Many Italians are feeling a sense of uneasiness after a small town just south of Rome used public funds to erect a memorial to a Fascist military leader. The village of Affile built the monument, including a mausoleum and a memorial park, in honor of Field Marshall Rodolfo Graziani, who was one of the main military personalities under the direction of Benito Mussolini in the early part of the 20th century.
The monument cost around $157,000 and has seriously upset members of the Democratic Party in Italy, who feel that the monument applauds a man who was charged with crimes against humanity for his campaigns in the 1920s and 1930s, International Business Times notes. Known as “The Butcher of Fezzan” for executing a high number of Libyans in concentration camps during WWII, he was imprisoned for 19 years for war crimes but was released after serving only two of those years. He died seven years later in 1955, the BBC reports.
Many newspaper reports note that the mayor of the small town is a crypto-fascist, although the Fascist Party itself has been officially outlawed for many decades now. Certain small pockets of Fascist followers still exist throughout the country and apparently this mayor has come out in full colors to embrace his identity.
The mayor, Ercole Viri, announced that he hoped the memorial would serve as a famous spot for pilgrims to stop at, likening the new park to the burial place of Mussolini, called Predappio. His comments sparked a political debate between the right-wing council and left-wing opponents. The Telegraph quotes left-center councillor Esterino Montino in the debate, “Is it possible to allow, to permit or simply tolerate, that in 2012, a park and memorial is dedicated to the Fascist general and minister Rodolfo Graziani?”
Montino also commented that some council members had been guilty of denying the Holocaust in recent years. During a time of severe fiscal issues in the Mediterranean, many distressed and unemployed people have staged protests in the country regarding severe fiscal restrictions. Several people committed suicide in the wake of financial difficulties this past spring. Many people have criticized the use of public funds for such a project when so many are desperate for help.
Graziani was not only responsible for the development of concentration camps in nothern Africa but also for further empowering the Mussolini regime within Italy by enforcing strict draft codes on the male population in the 1940s, and threatening to shoot citizens. There seems to be a sense of voluntary forgetfulness about his military past by those who support the memorial.
Francesco Lollabrigida, an ally of the mayor, defended the monument stating, “There has been too much controversy and chat in the last few days. From the locals there is nothing but affection for Rodolfo Graziani and he has always been looked on with respect. He was a decorated soldier in the Italian army.” We have to ask, how did he get so many decorations?
Photo Credit: Kounosu