The lovely Italian town of Sal is erecting what has been dubbed the nation’s first fascism museum.
The curators contend that exhibits, which include propaganda posters, historical photographs, and busts of the fascist leader Benito Mussolini, will shed light on a contentious time in Italian history.
Local anti-fascist organisations, meanwhile, assert that the museum is supported by a well-known supporter of Mussolini’s legacy and express concern that it may become a haven for nostalgic fascists.
They also point out that Italy decided against holding Nuremberg-style trials after World War II out of concern for the country’s integrity, allowing Giorgio Almirante, a former RSI culture minister, to found the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) party and fascists to hold positions in post-war governments.
“Perdoni claims that Marco Bonometti, a strong businessman who Italian publications commonly characterise as a Mussolini fan, is one of the museum’s financial benefactors and warns that some of the items might have come from local fascist nostalgia enthusiasts.
The lovely Italian town of Sal is erecting what has been dubbed the nation’s first fascism museum. The curators contend that exhibits, which include propaganda posters, historical photographs, and busts of the fascist leader Benito Mussolini, will shed light on a contentious time in Italian history. Local anti-fascist organisations, meanwhile, assert that the museum is supported by a well-known supporter of Mussolini’s legacy and express concern that it may turn into a haven for nostalgic fascists.
The Nazi puppet state that Mussolini ruled from Sal for 18 months starting in September 1943 is referenced in the name of the building, which was opened as the Museum of the Italian Social Republic. The Nazi-fascist forces and competing partisans engaged in a brutal civil war, thousands of Jews were deported, and renegade militias flouted law and order in the streets. Mussolini was eventually apprehended as he tried to escape across the Swiss border. In April 1945, partisans put him to death. Neo-fascist busloads continue to visit his tomb in the little Italian town of Predappio every year.
The exhibits at the museum will look at both the horrific occupation of Italy by the Nazis and the varied underground resistance movement that made an effort to fight it. The Italian Social Republic (RSI) anthem and videos of Mussolini’s infamous farewell speech, which he gave at Milan’s Teatro Lirico in December 1944, will all be featured in the exhibitions, according to a project proposal seen by The Art Newspaper. Original newspaper clippings, photos, letters, and fascist memorabilia will also be on display. Guests can also tour a replica bomb shelter from the time period and explore the nation using an interactive map.
The current Museum of Sal will have the museum take up the entire second level, which is 220 square metres (MuSa). A total of €235,000 has been provided, with €100,000 coming from the Lombardy region, €30,000 from the town council of Sal, and the remaining funds coming from unnamed private benefactors. This autumn is when the new space, which Roberto Chiarini, Elena Pala, and Giuseppe Parlato are curating, is anticipated to open.
The Sal museum, according to its curators, is essential since Italian schools have not effectively taught the history of fascism. They also point out that Italy decided against holding Nuremberg-style trials after World War II out of concern for the integrity of the country, allowing Giorgio Almirante, a former RSI culture minister, to found the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) party and fascists to hold positions in post-war governments. The curators speculate that Italy struggled to accept its totalitarian past. Fascism was seen negatively after the war and was deemed unworthy of discussion, according to Parlato.
Neo-fascism and the present administration
Giorgia Meloni, the head of the Brothers of Italy party, was chosen as Italy’s prime minister in October of last year. The MSI’s descendent are Meloni’s group. Meloni has appointed individuals with neo-fascist backgrounds to senior government positions despite publicly striving to distance herself from Italy’s fascist history. Ignazio La Russa, who was recently shown in his home with the busts of Mussolini, was elected as the senate’s president.
According to Chiarini, who is also the president of the RSI Research Centre, “Fascism produced a rift down the middle of a society that is still felt today.” Chiarini cites the ex-communist politician Fausto Bertinotti’s recent assertion that Meloni had carried out an “auto-da-fé” (a term that relates to the Spanish Inquisition’s conviction of particular people as heretics) as an illustration of this polarization. According to Lisa Cervigni, the director of MuSa, a balanced examination of fascist history was required. She declares, “We are not interested in either demonising or supporting the Nazi era.
Fascist museums have already been proposed for Italy. Both the Italian capital of Rome and the Emilia-Romagna town of Predappio, where Mussolini is buried, have abandoned plans to open their own museums in 2020. At the time, the mayor of Rome asserted that “Rome is an anti-fascist city.” Fascism has been the subject of former temporary exhibitions at MuSa and a more limited permanent section on the Italian Social Republic. A 2016 presentation called The Cult of the Duce examined Mussolini’s propaganda exaltation. Anti-fascist protesters outside the museum continued to demonstrate against the show.
Every potential museum has encountered opposition. As a result, the National Organization of Italian Partisans (ANPI) and the anti-fascist organisation Green Flame Brigade have cautioned that the proposed museum in Sal could turn into a fascist shrine if it doesn’t sufficiently highlight the role played by the Nazis in the “Republic of Sal.”
The head of the ANPI branch in Brescia, Lucio Pedroni, emphasises that his group is “not against” building the museum in Sal. Nonetheless, he argues that greater context should be provided for the crimes committed by the fascist regime. He calls proposals to display children’s toys and attire from the time period to reflect daily life in the republic as “stupid” and “banal.”
Perdoni claims that Marco Bonometti, a strong businessman who Italian publications commonly characterise as a Mussolini fan, is one of the museum’s financial benefactors and issues a warning that some of the items might have come from local fascist nostalgia enthusiasts. According to the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, Bonometti was the previous head of the Confindustria chamber of commerce’s Lombardy branch and routinely attends the yearly mass held in Brescia to commemorate Mussolini’s passing. Also, he serves as vice president of the Opera Pia Carità Laicale foundation, the owner of the structure where MuSa is housed.
The Art Newspaper observed a potential catalogue that lists the origin of display artefacts as “Private—RSI Study Centre” but does not identify the people who contributed them. Pala claims that “90%” of the items and papers came from “older collectors,” but she disputes the idea that their owners are nostalgic. According to Parlato, the provenance of the goods was unimportant because lenders and contributors didn’t specify which political viewpoints should be emphasised.
Cervigni chose not to clarify whether Bonometti is contributing to the cost of the new museum. Gianpaolo Comini, a board member of MuSa and an ANPI member, claims that Bonometti is the only private funder of the museum. Comini refers to Bonometti as a “generous donor” to MuSa and claims he is motivated to establish the museum both for the potential increase in visitors and for his “sympathies” with the fascist era. Bonometti did not answer an inquiry for comment.
The Mussolini museum at Sal, according to Cervigni, is crucial. We owe it to future generations, she continues, who are less familiar with this time in history.