Italy memorial to Fascist hero Graziani sparks row

Memorial to Benito Mussolini's military commander who carried out massacres and used chemical weapons raises national ire.

Rodolfo Graziani was also known as 'the Butcher of Fezzan' for his massacres in Libya.
Rodolfo Graziani was also known as 'the Butcher of Fezzan' for his massacres in Libya.

A political row has erupted in Italy after a memorial was opened to fascist commander Field Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, a convicted war criminal.

Graziani was honoured with a mausoleum and memorial park, built at taxpayers' expense, in a village south of Rome.

He was notorious as Benito Mussolini's military commander in colonial wars in Ethiopia and Libya where he carried out massacres and used chemical weapons.

Italy's main leftist party has protested against the commemoration.

"Is it possible to allow, accept or simply tolerate that, in 2012, we dedicate a park and a museum to the fascist general and minister Rodolfo Graziani?" asked Esterino Montino, head of the Democratic Party in the Lazio region.

He pointed to the "crimes against humanity committed by Graziani in Ethiopia in the 1930s", La Repubblica newspaper reports.

Graziani was sentenced to 19 years' imprisonment for war crimes in 1948 but was released from jail after serving only two years, and died in 1955.

Field Marshal Graziani, also known as the Butcher of Fezzan, is known in history books for his brutality in putting down a local rebellion in Cyrenaica, Libya, in the 1920s.

He is also notorious for the massacre of thousands of Ethiopians in another of Italy's colonial wars a decade later, where he is reported to have said: "The Duce [Mussolini] will have Ethiopia with or without the Ethiopians".

He ordered the use of poison gas and chemical weapons against Ethiopian troops and tribesmen in contravention of the Geneva Convention, which Italy had signed.

His final post was as defence minister in Benito Mussolini's short-lived Fascist republic of Salo, just before the end of World War II.

After the war ended, he was sentenced to 19 years' imprisonment by an Italian war crimes tribunal for collaboration with the Nazis, though he was freed after serving only some of his sentence.

The mayor of the village of Affile attended the opening ceremony on Saturday, together with a representative from the Vatican.

According to La Repubblica, the mausoleum in Affile cost €127,000.

About 100 people attended its inauguration, the paper adds.

Mayor Ercole Viri was quoted as saying the memorial was of national importance and dismissing criticism as "idle chatter".

Photos of the opening ceremony were posted in a gallery on the village's website, which lists Graziani as one of the village's "famous sons". Engraved on the mausoleum are the words "Fatherland" and "Honour".

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