Benito Mussolini regarded Adolf Hitler as a teary-eyed "sentimentalist" but was jealous of the Nazi dictator's power and fame, diaries written by the Italian leader's mistress reveal.
By Nick Squires in Rome
16 Nov 2009
Claretta Petacci's journals, which will be published this week, describe a meeting he had with the German leader in 1938 after British prime minister Neville Chamberlain agreed to Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland.
"The Fuhrer was very kind. At heart, Hitler is an old sentimentalist. When he saw me he had tears in his eyes," Mussolini told his lover.
The diaries also show Mussolini was irritated by being regarded as a junior partner to Hitler, maintaining that his fascism and anti-Semitism dated back to the 1920s, before Hitler rose to prominence.
"I've been racist since 1921," he proudly told his mistress on a boating trip on August 4, 1938, two years before Italy declared war on Britain.
"I don't know how they can think that I'm imitating Hitler, he wasn't even born then (in a political sense)."
In another diary entry, Mussolini rails against Italians in Italy's African colonies having relationships with locals.
"Every time I get a report from Africa, it makes me upset. Just today, another five arrested for living with blacks. Ah! These dirty Italians, they are destroying in less than seven years an empire. They have no consciousness of race."
The book, Secret Mussolini, contains extracts from Petacci's diaries written between 1932 and 1938.
They say Mussolini was madly in love with Miss Petacci, once telling her he mentally undressed her at the theatre and that he had a "mad desire" for her.
She was just 20 when she met the fascist dictator, who was married with children and 29 years her senior.
In April 1945, with total defeat looming, the couple tried to escape to Switzerland but were caught by Italian partisans, executed and strung up from a petrol station near Milan.
The diaries make it plain that he was infatuated with her. "Do you know, my darling, that last night at the theatre I undressed you at least three times?" she recalls him telling her in January 1938.
"I was crazy with desire for you. Your small body, your flesh for which I'm crazy, tomorrow will be mine."