One Afternoon at Mezzegra Mussolini's Last Journey
One Afternoon at Mezzegra - Mussolini's Last Journey
by Peter Whittle 1969
ONE AFTERNOON AT MEZZEGRA covers five days in 1945 - April 25th to the 29th, culminating in the murder of Benito Mussolini and the desecration of his body in Piazzale Loreto, Milan. Starting on the 25th, with the American and British troops closing in, and the Partisan forces reclaiming Italy, Mussolini, having retreated to Milan, is desperately searching for a way to cling to life and power; with him is his mistress, his ministers and the SS troops assigned to his protection. Leaving Milan with the idea of building one last Fascist stronghold in Northern Italy, Mussolini and his supporters and defenders are hunted and captured, and eventually meet their fate by the roadside in the town of Mezzegra.
Written in 1969, much of the larger story author Peter Whittle is attempting to tell was recent history, therefore ONE AFTERNOON does not concern itself overmuch with the history of Mussolini or WWII - it takes as a given that the reader is already familiar with those events. It also is not morbidly interested in the `public orgy' following Mussolini's body's reappearance in Milan, though the first chapter does describe in detail what happened. What Mr. Whittle does attempt, is to delineate the specific events that led to Mussolini's capture, to outline the choices that were made in those last few days, and to describe their effect on those people closest to Mussolini.
The author presents Mussolini's final days with sympathy; in a tone that even Il Duce didn't deserve his ultimate fate. Implicitly, he condemns Walter Audisio, the man who executed the dictator, and, took it upon himself to do so.
There is also a favorable representation of Fritz Birzer, the Waffen SS Lieutenant assigned to protect Mussolini - the first time an SS officer is referred to in a positive manner.