reminded Churchill and Roosevelt of a previous promise of landing troops in Western Europe in 1942. Later they postponed it to the spring of 1943. Stalin complained that it was now November and there was still no sign of an allied invasion of France. After lengthy discussions, it was agreed that the Allies would mount a major offensive in the spring of 1944. Roosevelt and Churchill also accepted Stalin’s demands regarding Poland’s post-war boundaries, which would give the Soviets Lwów, Wilno, and Poland’s eastern Kresy territory occupied by Stalin under his 1939 alliance with Nazi Germany. Churchill proposed that Poland, in return, be compensated with a corresponding slice of Germany. They all agreed that they would continue to make available to the Government of Iran economic assistance as may be possible, having regard to the heavy demands made upon them by their world-wide military operations.
The D-Day landings in June, 1944 took the pressure off the Red Army and from that date they made steady progress into territory held by Germany bringing World war II to end.
When Adolf Hitler rose to power during the early 1930s, he moved quickly to isolate the Jewish community from the rest of German society. By early 1938, Nazi authorities announced that residence permits for all foreigners — including Jews — were revoked. In late October, as part of the subsequent “Polenaktion,” some 12,000 Polish Jews were ordered to fill a single suitcase with all the belongings they could and leave for their homeland. Only a third of them were granted entry into Poland, with the rest left to languish in a refugee camp. Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew living in Paris whose family was among those trapped near Poland, received word of what had happened. Furious, he purchased a pistol and ammunition on the morning of November 7th, then gained entrance to the German embassy and shot dead Ernst vom Rath, a diplomat from the Foreign Office. He held a postcard in his pocket that read, “May God forgive me…I must protest so that the whole world hears my protest, and that I will do.”
When Hitler found out about the incident on the evening of November 9, 1938, he instructed Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to utter the famous last words: “[Demonstrations] should not be prepared or organized by the party, but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered.” Within hours, regional party leaders were in the streets destroying property — joined by ordinary citizens riled up by years of anti-Jewish propaganda. While burning synagogues and destroying the windows of Jewish storefronts, authorities were ordered to capture as many Jews as possible for deportation to concentration camps. By the end of the night, glass was strewn about the streets and some 200 houses of worship were on fire in Germany alone, with perhaps another hundred or so in the capital of annexed Austria, Vienna. At least 96 Jews were killed and hundreds more injured. According to official Nazi reports, approximately 100,000 Jews had been arrested and some 20 percent of all Jewish property was claimed by the government in the following days. Though Kristallnacht arrived some three-and-a-half years before the official declaration of Hitler’s Final Solution, the world clearly understood German intentions for the Jewish people in the build up to World War II.