Italy denies rehabbing fascism after army calendar outcry

Rome: Italy’s Ministry of Defense has pushed back at claims it is “rehabilitating fascism” after publishing a calendar which honored soldiers for heroism while fighting for dictator Benito Mussolini’s regime.

The Italian army’s 2024 calendar, titled “For Italy always … before and after 8 September 1943,” refers to the date of then-fascist Italy’s surrender to the allies during World War II.

The outcry comes weeks after Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, leader of the hard-right Brothers of Italy party, was pressed to condemn hundreds of people who are alleged to have performed mass fascist salutes during a memorial event in Rome.

Meloni’s party traces its roots to the Italian Social Movement, which was founded by former fascists after the war, and she praised Mussolini in her youth, although more recently she has condemned his racial laws as “the worst period in our history.”

The calendar’s creators said that they wanted to honor officers and soldiers who had distinguished themselves with heroic acts both before and after the armistice.

A text accompanying the calendar said, “We wanted to pay homage to the men who took part in [the war] with the absolute conviction of serving their country, honoring the oath taken, both before and after the 8th September 1943 … The same men, the same heroes.”

Opposition politicians and anti-fascism activists condemned the calendar and demanded it was pulled off the shelves.

Gianfranco Pagliarulo, president of ANPI, the association of partisans, which represents those who fought in the Italian resistance against Nazi occupiers and Italian fascist forces, called it “unacceptable” and told ANSA news agency, “We take note that there is a pro-fascist minority that wants to rewrite the history of Italy.”

The Ministry of Defense hit back Thursday, denying it intended to stoke “political controversies and ideological prejudices” and insisting that the calendar “does not intend to ‘rehabilitate fascism’ but in contrast … aims to demonstrate the commitment and bravery of the Italians in the War of Liberation.”