Fascist ideology is one rooted in the reliance if militaristic policy and expansion. Examples of this can be seen throughout the mid 1930’s-40’s as fascist regimes across the world took to conquering their neighborhoods for land and resources. Two countries during this time, Germany and Italy, had such governments and were led by men with alike agendas and beliefs of aggression. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, two of the most notorious dictators of the 20th century that had similar ambitions of world conquest who became natural allies towards one, intertwined as friends with fascist ideology despite also having their differences in terms of their upbringings, personal motivation, and end goals. Both leaders, that ruled with unquestioned authority, would play their part in bringing about genocide on a scale unlike any the world had seen before. This brief stint on the world stage as tyrants in unisons trying to conquer for territorial expansion however seems to overshadow the staunch differences that the two men had including personal beliefs in policy, economics, and view of the world through their eyes. These differences are important as they can have can have a profound effect on how history was shaped and how we as people today view not just the leaders but Fascist ideology itself.
Hitler and Mussolini set forth a new trend in the European theatre in terms of government ideology. Their fresh regimes both required military expansion through Europe to gain new land and resources to build their countries industry, infrastructure, and armies. This warmongering however was looked down upon by fellow European powers such as France and Britain, meaning to continue their expansion, strong allies with similar ideals would be required to continue their growth. Naturally an opportunity presented itself for the two nations to work together to attempt and achieve their goals of conquest. The Pact of Steel as it would be called, was political and military alliance between the then fascist nations that cement their relationship to one another through the upcoming world war. This alliance had great effect on the world at the time and how the outcome of the World War II would play out. Italy, once an ally to the British and French now would be instrumental in opening fronts in against them in North Africa, France, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean Sea switching the balance of power in Europe.
Adolf Hitler modeled his regime after one in which he had his people follow a hierarchy and have unquestioned obedience to a higher power, that ultimately being Hitler himself. This model of government structure, while being foreign to people living in a free world, tends to come standard in countries living under a fascist ideology or have a dictator in general. This would ring true in the case of Germany and her people as in 1933 Hitler was ultimately appointed Chancellor of the German nation before by Paul Von Hindenburg. Not long after this appointment, Hitler would go on to suspend the March elections of that year following an attack on the Reichstag building claiming the terrorist assault to be the work communists and a sign of their imminent takeover of the country. From thence on Hitler, after claiming emergency powers, would go on to govern with an iron fist. Basic freedoms such as freedom of speech and of the press were suspended to ‘protect’ Germany from Communist threats and any others that would attempt to threaten Hitler’s influence. Just years later, Hitler would pass Nuremburg laws that prohibited intercourse between Jews and Germans as well prohibited the hiring of German women living in Jewish households. The economy was also brought under government control as Hitler began work rebuilding the nation from its posts World War I depression. He ordered the construction of new infrastructure projects such as the Autobahn, a removing of the gold standard, made credit more accessible for the population, and shielded the industry sector from competitors who could take away jobs from Germans.
To a similar note, Mussolini ruled his Italian nation with unrivaled power, working as the countries Duce and Prime Minister within his Fascist regime. Italy who had fought on the right side of history during World War I went through drastic changes in the lead up to the second world war. Italy not long after peace had been restored to Europe was moving ever closer to that of a communist state, perhaps even before Russia would gotten a chance. This fear of Communist takes over coupled with the violence that Fascists of that time used to beat out other political parties led to the eventual takeover of Mussolini and his regime. After being appointed Prime Minister by Victor Emmanuel III who was the King of the time, Mussolini had under his control everything from the military to the telegraphs of which he would use like Hitler to expand his influence, propaganda, and territory. Mussolini would not waste time instituting polices to strengthen his country as well as his own grip on the people over which he controlled. Italy was economically poor post World War I when compared to Great Britain and France which lead to new economic policies like seen in Germany. Massive infrastructure projects began, destruction of trade unions, an inflation of national currency, and a shift in agricultural focus to produce grain. Industry was also subsidized and protected to increase production as well as compete with foreign markets in a fashion like that of Hitler a decade later. Mussolini after agreeing to the Rome-Berlin alliance would go to pass anti-sematic laws in Italy much to the pleasure of his new-found ally.
Despite being allies sharing an ideology with similar government ideas and policy, the two leaders did have their differences in terms of both authoritarian strategy and personal objectives.
Hitler’s ultimate end goal was twofold; firstly, to conquer Lebensraum which means living space in German as well as exterminate those deemed unfit to the state. These people included Jews, Poles, Slavs, Communists, the mentally challenged, and a bevy of other non-Arian groups of people. This meant war would be inevitable for Hitler’s regime to meet the tasks laid out for himself. Hitler lashed out against Poland which led to the conquering of France, Denmark, and the eventual invasion of the Soviet Union to kill off the Bolsheviks. This conquest not only garnered resources, but the required living space Hitler believed his Arian people needed to live. It would also give Germany access to certain types of people who would be rooted out of the population through genocide.
Mussolini’s goal for Italy was simple, form the new Roman Empire that would control land and an economy like that of the other imperial powers of the time. First glimpses of this ambition were seen in Africa when Italy would conquer Ethiopia, and later the Balkans as well as Northern Africa. Mussolini had political dissidents and minorities in which he would have imprisoned and killed as well, albeit not entirely the same as Hitler or to create a perfect Arian race. Italia’s conquest into Africa and the Mediterranean would be an attempt to secure resources for Italy to continue their war effort as well as add more pieces to the New Roman Empire.
In Conclusion, Hitler and Mussolini were both authoritarian leaders over countries in which they ruled with an iron fist. The natural similarities that come when countries share an ideology are evident in how the two leaders conducted themselves and their countries power as well as their differences in terms of personal beliefs, strategy, and end goals. While the two nations did fight along side each, (for as long as both countries were still under the control of their former fascist leader), this did not automatically impose the two to govern in the same fashion, believe in the same policies, or even share a view of how the world would look post war with an axis victory. It is important that people today realize and examine these differences as well as their similarities to gain a more profound understanding of World War 2 and the behind the scene politics that helped contribute towards its ultimate outcome.
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