Graziani played an important role in the consolidation and expansion of Italy's empire
during the 1920s and 1930s, first in Libya
and then in Ethiopia
. He became infamous for harsh repressive measures, such as the use of concentration camps
, that caused many civilian deaths, and for extreme measures taken against the native resistance such as the hanging of Omar Mukhtar
. Due to his brutal methods used in Libya, he was nicknamed Il macellaio del Fezzan
("the butcher of Fezzan
In February 1937, after an assassination attempt against him during a ceremony in Addis Ababa
, Graziani ordered a period of brutal retribution now known as Yekatit 12
. Shortly after Italy entered World War II he returned to Libya as the commander of troops in Italian North Africa
but resigned after the 1940–41 British offensive
routed his forces.
Graziani was never prosecuted by the United Nations War Crimes Commission
; he was included on its list of Italians eligible to be prosecuted for war crimes, but Allied opposition and indifference to the prosecution of Italian war criminals frustrated Ethiopian attempts to bring him to justice. In 1948, an Italian court sentenced him to 19 years' imprisonment for collaboration with the Nazis, but he was released after serving only four months.
In 1903, he joined the Royal Italian Army
as a reserve officer cadet whilst studying at university. In 1906, he passed a competitive examination for reserve officers to be made regular and became a second lieutenant, stationed at the 1st regiment of Grenadiers in Rome.
Graziani's first posting was to Italian Eritrea
where he learned Arabic and Tigrinya
. In 1911, whilst in the Eritrean countryside, he was bitten by a snake which resulted in him being hospitalized.
Because of this, he never served in the Italo-Turkish War
. After his convalescence, he was repatriated to Italy where he was promoted to Captain. In 1918, during World War I
, Graziani in the Regio Esercito
became the youngest Colonnello
(Colonel) in Italian history.
Addis Ababa fell to Badoglio on 5 May 1936. Graziani had wanted to reach Harar
before Badoglio reached Addis Ababa, but failed to do so. Even so, on 9 May, Graziani was rewarded for his role as commander of the southern front with a promotion to the rank of Marshal of Italy. During his tour of an Ethiopian Orthodox
church in Dire Dawa, Graziani fell into a pit covered by an ornate carpet, a trap that he believed had been set by the Ethiopian priests to injure or kill him. As a result, he held Ethiopian clerics in deep suspicion.
After the war, Graziani was made Viceroy
of Italian East Africa and Governor-General
of Shewa / Addis Ababa. After an unsuccessful attempt by two Eritreans to kill him on 19 February 1937 (and after murders of other Italians in occupied Ethiopia), Graziani ordered a bloody and indiscriminate reprisal upon the conquered country, later remembered by Ethiopians as Yekatit 12
. Up to thirty thousand civilians of Addis Ababa were killed indiscriminately; another 1,469 were summarily executed by the end of the next month, and over one thousand Ethiopian notables were imprisoned and then exiled from Ethiopia. Graziani became known as "the Butcher of Ethiopia".
In connection with the attempt on his life, Graziani authorized the massacre of the monks of the ancient monastery of Debre Libanos
and a large number of pilgrims, who had traveled there to celebrate the feast day of the founding saint of the monastery. Graziani's suspicion of the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy (and the fact that the wife of one of the assassins had briefly taken sanctuary at the monastery) had convinced him of the monks' complicity in the attempt on his life.
From 1939 to 1941, Graziani was the Commander-in-Chief
of the General Staff of the Regio Esercito
World War II
However, faced with demotion, Graziani ultimately followed orders and elements of the 10th Army invaded Egypt
on 9 September. The Italians achieved only modest gains in Egypt and then prepared a series of fortified camps to defend their positions. In November 1940 the British counterattacked and completely defeated the 10th Army during Operation Compass
, after which Graziani resigned his commission. On 25 March 1941, Graziani was replaced by General Italo Gariboldi
, and Graziani remained mostly inactive for the next two years. During his time in Italy, he played a role in suppressing the Italian anti-fascist movement.
When Mussolini fled northward on 25 April 1945, Graziani was left as the de facto
leader of what remained of the RSI. Mussolini was captured and executed
on 28 April 1945. The following day the German forces in Italy signed the Surrender of Caserta
and Graziani’s own surrender followed on 1 May 1945.
At the end of the Second World War, Graziani spent a few days in the San Vittore Prison
before being transferred to Allied control. He was brought back to Africa in Anglo-American custody, staying there until February 1946. Allied forces then felt the danger of his assassination or lynching had passed (many thousands of fascists were murdered in Italy in the summer and autumn of 1945), and returned Graziani to the Procida
prison in Italy.
War crimes and indictments
Graziani in 1940
Before the Second World War, the League of Nations
did not prosecute Graziani and the Italian authorities for war crimes in Ethiopia. In one case, Graziani had ordered his troops to use chemical weapons against Nasibu Zeamanuel
's troops in Gorrahei
on 10 October 1935.
Although the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs gave the League of Nations irrefutable evidence of what the Italian military had done from within a few hours of its invasion on 3 October 1935 to 10 April of the following year, no action was taken. Incidents included the use of poison gas and the bombing of Red Cross hospitals and ambulances.
In 1943, the Allies agreed to replace the League of Nations with the United Nations
. The "United Nations War Crimes Commission" was created to investigate war crimes. On 31 December 1946, Ato Ambay from The Ethiopian War Crimes Commission presented to the UN War Crimes Commission its preliminary findings against Graziani. The Ethiopian government felt it would have no difficulty from the sufficient amount of evidence it had to justify a trial against Graziani, especially for the massacres he ordered in February 1937.
On 4 March 1948, charges against Graziani were presented to the United Nations War Crimes Commission
. The commission was presented with evidence of the Italian policy of systematic terrorism and Graziani’s self-admitted intention to execute all Amharas authorities and cited a telegram from Graziani to General Nasi, in which Graziani had written, "Keep in mind also that I have already aimed at the total destruction of Abyssinian chiefs and notables and that this should be carried out completely in your territories".
The UN commission agreed that there was a prima facie
case against eight Italians, including Graziani.
However, the Allies questioned the veracity of Ethiopia's claim against the Italians on the grounds that it was impossible to identify which individuals in the Italian military hierarchy had actually issued the criminal orders. The British government was the firmest supporter of that stance, and the United States pursued a policy "largely characterized by ambivalence towards Italian aggression". The Ethiopian government made a direct request to the "Four Policemen
", but that was immediately rejected on technical grounds. In addition, many in the Italian press firmly opposed any Italian officer being put on trial for war crimes. Faced with such resistance and indifference, Ethiopia had no choice but to back down from their requests, to the consternation of many Ethiopians.
In 1948, an Italian military tribunal sentenced Graziani to 19 years in jail for collaborating with the Nazis, but he was released after only four months because his lawyers demonstrated that his actions had been only after he "received orders". He never faced any further prosecutions for any other specific war crimes.
Unlike the Germans and the Japanese, the Italians did not have their commanders subjected to prosecutions by Allied tribunals.
He died, aged 72, of natural causes in Rome.
In August 2012, $160,000 of public money was used to help finance the building of a large monument atop Graziani's tomb in Affile
. The subscription was supplemented by private funding from the mayor of Affile, Ettore Viri. The new mausoleum was engraved with the words "Fatherland" and "Honor". Local left-wing politicians and national commentators harshly criticized the monument whereas the town's "mostly conservative" population approved.
Public funding for the Graziani monument was suspended by the newly elected Lazio administration after the 2013 regional elections.
A statement from Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
said Graziani did not deserve to be memorialized but instead be condemned in history for his war crimes, genocidal behavior and crimes against humanity
Graziani wrote several books,
the most important of which are:
- Ho difeso la Patria (una vita per l'Italia)
- Africa settentrionale 1940–41
- Libia redenta
- Verso il Fezzan
- La riconquista del Fezzan
- Cirenaica pacificata
In popular culture
- Canosa, Romano. Graziani. Il maresciallo d'Italia, dalla guerra d'Etiopia alla Repubblica di Salò. Editore Mondadori; Collana: Oscar storia. ISBN 9788804537625
- Del Boca, AngeloNaissance de la nation libyenne, Editions Milelli, 2008, ISBN 978-2-916590-04-2.
- Pankhurst, Richard. History of the Ethiopian Patriots (1936-1940), The Graziani Massacre and Consequences. Addis Abeba Tribune editions.
- Rocco, Giuseppe. L'organizzazione militare della RSI, sul finire della seconda guerra mondiale. Greco & Greco Editori. Milano, 1998
- ^ La brutta storia del monumento a Graziani
- ^ "Graziani, Rodolfo". Treccani.it. Enciclopedia Treccani. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
- ^ Graziani, Rodolfo (1994). "p. 19". Una vita per l'Italia. Italy: Mursia.
- ^ Graziani, Rodolfo (1994). "p. 21". Una vita per l'Italia. Italy: Mursia.
- ^ Italian atrocities in world war two | Education | The Guardian:# Rory Carroll # The Guardian, # Monday June 25 2001
- ^ Hart, David M. Muslim Tribesmen and the Colonial Encounter in Fiction and on Film: The Image of the Muslim Tribes in Film and Fiction. Het Spinhuis, 2001. Page 121. ISBN 90-5589-205-X
- ^ Mockler, Anthony (2003). "4". Haile Selassie's War. New York: Olive Branch.
- ^ Encyclopedia of WWII
- ^ Video of Graziani in 1944 (in Italian) on YouTube
- ^ Thomas P. Ofcansky, Chris Prouty, Hamilton Shinn, David (2004). Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-8108-4910-5.
- ^ a b c d Pankhurst, Richard (1999). "Italian Fascist War Crimes in Ethiopia: A History of Their Discussion, from the League of Nations to the United Nations (1936–1949)". Northeast African Studies. 6 (1–2): 127–136. doi:10.1353/nas.2002.0004.
- ^ Adejumobi, Saheed A. (2007). The History of Ethiopia. Greenwood Press, London. p. 90.
- ^ Prosperi, Luigi (2016). The Missed Italian Nuremburg: The History of an Internationally-sponsored Amnesty. University of Rome.
- ^ Del Boca, Angelo. "Rodolfo Graziani biography". Treccani Enciclopedia Italiana. (in Italian)
- ^ Pianigiani, Gaia (29 August 2012). "Village's Tribute Reignites a Debate About Italy's Fascist Past". New York Times. p. A6. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
- ^ a b Yihunbelay, Bruh (27 April 2013). "Governor of Lazio calls for withdrawal of funds for Graziani monument". thereporterethiopia.com. The Reporter. Archived from the original on 30 May 2013.
- ^ "Graziani, Rodolfo". openlibrary.org.
- ^ "Culture and Books Review, third year, twenty-fourth issue (Sept-Oct 2005)". www.scriptamanent.net. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
Last edited on 15 July 2021, at 14:50
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