Italy organises ‘trial’ of dead king to mark Holocaust remembrance

 Benito Mussolini (right) and King Victor Emmanuel III in Roma in Nov. 1938.

Benito Mussolini (right) and King Victor Emmanuel III in Roma in Nov. 1938.

Eighty years after Mussolini began persecuting Jews, Italy is putting the dead king who backed his racial laws on trial.

The setting may be a theatre, but the prosecutor, witnesses and three judges meeting in Rome are real, their scrutiny of the controversial monarch part of events organised to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. “The Trial” comes a few weeks after the remains of Victor Emmanuel III were discreetly returned to Italy. The king, who ruled from 1900 to 1946, fled in disgrace and died in exile in Egypt in 1948.

Three high-ranking judges sit at a table under the motto hanging in courts across Italy: “The law is equal for all”. The charge? Betraying the spirit of the monarchy’s statute, which tasks it with guaranteeing all its subjects are equal.

By signing the racial laws, Victor Emmanuel III made an “immoral, illegal and anti-historical use” of his powers, says Rome military prosecutor Marco De Paolis.

But the defence witnesses describe a Benito Mussolini at his peak after 16 years in power — not a man easily challenged. “I was faced with an unfair and terrible choice,” says Umberto Ambrosoli, playing the king, as he describes his anguish over whether to sign the racial laws or not.

The court retires to deliberate. The verdict is in — but the judges rule that although the king did violate the spirit of the statute, that same document describes the “sacred and inviolable” character of the royal, who cannot be judged.

Trial declared invalid

The trial is declared invalid, but it matters little. Victor Emmanuel was already judged and found wanting by his subjects on June 2, 1946, when Italians voted in a referendum to get rid of the monarchy and become a republic.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2022 10:55:26 am |