Rodolfo Graziani in 1940
|Minister of National Defence|
of the Italian Social Republic
23 September 1943 – 25 April 1945
|Preceded by||Office created|
|Succeeded by||Office abolished|
|Governors-General of Italian East Africa|
11 June 1936 – 21 December 1937
|Monarch||Victor Emmanuel III|
|Prime Minister||Benito Mussolini|
|Preceded by||Pietro Badoglio|
|Succeeded by||Amedeo, Duke of Aosta|
|Governor-General of Italian Libya|
1 July 1940 – 25 March 1941
|Preceded by||Italo Balbo|
|Succeeded by||Italo Gariboldi|
|Governor of Italian Somaliland|
6 March 1935 – 9 May 1936
|Preceded by||Maurizio Rava|
|Succeeded by||Angelo De Ruben|
|Vice-Governor of Italian Cyrenaica|
17 March 1930 – 31 May 1934
|Preceded by||Domenico Siciliani|
|Succeeded by||Office abolished|
|Born||11 August 1882|
Filettino, Kingdom of Italy
|Died||11 January 1955 (aged 72)|
|Resting place||Cemetery of Affile, Lazio, Italy|
|Political party||National Fascist Party|
Republican Fascist Party
Italian Social Movement
; his death
|Alma mater||Military Academy of Modena|
|Allegiance|| Kingdom of Italy (1903–1943) |
Italian Social Republic (1943–1945)
|Branch/service|| Royal Italian Army (1903–1943)|
National Republican Army (1943–1945)
|Years of service||1903–1945|
|Rank||Marshal of Italy|
|Unit||Italian 10th Army|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
Pacification of Libya
Second Italo-Abyssinian War
World War II
Rodolfo Graziani, 1st Marquis of Neghelli (Italian pronunciation: [roˈdolfo ɡratˈtsjaːni]; 11 August 1882 – 11 January 1955), was a prominent Italian military officer in the Kingdom of Italy's Regio Esercito ("Royal Army"), primarily noted for his campaigns in Africa before and during World War II. A dedicated fascist, he was a key figure in the Italian military during the reign of Victor Emmanuel III.
Graziani played an important role in the consolidation and expansion of Italy's empire during the 1920s and 1930s, first in Libya and then in Ethiopia. He became infamous for harsh repressive measures, such as the use of concentration camps, that caused many civilian deaths, and for extreme measures taken against the native resistance such as the hanging of Omar Mukhtar. Due to his brutal methods used in Libya, he was nicknamed Il macellaio del Fezzan ("the butcher of Fezzan"). In February 1937, after an assassination attempt against him during a ceremony in Addis Ababa, Graziani ordered a period of brutal retribution now known as Yekatit 12. Shortly after Italy entered World War II he returned to Libya as the commander of troops in Italian North Africa but resigned after the 1940–41 British offensive routed his forces.
Following the 25 Luglio coup in 1943, he was the only Marshal of Italy who remained loyal to Mussolini and was named the Minister of Defence of the Italian Social Republic, commanding its army and returning to active service against the Allies for the rest of the war.
Graziani was never prosecuted by the United Nations War Crimes Commission; he was included on its list of Italians eligible to be prosecuted for war crimes, but Allied opposition and indifference to the prosecution of Italian war criminals frustrated Ethiopian attempts to bring him to justice. In 1948, an Italian court sentenced him to 19 years' imprisonment for collaboration with the Nazis, but he was released after serving only four months.
In 1903, he joined the Royal Italian Army as a reserve officer cadet whilst studying at university. In 1906, he passed a competitive examination for reserve officers to be made regular and became a second lieutenant, stationed at the 1st regiment of Grenadiers in Rome. Graziani's first posting was to Italian Eritrea where he learned Arabic and Tigrinya. In 1911, whilst in the Eritrean countryside, he was bitten by a snake which resulted in him being hospitalized. Because of this, he never served in the Italo-Turkish War. After his convalescence, he was repatriated to Italy where he was promoted to Captain. During World War I, Graziani became the youngest Colonnello (Colonel) in the Regio Esercito.
In 1930, the Fascist government appointed Graziani Vice-Governor of Cyrenaica and commander of the Italian forces in Libya. He served there until 1934. During those four years, he suppressed the Senussi rebellion. In this so-called "pacification", he was responsible for the construction of several concentration camps and labor camps, where thousands of Libyan prisoners died. Some prisoners were hanged, such as Omar Mukhtar, or shot, but most prisoners died of starvation or disease. His deeds earned him the nickname "the Butcher of Fezzan" among the Arabs. But Italians called him the Pacifier of Libya (Pacificatore della Libia).
In 1935, Graziani was appointed Governor of Italian Somaliland.
During the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935 and 1936, Graziani was the commander of the southern front. His army invaded Ethiopia from Italian Somaliland and he commanded the Italian forces at the Battles of Genale Doria and the Ogaden. However, Graziani's efforts in the south were secondary to the main invasion launched from Eritrea by Generale Emilio De Bono, later continued by Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio. It was Badoglio and not Graziani who entered Addis Ababa in triumph after his "March of the Iron Will". But it was Graziani who said: "The Duce will have Ethiopia, with or without the Ethiopians."
Addis Ababa fell to Badoglio on 5 May 1936. Graziani had wanted to reach Harar before Badoglio reached Addis Ababa, but failed to do so. Even so, on 9 May, Graziani was rewarded for his role as commander of the southern front with a promotion to the rank of Marshal of Italy. During his tour of an Ethiopian Orthodox church in Dire Dawa, Graziani fell into a pit covered by an ornate carpet, a trap that he believed had been set by the Ethiopian priests to injure or kill him. As a result, he held Ethiopian clerics in deep suspicion.
After the war, Graziani was made Viceroy of Italian East Africa and Governor-General of Shewa / Addis Ababa. After an unsuccessful attempt by two Eritreans to kill him on 19 February 1937 (and after murders of other Italians in occupied Ethiopia), Graziani ordered a bloody and indiscriminate reprisal upon the conquered country, later remembered by Ethiopians as Yekatit 12. Up to thirty thousand civilians of Addis Ababa were killed indiscriminately; another 1,469 were summarily executed by the end of the next month, and over one thousand Ethiopian notables were imprisoned and then exiled from Ethiopia. Graziani became known as "the Butcher of Ethiopia". In connection with the attempt on his life, Graziani authorized the massacre of the monks of the ancient monastery of Debre Libanos and a large number of pilgrims, who had traveled there to celebrate the feast day of the founding saint of the monastery. Graziani's suspicion of the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy (and the fact that the wife of one of the assassins had briefly taken sanctuary at the monastery) had convinced him of the monks' complicity in the attempt on his life.
From 1939 to 1941, Graziani was the Commander-in-Chief of the General Staff of the Regio Esercito.
World War II
At the start of the Second World War, Graziani, now styled as The 1st Marquis of Neghelli, was still Commander-in-Chief of the Regio Esercito′s General Staff. After the death of Marshal Italo Balbo in a friendly fire incident on 28 June 1940, Graziani took his place as Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa and as Governor General of Libya.
The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had given Graziani a deadline of 8 August 1940 to start to invade Egypt with the 10th Army. Graziani expressed doubts about the ability of his largely un-mechanized force to defeat the British and put off the invasion for as long as he could.
However, faced with demotion, Graziani ultimately followed orders and elements of the 10th Army invaded Egypt on 9 September. The Italians achieved only modest gains in Egypt and then prepared a series of fortified camps to defend their positions. In November 1940 the British counterattacked and completely defeated the 10th Army during Operation Compass, after which Graziani resigned his commission. On 25 March 1941, Graziani was replaced by General Italo Gariboldi, and Graziani remained mostly inactive for the next two years. During his time in Italy, he played a role in suppressing the Italian anti-fascist movement.
Graziani was the only Italian Marshal to remain loyal to Mussolini after Dino Grandi's Grand Council of Fascism coup. He was appointed Minister of Defense of the Italian Social Republic by Mussolini and oversaw the mixed Italo-German Army Group Liguria (Armee Ligurien). Graziani defeated Allied forces in the December 1944 "Battle of Garfagnana", leading a mixed Italian / German force that included the "Monte Rosa" alpine division and the "San Marco" marine division.
When Mussolini fled northward on 25 April 1945, Graziani was left as the de facto leader of what remained of the RSI. Mussolini was captured and assassinated on 28 April 1945, and Graziani was only able to hold out for four more days before he surrendered on 1 May, a day after German forces in Italy surrendered.
At the end of the Second World War, Graziani spent a few days in the San Vittore Prison in Milan before being transferred to Allied control. He was brought back to Africa in Anglo-American custody, staying there until February 1946. Allied forces then felt the danger of his assassination or lynching had passed (many thousands of fascists were murdered in Italy in the summer and autumn of 1945), and returned Graziani to the Procida prison in Italy.
War crimes & indictments
Before WWII, the League of Nations did not prosecute Graziani and the Italian authorities for war crimes in Ethiopia. In one case, Graziani had ordered his troops to use chemical weapons against Nasibu Zeamanuel's troops in fr:Gorrahei on 10 October 1935. Although the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs gave the League of Nations irrefutable evidence of what the Italian military had done from within a few hours of its invasion on 3 October 1935 to 10 April of the following year, no action was taken. Incidents included the use of poison gas and the bombing of Red Cross hospitals and ambulances.
In 1943, the Allies agreed to replace the League of Nations with the United Nations. The "United Nations War Crimes Commission" was created to investigate war crimes. On 31 December 1946, Ato Ambay from The Ethiopian War Crimes Commission presented to the UN War Crimes Commission its preliminary findings against Graziani. The Ethiopian government felt it would have no difficulty - from the sufficient amount of evidence it had - to justify a trial against Graziani, especially for the massacres he ordered in February 1937. On 4 March 1948, charges against Graziani were presented to the United Nations War Crimes Commission. The commission was presented with evidence of the Italian policy of systematic terrorism and Graziani’s self-admitted intention to execute all Amharas authorities, and cited a telegram from Graziani to General Nasi, in which Graziani had written, “Keep in mind also that I have already aimed at the total destruction of Abyssinian chiefs and notables and that this should be carried out completely in your territories.” The UN commission agreed that there was a prima facie case against eight Italians, including Graziani.
However, the Allies questioned the veracity of Ethiopia's claim against the Italians on the grounds that it was impossible to identify which individuals in the Italian military hierarchy had actually issued the criminal orders. The British government was the firmest supporter of this stance, while the United States pursued a policy "largely characterized by ambivalence towards Italian aggression". The Ethiopian government made a direct request to the "Four Policemen", but that was immediately rejected on technical grounds. In addition, many in the Italian press firmly opposed any Italian officer being put on trial for war crimes. Faced with such resistance and indifference, Ethiopia had no choice but to back down from their requests, to the consternation of many Ethiopians.
In 1948, an Italian military tribunal sentenced Graziani to 19 years in jail for his collaborating with the Nazis. But he was released after serving only four months because his lawyers demonstrated that his actions were only after he had "received orders". He never faced any further prosecutions for any other specific war crimes. Unlike German or Japanese commanders, the Italians were not subjected to prosecutions by Allied tribunals.
He died, aged 72, of natural causes in Rome.
In August 2012, $160,000 of public money was used to help finance the building of a large monument atop Graziani's tomb in Affile. The subscription was supplemented by private funding from the mayor of Affile, Ettore Viri. The new mausoleum was engraved with the words "Fatherland" and "Honor". Local left-wing politicians and national commentators harshly criticized the monument whereas the town's "mostly conservative" population approved. Public funding for the Graziani monument was suspended by the newly elected Lazio administration after the 2013 regional elections. A statement from Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Graziani did not deserve to be memorialized but instead be condemned in history for his war crimes, genocidal behavior and crimes against humanity.
Graziani wrote several books, the most important of which are:
- Ho difeso la Patria (una vita per l'Italia)
- Africa settentrionale 1940–41
- Libia redenta
- Verso il Fezzan
- La riconquista del Fezzan
- Cirenaica pacificata
- 1915-1918—Service in World War I
- 1921-1934—Service in Libya
- 1926-1930—Vice Governor-General of Italian Cyrenaica
- 1930-1934—Governor-General of Italian Cyrenaica
- 1935-1936—Governor-General of Italian Somaliland
- 1936-1937—Governor-General and Viceroy of Ethiopia; promoted to Marshal of Italy
- 1940-1941—Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa and Governor-General of Libya
- 1943-1945—Minister of Defense for the Italian Social Republic
In popular culture
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Rodolfo Graziani|
Graziani was portrayed by British actor Oliver Reed in the 1981 war film Lion of the Desert. On its release, it was banned by the Italian government because, in the words of Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, it was "damaging to the honor of the army".
- Canosa, Romano. Graziani. Il maresciallo d'Italia, dalla guerra d'Etiopia alla Repubblica di Salò. Editore Mondadori; Collana: Oscar storia. ISBN 9788804537625
- Del Boca, AngeloNaissance de la nation libyenne, Editions Milelli, 2008, ISBN 978-2-916590-04-2.
- Pankhurst, Richard. History of the Ethiopian Patriots (1936-1940), The Graziani Massacre and Consequences. Addis Abeba Tribune editions.
- Rocco, Giuseppe. L'organizzazione militare della RSI, sul finire della seconda guerra mondiale. Greco & Greco Editori. Milano, 1998
- Italian War Criminal Rodolfo Graziani, Blaine Taylor, Warfare History Network, 21 February 2020
- La brutta storia del monumento a Graziani
- "Graziani, Rodolfo". Treccani.it. Enciclopedia Treccani. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
- Graziani, Rodolfo (1994). "p. 19". Una vita per l'Italia. Italy: Mursia.
- Graziani, Rodolfo (1994). "p. 21". Una vita per l'Italia. Italy: Mursia.
- Italian atrocities in world war two | Education | The Guardian:# Rory Carroll # The Guardian, # Monday June 25 2001
- Hart, David M. Muslim Tribesmen and the Colonial Encounter in Fiction and on Film: The Image of the Muslim Tribes in Film and Fiction. Het Spinhuis, 2001. Page 121. ISBN 90-5589-205-X
- Mockler, Anthony (2003). "4". Haile Selassie's War. New York: Olive Branch.
- Encyclopedia of WWII
- on YouTube
- Thomas P. Ofcansky, Chris Prouty, Hamilton Shinn, David (2004). Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-8108-4910-5.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Pankhurst, Richard (1999). "Italian Fascist War Crimes in Ethiopia: A History of Their Discussion, from the League of Nations to the United Nations (1936–1949)". Northeast African Studies. 6 (1–2): 127–136. doi:10.1353/nas.2002.0004.
- Adejumobi, Saheed A. (2007). The History of Ethiopia. Greenwood Press, London. p. 90.
- Prosperi, Luigi (2016). The Missed Italian Nuremburg: The History of an Internationally-sponsored Amnesty. University of Rome.
- Del Boca, Angelo. "Rodolfo Graziani biography". Treccani Enciclopedia Italiana. (in Italian)
- Pianigiani, Gaia (29 August 2012). "Village's Tribute Reignites a Debate About Italy's Fascist Past". New York Times. p. A6. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
- Yihunbelay, Bruh (27 April 2013). "Governor of Lazio calls for withdrawal of funds for Graziani monument". thereporterethiopia.com. The Reporter. Archived from the original on 30 May 2013.
- "Graziani, Rodolfo". openlibrary.org.
- "Culture and Books Review, third year, twenty-fourth issue (Sept-Oct 2005)". www.scriptamanent.net. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
Media related to Rodolfo Graziani at Wikimedia Commons
| Viceroy and Governor-General of Italian East Africa
11 June 1936 – 21 December 1937
Amedeo, 3rd Duke of Aosta
| Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa and Governor-General of Italian Libya
28 June 1940 – 25 March 1941