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Their nations were allied, but what did they personally think of each other? Is there anything based on documentary evidence that could give us some insight here?

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At what point in time? Hitler's opinion of Mussolini changed radically as Italy became less of an asset and more of a hindrance to German interests, culminating in Mussolini being "rescued" and locked up in a villa to serve as a figurehead for the German sponsored side in the civil war that erupted after Italy's surrender to the allies (which Hitler viewed as a sign of great weakness on the part of Mussolini). –  jwenting Feb 14 at 11:48
    
I don't have time to dig up references right now, but my understanding was that Hitler was originally a big Mussolini fan, but Mussolini didn't like the guy much. He was actually allied with England and France trying to stop the German buildup, up until the time they ticked him off by protesting his invasion of Ethiopia. –  T.E.D. Feb 14 at 15:14
    
I remember reading somewhere that Hitler was quite anxious to please Mussolini, but Mussolini wasn't all that satisfied with him (I can't recall the reference, hence the comment). I also know that Hitler sent Mussolini a copy of Mein Kampf and Mussolini later commented it was the most boring thing he ever read! –  N.Soong Mar 15 at 6:47
    

1 Answer 1

Their relationship changed a lot through time. The following observations are based on Alan Bullock's work, Hitler: a Study in Tyranny.

Mussolini came to power in 1922, when Hitler was still basically a Munich gangster. Hitler wrote about his admiration for Mussolini's Italy in Mein Kampf... presumably Mussolini didn't even know who Hitler was at this point, although the Beer Hall Putsch made a big splash in the papers at the time, so I suppose it's possible.

When Hitler came to power, Mussolini was allied with Britain and France. When Hitler tried to take over Austria in 1934 (assassination of Austrian Chancellor Dolfuss) Mussolini actually moved troops up to the border to deter him.

It was actually Britain and France which forced Mussolini into Hitler's arms. When Mussolini butchered the population of Ethiopia, and Britain and France refused to help him do it, he went into alliance with Hitler instead.

They had a mutually helpful relationship from that point, collaborating over the Spanish Civil War, etc. When WW2 actually began, Italy hemmed and hawed before joining in. Hitler grew more contemptuous of Mussolini as Italy lost every major engagement with the Allies, except for the defeat of the British in Somaliland.

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