Commentary

A cautionary tale: Donald Trump and Benito Mussolini’s son-in-laws

In Ciano’s diary, he wrote: “I am sad, very sad. The adventure begins. May God help Italy.” He increasingly turned against the war effort, and even leaked a warning to then-neutral Belgium of an imminent German invasion.

Ciano’s prognostication materialized. He actively lobbied Mussolini to withdrawal from the war and to sue for peace. Il Duce refused and ultimately fired Ciano and his entire cabinet on February 5, 1943, and offered his son-in-law the post of Italian Ambassador to the Vatican, which he accepted.

After Italian King Victor Emmanuel III’s decision to relieve Mussolini of his duties and to form a new government, Ciano fled the country fearing arrest by the newly installed Italian government.

He and his family had been assured by Nazi leaders in Italy that they would fly them to Barcelona for safety, but airlifted them, instead, to Munich, Germany on Hitler’s direct orders.

The Germans returned Ciano to Mussolini, whom they positioned as provisional leader of the “Italian Social Republic,” a German-controlled territory in Northern Italy. Mussolini summarily ordered the execution of his son-in-law on the charge of treason before Mussolini was ultimately rounded up and killed by Italian socialist partisans.

Soon before his killing, he is reported saying that “I got to the top of the world so fast, and now I die just like this.”

When affairs went well, Mussolini considered Ciano a trusted advisor. As conditions increasingly deteriorated, and as Ciano advised a different course – specifically for his father-in-law to sign a separate peace with the allies to spare the country needless loss of life and devastation – Mussolini only distrusted Ciano more, and accused him of treason.

While historians have yet to write the chapter on the Trump presidency, and we do not know precisely what Jared Kushner’s part will be in the story, we can refer to the Mussolini/Ciano drama as a cautionary tale that we would do well to consider.

I would like to thank my good friend, David Eberly, who alerted me to the existence of Galeazzo Ciano as an apparent counterpart of Jared Kushner in the administrations of their fathers-in-law.

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