A SCOTTISH professor has caused a diplomatic row with Italy after accusing the country of putting a “positive” light on its fascist past.
Professor John Lennon claims many of the Italy’s public buildings and monuments “openly celebrate” and revere Mussolini, whom he describes as a war criminal.
The tourism expert at Glasgow Caledonian University argues that Italy is “subverting historical reality”, drawing particular attention to an official government heritage sign at the dictator’s birthplace.
But his comments have outraged Pasquale Terracciano, Italy’s ambassador to the UK, accused Prof Lennon of ignoring the many monuments in the country to those who fought fascism.
Prof Lennon, director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism, said: “Italy’s attractions do not serve to educate individuals about the fascist regime and its crimes.
“Rather they subvert historical reality and reinforce an inaccurate and dangerously misleading perspective on this dark period of Italian history.”
He added: “The nature of the interpretation of these sites is invariably partial, selective and ideologically located in a frame of reference that was overwhelmingly positive to the regime of Mussolini.
“Mussolini’s mausoleum [in his home town of Predappio] features a bust surrounded by flags, flowers and fascist symbols, attracts around 100,000 visitors every year.
“It is reverential and openly celebratory of a man who was a war criminal. At his birthplace there is an Italian national government heritage sign designating the site as the Casa Natale Mussolini.”
Many neofascists visit Predappio as a form of pilgrimage, but in 2009, the town council banned the sale of fascist souvenirs.
Mr Terraciano hit back: “Professor Lennon forgets to mention that Italy is scattered with thousands of monuments which commemorate the resistance of the partigiani, who fought bravely to contribute to the liberation of the country from Nazi-fascism.”
“Italy also has a long of museums specifically dedicated to the partigiani [Italian resistance movement]. Every year the country stops to celebrate the Festa della Liberazione on April 25.
“It is important to highlight that the few monuments that remain across Italy from the fascist era do not serve asa romantic remembrance of that regime, but on the contrary, are a reminder of a complex historical period for Italy, that lived the horrors of war within its own borders, the occupation by a foreign power, the destruction of its infrastructure, economy, cultural heritage and the loss of countless lives.”
Benito Mussolini was leader of the National Fascist Party and Prime Minister of Italy from 1922 until 1943.
He was deposed when allied forced invaded Sicily in 1943, and executed by partisans as he tried to flee to Spain in 1945.
After his death, anti-fascists kicked, spat at at, and threw stones at his body, and it was publically displayed from a gas station in Milan.
His remains were originally kept in an unmarked grave, but were dug up by two neo-fascists a year later.
In the 1950s, the right-wing Prime Minister Adone Zoli, returned his remains, and he was buried in a crypt in his hometown.