Obituaries : Dino Grandi, 92; Provoked '43 Overthrow of Mussolini

From Times Wire Services

Dino Grandi, the Fascist stalwart who provoked the fall of dictator Benito Mussolini in 1943, died over the weekend at his home here at age 92, his family said Monday.

Speaking for the family, Franco Grandi told the Italian news agency ANSA that his father kept "a serene attitude and great mental lucidity until five minutes before the end."

The death of Mussolini's one-time foreign minister and ambassador to Britain coincided with the deaths over the weekend of two founders and longtime leaders of the Italian Social Movement, a neo-Fascist political party that has sought to keep Mussolini's ideals alive in Italy since World War II.

Pino Romualdo, 74, died Saturday and Giorgio Almirante, 73, on Sunday.

Decorated in WWI

Grandi was born to a family of wealthy landowners in the mountain town of Mordano in the province of Bologna, studied law, worked as a journalist and was decorated three times in World War I as a member of Italy's Alpine force.

Grandi was first drawn to the Socialist Party but an attack on his life provoked his decision to join Mussolini's emerging Fascist movement in 1920--two years before the March on Rome that brought Mussolini to power.

Elected to Parliament at the age of 25, he went on to serve Mussolini and received the title of count of Mordano from King Victor Emmanuel III.

As ambassador to London before the outbreak of World War II, Grandi began a long friendship with Winston Churchill and persuaded Britain to abolish economic sanctions imposed on Italy because of its war against Ethiopia, provoking Anthony Eden's resignation as British foreign minister.

'Pact of Steel'

Returning to Rome in 1939 after Mussolini's "Pact of Steel" with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler that formed the Italian-German Axis, Grandi became minister of justice and president of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Parliament.

He also saw military service briefly in 1941 on the Greek-Albanian front.

But by July, 1943, hit by the Allied invasion of Sicily and the bombing of Rome and with Hitler unwilling to come to Mussolini's aid, Grandi joined fellow members of the "gerarchia," or hierarchy of Fascism, to topple Mussolini and seek peace with the Allies.

It was Grandi who submitted a motion of no confidence in Mussolini to the dictator's Grand Council of Fascism the night of July 24-25, calling on the king to take command of the army and name a new prime minister.

Fearing violence, Grandi brought a live grenade to the meeting, but the motion was approved without incident at 3 a.m. with 19 votes in favor, 7 opposed and 1 abstention.

Fled to Spain

Mussolini was later rescued by German paratroopers and established the puppet Republic of Salo in northern Italy. Five of the Grand Council members who had voted against him were shot but Grandi escaped, fleeing to Spain.

Following Italy's signing of an armistice with the United States and Britain in September, 1943, Grandi moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he ran a prosperous agriculture business. He spent more than 40 years there, returning to Italy two years ago.

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