Mussolini’s diaries and the “treasure of Dongo”

John Gooch in the Times Literary Supplement:

TLSGooch_214595hSoon after Benito Mussolini and his long-time mistress Claretta Petacci were shot dead on April 28, 1945, questions began to be asked. They continue to this day. Who ordered the shooting? Claims and counter-claims echo across the years: the smart money is now on Luigi Longo, later leader of the Italian Communist Party, who never talked. Why were they shot? The guesses run the gamut from inter-partisan disputes to the bizarre claim that they were shot under orders – direct or indirect – of the British because they knew of a secret collection of wartime correspondence between Mussolini and Churchill whose existence could never be made public. Many Italians still believe in this carteggio, though the documents that are now in official custody in Rome are palpable forgeries. And what happened to the “treasure of Dongo” that Mussolini was supposedly carrying with him when he was captured on the west side of Lake Como? The locals seem to have made the most of the windfall: according to one report, “For days afterwards empty banknote wrappers skittered across the fields like dry leaves”. Stories of unrecovered treasure kept resurfacing for years, but when a couple of ammunition boxes dredged from the lake were opened in 1993 in the presence of the dictator’s granddaughter, Alessandra Mussolini, all they contained was ammunition.

More here.