In late 1943, Benny wanted to retire from politics. Deposed, disgraced, and suffering from nervous exhaustion, he had no more interest in war. The father of fascism had had enough. A glorious rebirth of the Roman Empire had collapsed and the reality became too taxing, too costly, too dark.
Benny’s German ally wouldn’t hear any of it. Adolf threatened to burn the cities of Italy to the ground if Benny didn’t reconstitute his Blackshirt movement. Caught between a fragmented nation and the Nazi jackboot, Benny did as he was told. In the last years of his life he was little more than a puppet, playing the dutiful dictator while the Germans divided Italian land and oppressed its people.
“Seven years ago I was an interesting person,” he said. “Now I am little more than a corpse.”
He wasn’t off by much.
On April 27, 1945, as Benny and his mistress tried to escape to Spain, they were captured by communist partisans. The next day, after a long, sleepless night, they were executed, the iron man shot twice in the chest. Their corpses were eventually taken to Milan. There, crowds in the tens of thousands gathered to spit and stone the decomposing bodies as they hung from meat hooks in the city square.
Sic semper tyrannis.