Showing posts with label Carlo Scorza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carlo Scorza. Show all posts

15 June 2021

Carlo Scorza - politician and journalist

Blackshirt who was last party secretary of Mussolini’s Fascists 

Carlo Scorza was a prominent figure in Mussolini's notorious Blackshirts
Carlo Scorza was a prominent figure
in Mussolini's notorious Blackshirts
Carlo Scorza, who rose to prominence with the Fascist paramilitary group known as the Blackshirts and was the last party secretary of Benito Mussolini’s regime, was born on this day in 1897 in Paolo, a seaside town in Calabria.

Scorza fought with the Italian Army’s Bersaglieri corps during World War One. After the war he became a member of Mussolini’s fasci italiani di combattimento, the organisation that was the forerunner of the National Fascist Party.

Such was his loyalty to Mussolini even as the course of the Second World War turned against Italy that the dictator appointed him secretary of the party in April 1943, although the position ceased to exist when the party was dissolved in July of that year after Mussolini was deposed as leader and arrested.

After growing up on his father’s small farm in Calabria, Scorza moved with his family to Lucca in Tuscany, where ultimately he studied to be an accountant. He supported Italy’s involvement in the First World War and after joining the Bersaglieri, a highly mobile infantry corps, he rose to the rank of tenente (Lieutenant).

When the conflict ended, Scorza returned to the Lucca area. He joined Mussolini’s party and became involved in acts of violence against communists and socialists in Lucca even before the notorious Voluntary Militia for National Security, commonly known as the Blackshirts, was officially formed in 1923.

After taking part in Mussolini’s March on Rome in 1922, when Blackshirt paramilitaries entered Rome and effectively forced the king, Victor Emmanuel III, to remove the Liberal prime minister Luigi Facta and appoint Mussolini in his place, Scorza worked as a journalist for a while before being made a chief provincial party officer for Lucca and its province. 

Scorza's loyalty to Mussolini helped land him the job as Fascist part secretary
Scorza's loyalty to Mussolini helped land
him the job as Fascist part secretary
In 1930, Scorza was put in charge of the Fascist youth organisation Gruppo Universitario Fascista and appointed the first editor of Gioventù Fascista, the Fascist Youth magazine. He also founded the Fascist newspaper Il popolo Toscano. The following year he was named as a member of the National Fascist Party’s governing body, the direttorio.

Differences with other members about the direction of the party led to him being dismissed. He left Italy to participate in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and went to Spain to fight on the side of General Franco’s Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. 

But he returned to Italy in 1940 and remained fiercely loyal to Mussolini and Italy’s participation on the side of Germany in World War Two. In April 1943, with Italy’s continued involvement in the war beginning to be questioned, Mussolini saw Scorza as the hardliner he needed to galvanise support and made him party secretary, replacing Aldo Vidussoni, who was regarded as a weak figure.

Scorza could not turn the party’s fortunes round, however, and by the summer, with parts of the country reeling from repeated Allied bombing raids, many figures in Mussolini’s government wanted to see the end of Italy’s participation in the conflict rather than suffer the consequences of a full-scale invasion.

When Mussolini convened a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council on July 24 to discuss how to respond to Allied landings on Sicily, he was instead confronted with a vote to hand back full constitutional powers to the king, which was carried by 19 to eight. Mussolini was arrested the following day.

Marshal Pietro Badoglio, the former ally who helped depose Mussolini
Marshal Pietro Badoglio, the former
ally who helped depose Mussolini
Scorza, who had been one of the eight to oppose the motion, was himself arrested but released soon afterwards. He wrote to Marshal Pietro Badoglio, the former Fascist and ex-Chief of Staff of Mussolini’s army who had been appointed interim prime minister, seeking to become part of the new administration. His offer was not taken up and, fearing he would be re-arrested, Scorza sought refuge for a while in the Monastery of San Francesco in Assisi. 

Eventually, he made his way north, only to be arrested again in Verona, this time by the police of the newly-formed Italian Social Republic, the Fascist state established by the Germans in northern Italy, of which Hitler placed Mussolini in charge following the daring Gran Sasso raid that freed the deposed dictator from his captivity in the mountains of Abruzzo.

He was charged with treason on account of his letter to Badoglio and spared the death penalty only on the intervention of Mussolini himself, who remembered his loyalty, and commuted the sentence to house arrest at Scorza’s home in Cortina d’Ampezzo, in mountainous northern Veneto.

What happened to him subsequently is unclear. It was thought at one point that he had been among the group shot dead by partisans along with Mussolini in 1945 after the former dictator’s attempt to flee to Switzerland was intercepted on the shore of Lake Como.

Later it emerged that Scorza had himself fled to Argentina, where he assumed a different name and worked as a journalist. In his absence, he was tried for his role in a Fascist gang's murder of the socialist politician Giovanni Amendola in 1926 and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

He was granted an amnesty in 1955 and subsequently returned to Italy, living a low-profile existence near Florence, where he died in 1988 at the age of 91.

The waterfront at Paolo, captured in a photo taken on a summer's evening
The waterfront at Paolo, captured in a photo
taken on a summer's evening
Travel tip:

The coastal town of Paola, where Carlo Scorza was born, is about 36km (22 miles) west of the city of Cozenza in Calabria, linked by the spectacularly mountainous Strada Statale 107. Paolo combines a modern seaside resort with a medieval centre. It is the birthplace of San Francesco di Paola, the 15th century founder of the Minims, the strictest order of the Franciscans. The Santuario di San Francesco, a monastery with an adjacent basilica, sits above the town.  Paola was the target of air raids in World War Two, largely because of its connection with Scorza, and many citizens sought refuge in the sanctuary. One night, a 80 kg (176 lb) bomb smashed through the roof but did not explode, which was widely regarded as a miracle.

The Corso Italia in Cortina d'Ampezzo, looking towards  the bell tower of Santi Filippo e Giacomo Apostoli
The Corso Italia in Cortina d'Ampezzo, looking towards
 the bell tower of Santi Filippo e Giacomo Apostoli
Travel tip:

Cortina d'Ampezzo, often called simply Cortina, is a town in the southern Dolomites in the Veneto region. Situated in the valley of the Boite river, it was once known as the Queen of the Dolomites. It is a winter sport resort known for its skiing trails, scenery, accommodation, shops and après-ski scene and remains popular with celebrities and European aristocracy. In its heyday in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Sophia Loren, Clark Gable, David Niven, Ingrid Bergman, Brigitte Bardot, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton and Alberto Sordi were regular visitors.  Austrian territory until 1918, it was traditionally a regional craft centre, making handmade products appreciated by early British and German holidaymakers as tourism emerged in the late 19th century. Today, the local economy thrives on tourism, particularly during the winter season, when the population of the town typically increases from about 7,000 to 40,000.  

Also on this day:

1479: The birth of Lisa del Giocondo, the subject of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

1801: The birth of philosopher and political writer Carlo Cattaneo

1927: The birth of comic strip cartoonist Hugo Pratt

(Picture credits: Paola by Alfonso Minervino; Cortina d'Ampezzo by Tiia Monto via Wikimedia commons)