September 13, 2012 by neverforgetcampaign
The Telegraph, 2nd Sep ’12:
An Italian Fascist leader convicted of using poisonous gas against enemy soldiers in Africa was “not a war criminal”, said the mayor of the town which has erected a monument in his honour.
Rodolfo Graziani, right, with Benito Mussolini during WWII Photo: EPA
Fascist commander Field Marshall Rodolfo Graziani was minister for war under dictator Benito Mussolini. Known as the “Butcher of Ethiopia” he was convicted of crimes against humanity following gas attacks on troops in Libya and Ethiopia during colonial wars in the 1920s and 1930s.
A decision by the Right-wing council in Graziani’s home town of Affile south of Rome to use 130,000 euros (£100,000) of public funds for a memorial in a local park has provoked a storm of protest.
“Graziano was not a war criminal and he was not sentenced at Nuremberg,” said Ercole Viri, Mayor of Affile, in a statement responding to complaints.
“He was judged by a military tribunal by the same soldiers whom he had fought practically up until the day before and who could certainly not have been called friends.
“Yet, after a careful inquiry that overlooked nothing and left nothing in doubt, the general was sentenced for collaborating with the German ally.
Graziani’s war crimes earned him a 19-year sentence after he was convicted by an Italian military tribunal in 1948 but he only served a few months of the term.
“The council administration simply wanted to honour a distinguished citizen who always had his country close to his heart and whose memory has been unjustly sullied,” Mr Viri said.
When he was in charge of Italian forces in Libya in 1928, Graziani was nicknamed the “Butcher of Fezzan” after he set up concentration camps where thousands died from illness or executed.
Seven years later when Italy invaded Ethiopia Graziani was again in charge and ordered his troops to use poison gas after signing treaties banning its deployment.
Mussolini later named him minister for war after the armistice in 1943, when il Duce set up a puppet republic near Milan.
Centre-left councillor Esterino Montino said the monument had created a scandal in Italy and around the world and called for the immediate withdrawal of funds for the memorial.