|“||An enemy forgiven is more dangerous than a thousand foes.||„|
|~ Rodolfo Graziani|
Rodolfo Graziani was an officer in the Kingdom of Italy's royal army during World War I and World War II, primary known for being a leading figure in the African campaigns before and during both conflicts. A dedicated fascist, he was a key figure in the Italian military during the reign of Victor Emmanuel III, serving as Benito Mussolini's top general and right-hand man.
Graziani was born in Filettino in the province of Frosinone in 1882. In 1903, he joined the Royal Italian Army. His first postings were to Italian Eritrea where he learned Arabic and Tigrinya. He later served in the Italo-Turkish War, where he was promoted to Captain. During World War I, Graziani became the youngest Colonnello (Colonel) in the Regio Esercito.
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 even among the other colonial powers 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.
In February 1937, after an assassination attempt during a ceremony in Addis Ababa, Graziani authorized 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.
Following the 25 Luglio coup in 1943, he was the only Marshal of Italy who remained loyal to Mussolini and was named the Minister of Defense of the Italian Social Republic, commanding its army and returning to active service against the Allies for the rest of the war.
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 assassinated on 28 April 1945, and Graziani was only able to hold out for four more days before he surrendered on 1 May, a day after German forces in Italy surrendered.
At the end of the Second World War, Graziani spent a few days in the San Vittore Prison in Milan 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.
In 1948, a military tribunal sentenced Graziani to 19 years in jail as punishment for his collaboration with the Nazis, but he was released after serving only a few months of the sentence. He was never prosecuted for specific war crimes. Unlike the Germans and Japanese, the Italians were not subjected to prosecutions by Allied tribunals.
In the early 1950s, Graziani had some involvement with the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano and became the "Honorary President" of the MSI party in 1953. On 11 January 1955, Rodolfo Graziani died of natural causes in Rome, aged 72 years.