Angelo Polimeno Bottai (Rome, 1959) is deputy director of Tg1. An expert in Italian and international politics, he has also worked at Il Tempo directed by Gianni Letta and with Bruno Vespa at Porta a Porta. He has already published: Don’t call it Euro (2015); Republic Act III (2012); President allow us (2011).
Angelo Polimeno Bottai presented his latest book at the State Archives of Rome, an extraordinary testimony of the highly controversial life of his grandfather, Giuseppe Bottai.
The presentation was attended by eminent figures, including Francesco Rutelli, Sabino Cassese and Michele Di Sivo of the State Archives of Rome.
“I couldn’t and didn’t want to write a book as a grandson; I couldn’t because I never knew my grandfather; I was born a few months after his death. I didn’t want to because I’m a journalist.
Reconstructing the historical facts seemed to me the right way” – said Angelo Polimeno Bottai, Rai journalist, head of the book section of Tg1, nephew of Giuseppe Bottai, fascist minister who contributed to the fall of Il Duce.
The daring life of Giuseppe Bottai, one of the most important hierarchs of the Fascist period, offers new reasons for reflection on the recent and tragic season of our country. Bottai represented an alternative figure who believed in a different kind of fascism. He fought against violence, regime propaganda, and affiliation with Nazism.
He exposed himself in the first person. Even in the newspapers he founded. He has published censored books and articles by the greatest anti-fascist intellectuals. He tried to limit the terrible consequences of the racial laws. He has passed a fundamental norm to defend Italian art and landscape.
He organized the “Art Resistance” to steal more than ten thousand masterpieces from Hitler’s appetites. He did so, at the height of his dissent, by promoting the agenda that, on July 25, 1943, determined the end of Mussolini and fascism. And it didn’t stop. At the age of fifty, he enlisted in the Foreign Legion: a simple soldier and under a false name he went to the front to fight the Nazis.
Who else like him? Which other former minister, fascist or not, has redeemed his political responsibilities to the point of risking his life? Yet the figure of Giuseppe Bottai in Italy continues to be uncomfortable. For those nostalgic for the Ventennio, he is a traitor. For many anti-fascists, no protagonist of that season has the right to honor.
“From the Duce’s rooms, we listened only to what he wanted to be understood. That night, however, at the time of the vote, a swarm of officials and agents transgressed, eavesdropping behind the door, and the following morning more or less accurate information began to circulate through the streets of Rome.”
Angelo Polimeno Bottai explains: “How did we get to the longest twenty-four hours in Italian history in the twentieth century?”
Saturday, July 24, 1943. In the midst of the Second World War, the Roman population, mirroring the Italian one, was at its wit’s end. After three years of war, there is not a person who does not call for peace, exacerbated by hunger and allied bombing.
On June 10, 1940, Mussolini “looked out” from the balcony of Palazzo Venezia.
That same Palazzo Venezia, a symbol of the Duce’s clay-footed power, would be the scene of the end of Mussolini’s power just over three years later. In that July of 1943, history says, was making its rounds: on July 9, 1943 there had been the landing on the Sicilian coasts carried out by the Allies with the aim of opening a front in continental Europe, invading and defeating Italy and, finally, concentrating on the Allied invasion of Sicily and later his own efforts against Nazi Germany.
He also tells us how on July 19 the bombing of the San Lorenzo district in Rome, by American bombers, the first air attack by the U.S. Air Force, targeting the railway station, brought down the myth of the inviolability of the skies of the Eternal City because of its symbols. While the city suffers heavy material damage and numerous human losses, Benito Mussolini is in Feltre for a meeting with Adolf Hitler.
By now the Duce has become cumbersome and within the Grand Council itself there are those who want to deprive Mussolini of his authority, and it is emblematic that he is meeting for the first time since the outbreak of the war. Among the hierarchs present at the meeting, the president of the Chamber of Fasci and Corporations, Dino Grandi, General Emilio De Bono, the secretary of the Fascist Party Carlo Scorza, the president of the Academy of Italy Luigi Federzoni, Roberto Farinacci, Giuseppe Bottai and Galeazzo Ciano, son-in-law of the Duce as the husband of his daughter Edda.
During the session, Dino Grandi presented an agenda, which accused the fascist regime of having compromised the vital interests of the nation, bringing it to the brink of collapse, and asked that all the functions and prerogatives provided for by the Albertine Statute, which the fascist dictatorship had concentrated in its own hands, be attributed to the sovereign, the Grand Council and the Parliament. The document, voted for by the majority of the hierarchs present, nails Mussolini to his responsibilities.
It’s over an era, or rather the Fascist Twenty Years.
On the afternoon of 25 July, Mussolini was received by Victor Emmanuel III at Villa Savoia. The King has him arrested. At 10:45 p.m., the radios tune in to the usual news, which is not preceded, as usual.
In addition, Polimeno Bottai makes a reflection: but people don’t seem to understand. Fascism fell, the war ended.
With the party bug torn out of their buttonholes, everyone poured into the square, venting more anger at the oppression they had suffered than joy at the end of a nightmare
With the air of a chronicler, in these pages he recounts above all the compelling penultimate act of Benito Mussolini, who became Duce by conquering Italy amid the threat of violence and the building of consensus.