This past week (July 29) was the anniversary of the birth of Benito Mussolini , figure, regardless of the judgment that it shall be, he was a historical figure. Mussolini, his idea of the Company, its choices and its errors has already been written about at length. An interesting aspect, and perhaps little known, of the Predappio native is his knowledge of foreign languages. Mussolini spoke in addition to Italian; English, French and German.
Mussolini spoke French well, so much so that he was also a teacher in the years prior to his political career, and had a more pronounced and less fluid accent with English and German, although he was always able to understand and make speeches or conversations in all these languages. There are in fact a rare historical footage that reflect Mussolini talking to the crowd in a room or in a foreign language. In this video we see the Duce speak in 1937 at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, during his visit to Germany. The tone is solemn and participated, and given the crowd reaction to his words, it is clear that Mussolini was perfectly able to harangue the crowd in German. German is the language then that Mussolini himself spoke in his talks with Hitler, without the need of any interpreter.
Another anecdote about Mussolini’s language skills is linked to the Monaco Conference of 1938 , where he met Hitler, the British prime minister Chamberlain and Daladier to the French. It is said that when leaders retreated to speak privately did so without Hitler’s personal interpreter, Paul Schmidt, and so when Hitler spoke German Mussolini translated into English for Chamberlain and Daladier to the French, when the leaders of Britain and France spoke to Hitler Mussolini translated into German. Since it was a private meeting, there were no shots to prove it, but due to Mussolini’s ability, we can not say it was a very plausible scenario.
Although you know the relationship is not exactly easy between Italians and the English language, in recent years we have, however, had a striking example looking at our Prime Minister. Renzi is generous in gaffes and lame speeches , showing in his speeches to ‘ foreign his big gaps of knowledge of the English language; trying to bridge gaps with the usual gestures and theatrical expressions. Perhaps Mussolini did not know the English language better than Renzi, but certainly his speeches took on the solemn ways that gave him seriousness and credibility. Recently the Washington Post shared a video showing a speech Mussolini gave in 1927 . The video, which you can find here , is particular, since it was one of the first American newsreels from overseas. In the video you see Mussolini proceed slowly towards the camera and then, with a heavy Italian accent, address this message to Italians who emigrated to America:
“I am very happy to be able to express my feelings of friendship to the American nation. The friendship with which Italy looks to the millions of citizens who, from Alaska to Florida, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, they live in the United States, is deeply inherent in our hearts. These feelings of mutual interest have contributed to the preparation of an era even brighter in the lives of both nations. I greet with great energy the American people and I recognize that my people are like salt for the earth for you, and are working to make America great. I greet the great American people. I greet the Italian States which combine in one sense the two nations “
These words were not spoken by chance, given the massive Italian immigration to America and the consideration of the time that many Americans had of those coming from overseas. In 1930, in fact, Italians were the largest component of the US non-native, with 1.8 million immigrants , who settled mainly on the Atlantic coast, including Connecticut, New Jersey, West Virginia and New York. Certainly the contribution of these people was crucial in the journey that led the United States to be the first world power, since, used as cheap labor, were the ideal fuel for the US economy car. Despite what the Washington Post in the ’20s wrote against immigrants from southern Europe, calling for increased checks at their entrance as “this foreign schiumaglia from sewers and the sewers of the Old World has polluted the clear spring of American democracy “ , not really sweet words.
The Washington Post spreading this video wanted to especially emphasize the similarity between today’s slogan Trump ” Make America great again ” and Mussolini “make America great,” even if the same words were used to express opposing concepts. On one side of Mussolini considered indispensable the contribution of Italian immigrants to American development, on the other Trump now has based his election campaign on immigration and on contempt for certain age foreigners, especially Mexicans, Chinese and Muslims. But perhaps more than the similarity with Trump is the right to emphasize the composure and the laying of Mussolini (as can be seen in the still image above), the absence of the typical Italian gesture and a penalty that perhaps missing today more than ever, the Italian leader .