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Count Ciano

Galeazzo Ciano, dei conti di Cortellazzo, was born on 18 March 1903 at Leghorn, the son of Admiral Costanzo Ciano, an Italian hero of World War I and an early supporter of Mussolini. After gaining his degree young Ciano dabbled for a time in journalism and then in 1925 entered the Italian diplomatic service. He served briefly at Rio de Janeiro, Peking, and the Holy See.

On 24 April 1930 he married Edda, the daughter of Mussolini. Thereafter his promotions were very rapid indeed. After a brief period serving as Consul General at Shanghai, Ciano was named Minister to China, and in 1932 served as presiding officer of the League of Nations' Commission of Inquiry on the Sino-Japanese conflict. In August 1933, Mussolini named his son-in-law chief of his press office, which in September of the next year was upgraded and renamed the Office of Press and Propaganda with Ciano as its undersecretary. In June of 1935 the Office was transformed into a full-fledged ministry with Ciano at its head.

Ciano volunteered for the Ethiopian War and served in command of a bomber squadron. He was decorated by Marshal Badoglio for military valor in that war. Then on 9 June 1936, at the age of 33, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, an office which he filled until February 1943. Young Ciano was even accorded, retroactively it would seem, that great Fascist honor of having taken part in the "March on Rome" in 1922.

Countess Edda Ciano liked to speak of herself as half-Russian, ascribing her moodiness and weak lungs to her Russian blood. Mussolini's wife dismissed such talk as mere gossip: Edda was born to us on September 1, 1910, she writes, but Benito and she were not yet regularly married; hence, the stupid insinuation that Angelica Balabanoff was the mother of Edda.

The Cianos had three children: the older son, baptized Fabrizio Benito Costanzo, born 1 October 1931; the daughter, Raimonda, born 21 December 1933; and Marzio, the younger son, born 18 December 1937. But the marriage was not a happy one: it was common knowledge that each spouse had numerous affairs. Edda was headstrong and violent in her feelings, something which seemed to endear her to her father.

Ciano was Minister of Foreign Affairs during the period of the British acceptance of Italy's conquest of Ethiopia, of the Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War, of Italy's rapprochement and subsequent alliance with Nazi Germany, and of World War II until February 1943. It was in the course of the Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War that Ciano instigated the murder of the Rosselli brothers, Carlo and Nello, founders of the movement Giustizia e Liberta.4 He met and spoke with practically all of the important European leaders of the time, and kept a diary or diaries during all or most of the period of his ministry.

Count Ciano, whom Mussolini had relieved of his position as Minister of Foreign Affairs on 5 February 1943, was one of the ring leaders of the revolt against the Duce in the Grand Council of Fascism. In his new position as Ambassador to the Holy See, Ciano worked assiduously for Italy's withdrawal from the war, with Mussolini if possible, without him and even against him if necessary. He cooperated closely with Bottai and Grandi in preparing for the meeting of the Grand Council on 24-25 July and in lining up a majority of the Councilors to vote for Grandi's resolution. Throughout Ciano's speech, Mussolini glowered at him in contempt and indignation. The revolt within the Grand Council gave the King the opportunity to dismiss Mussolini and to appoint Marshal Badoglio as his successor.

Prior to the meeting of the Grand Council, Ciano seems to have had high hopes that he would play a leading part in the new government, that he and Grandi would steer the Italian ship of state into the harbor of a separate peace with the Western powers. The King's ideas were utterly different. It was the government headed by Badoglio assisted by a cabinet of technicians which took over after Mussolini, a regime which was launched with the slogan that "the war continues." Ciano then reverted to the idea of a withdrawal into private life. He decided to resign as Ambassador to the Vatican, and through Ambrosio whom be bad supported as successor to Cavallero as chief of the Comando Supremo, Ciano asked for passports so that he and his family might seek exile in Spain.18 But the days turned into weeks and the passports were not forthcoming. Not only that, but the Badoglio government created a commission to investigate the matter of illicit personal gains by members of the Fascist hierarchy.

In these circumstances Edda Ciano got in touch with Eugen Dollman, and through him arrangements were made for the German Sicherheitsdienst to transport Galeazzo, Edda, and the three children to Germany. The escape, as Count Ciano and the Countess regarded their departure, went off according to plan on 27 August 1943. Mussolini's attitude toward Ciano, and his lack of desire for vengeance, left the Germans quite puzzled. They began to write Mussolini off. Ciano was flown back to Italy on 19 October 1943 along with some SS men. When the plane landed at Verona he was promptly arrested by both German and Italian police. In late October of 1943 the Council of Ministers of the Italian Social Republic set up a court to investigate and try those who had scuttled the Fascist ship by voting against Mussolini in the Grand Council on 25 July.

After the sentence, a Fascist firing squad executed Ciano and four more who had voted for Mussolini's ousting, at a shooting range in Verona on 11 January 1944. Ciano was executed on the banks of the Adige on what is today Via Columbo.

The Italian Government in Rome, cooperating with the Allied Commission, seized and sequestered Fascist estates valued at $80,000,000 in liberated Italy. But high-ranking Fascists are said to have smuggled between $400,000,000 and $500,000,000 into neutral countries, most of which is the result of wholesale looting. Edda Mussolini, the Duce's daughter and widow of Count Ciano, executed Fascist Foreign Minister, escaped to Switzerland and is credited with having stored away more pillage than any other Italian Fascist.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:00:42 ZULU