The filmed recording of this moment seems to return the image of a people united around their guide. The parable of popular consensus around fascism, however, it is channeled on a descending slope. The same apparatus of propaganda arouses mistrust. A 1939 fiduciary report reports that “people believe they are kept in the dark about everything.” The annexation of Albania, which ended in two days in April 1939, was also coldly accepted. The same Foreign Minister and son-in-law of Mussolini, Galeazzo Ciano, he notes – in October 1939 – that there is an atmosphere of tiredness and general disenchantment among the population.
The winds of war that have been blowing since 1938 worry the population. Once the conflict was averted, with the Munich agreements after the Nazi annexation of the Sudetes stolen from Czechoslovakia, the Italians breathe a sigh of relief for the escaped danger, a feeling that irritates Mussolini, for whom the conflict must “restore the race”.
A month before the invasion of Poland in August 1939, the parish priests invited the faithful to pray for the Pope to be able to maintain peace. They are only signs of the fatigue towards the regime and towards its warlike propaganda. The supporters of the conflict – in that June 1940 – are a small minority, with fringes more numerous in Rome than in the working-class cities of Milan and Turin.
The exploding war is scarcely felt. For the first time in the history of Italy, i volunteers, a phenomenon that had instead characterized the wars of Independence and the First World War. Moreover, Italy is heading towards the conscious conflict of its military unpreparedness. King Vittorio Emanuele III, after several inspections, comes to define “Pitiful” the condition of the war apparatus. As a consequence of this condition, the crown and military leaders push Mussolini to don’t commit in conflict.
The Steel Pact, entered into in May 1939 between Italy and Germany, considers war with France and Great Britain inevitable, providing that the conflict may explode in 1942, the year in which Mussolini estimates military preparation completed. As you know, Germany anticipates the times, without consulting the Italian ally, and invades Poland in September 1939. The Second World War breaks out.
Italy is unable to intervene and devises the condition of “non-belligerence”, in order not to declare itself neutral. In May 1940 they were under the Nazi yoke: Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and in the first days of June France is now folded. Mussolini understands that can no longer wait and the decision to enter the war probably already matures on May 28th. In front of the supreme military commander, Pietro Badoglio, who continues to raise reservations about the intervention, Mussolini pronounces the famous phrase: “I only need a few thousand deaths to sit at the peace table as a belligerent.”
The calculation of the head of fascism is not military in nature, but political in estimating that the war would end within a few months. A decision that ignores the intimate nature of nazi design not willing to conceive a Europe with two areas of influence (the continental to Germany and the Mediterranean under fascism). Italy is an ally too weak, economically and militarily, to aspire to this role.
Germany has never wanted to share strategic decisions with Italy, there will be no unified command as allied forces will achieve. The leap into the darkness linked to military unpreparedness is combined with a calculation that has none presupposition to occur. Already in April 1941 it is clear that the conflict will be long and that Italy, its autonomous parallel war, has already irremediably lost it.