1775: Yemelyan Pugachev 1951: Albert Guay

1944: Galeazzo Ciano and four other Italian Fascists

January 11th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1944, Benito Mussolini had his son-in-law, the politician Galeazzo Ciano, shot for treason outside the gates of Verona along with four other fascists who had abandoned Mussolini.

A glamorous playboy in public life, Ciano was the scion of a wealthy fascist founder. The youth wed Mussolini’s eldest daughter in 1930 and quickly ascended the party’s ranks, becoming Foreign Minister at the tender age of 33.

Ciano’s treachery, and that of the others seated in chairs and shot from behind on this day, was to have voted with the majority of the Fascist Grand Council for deposing Mussolini as Allied attacks thrust Italy into a desperate position. This confused affair lacked the character of a coup d’etat, but Mussolini was indeed placed under arrest the next day and a separate peace concluded with the Allies in early September.

Soon after, an audacious German glider raid freed Mussolini, who was quickly re-installed as head of a Nazi puppet state in northern Italy.

Ciano’s capture by this body set in motion a final personal drama with implications for later students of the Second World War. Edda Ciano escaped to Switzerland with her husband’s diaries — potentially damaging notes on the machinations of the Axis.

These scribblings she took hostage for the life of her husband. The blackmail was not accepted — to the grief of Edda, who never spoke to her father again.

One final quixotic rescue attempt cooked up by a female SS administrator on Ciano’s guard detail — the last of many women drawn to this charismatic man — foundered; the preordained death sentence came down on January 10th, and the men were shot the next morning.* Mussolini reportedly fretted in the small hours of the night over whether his standing in Hitler’s eyes would suffer should he intervene.

Edda had the diaries published as she threatened, and if they exposed scant novel evidence against his German and Italian compatriots, they offer a window upon diplomatic intrigue and personal relationships within the Pact of Steel.

The last entries were written from prison just three weeks before his execution, and (allowing that by that time the author had reason to lay blame for policy missteps explicitly at Mussolini’s door) the protracted effort they describe to steer the impulsive Duce towards some sane foreign policy — something that might have spared Italy the devastation of war and maintained a fascist government, as Spain managed to do — reads almost farcically in retrospect. Italy could make little material contribution to the war, and probably had as much to fear from Hitler in victory as from the Allies in defeat … but at every turn, Hitler’s inspiring star pulled the Italian dictator away from realpolitik and towards romantic catastrophe.

As the invasion of Poland approached, for instance, Ciano watched Mussolini vacillate on whether to cast his lot irrevocably with Hitler.

The Duce’s reactions are varied. At first he agrees with me [not to commit to war]. Then he says that honor compels him to march with Germany. Finally, he states that he wants his part of the booty in Croatia and Dalmatia.

Like World War II’s every nook and cranny, the Italian experience bestrode by Ciano has received eager literary coverage.

Edda and Galeazzo Ciano’s son Fabrizio also wrote a personal memoir entitled Quando il nonno fece fucilare papa (“When Grandpa had Daddy Shot”).

* Four of the five were only wounded by the initial volley, and the fifth was missed altogether; all were dispatched with a coup de grace.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Botched Executions,Famous,Famous Last Words,Germany,Italy,Mature Content,Notably Survived By,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Shot,Treason,Wartime Executions

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11 thoughts on “1944: Galeazzo Ciano and four other Italian Fascists”

  1. Riyad says:

    lol.. this website title and background picture make my research-night!

  2. Sparry Sparks says:

    When did Edda Ciano die and in what country and city?

  3. cubs says:

    I think that elderly man was Marshal DiBono, and that he shouted “Viva Italia!”
    These men were executed for voting, in the Fascist Grand Council, to depose Mussolini – a great surprise to the Duce himself, who walked right into being fired by the King, and then arrested.

  4. Headsman says:

    I’d love to hear the answer myself, if anybody happens to know.

  5. Never Mind says:

    Regarding the execution: I saw (in a different footage of the same event) that one of the men shot, an elderly man with a beard, shouted something at the moment of the shooting.

    Does anyone happen to know what was that he exclaimed?


  6. jim mccord says:


  7. jim mccord says:

    There should have been an entry for Jack Gilbert Graham for this date in 1957.Graham of course was a cowardly bomber who was responsible for 44 lives los ton a flight out of Denver.

  8. Headsman says:

    Better luck next year. Death comes for us all.

    Update: Eight years on, satisfaction at last.

  9. en_the_chief says:

    — but, sir, that plan makes no sense!
    — maybe, not to you, kif!

    fantastic parallel:))

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