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Rodolfo Graziani, Marchese di Neghelli (August 11, 1882 - January 11, 1955), was an officer in the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) who led military expeditions in Africa before and during World War II.

Rise to prominence

Rodolfo Graziani was born in Filettinomarker (near the town of Frosinonemarker) in the Province of Frosinone in the Kingdom of Italy. He served in World War I and became the youngest colonel in the Italian Royal Army.

In Libya

In the 1920s, Graziani commanded the Italian forces in Libyamarker. He was responsible for pacifying the Senussi rebels. During this so-called "pacification," he was responsible for the construction of several concentration camps and labor camps, where tens of thousands Libyan prisoners died, if not killed directly by hanging, like Omar Mukhtar, or bullets, then indirectly by starvation or disease. His deeds earned him the nickname "the Butcher of Fezzan" among the Arabs, but was called by the Italians the Pacifier of Libya ("Pacificatore della Libia").

From 1926 to 1930, Graziani was the Vice Governor of Italian Cyrenaica in Libya. In 1930, he became Governor of Cyrenaica and held this position until 1934 when it was determined that he was needed elsewhere. In 1935, Graziani was made the Governor of Italian Somaliland.

In Ethiopia

From 1935 to 1936 during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, Graziani was the commander of the southern front. His army invaded Ethiopiamarker from Italian Somaliland and he commanded Italian forces in the Battle of Genale Doria and the Battle of the Ogaden. However, Graziani's efforts in the south were secondary to the main invasion launched from Eritreamarker by General Emilio De Bono and continued by Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio. It was Badoglio and not Graziani who entered Addis Ababamarker in triumph after his "March of the Iron Will." But it was the ruthless Graziani who said: "The Duce will have Ethiopia, with or without the Ethiopians."

Addis Ababamarker fell to Badoglio on May 5 1936. Graziani had wanted to reach Hararmarker before Badoglio reached Addis Ababa, but failed to do so. Even so, on May 9, Graziani was awarded for his role as commander of the southern front with a promotion to the rank of Marshal of Italy (Maresciallo d'Italia).

After the war, Graziani was made Viceroy and Governor-General of Ethiopia. Graziani survived an assassination attempt on February 19 1937 a bloody and indiscriminate repression followed. He became known as "the Butcher of Ethiopia".

From 1939 to 1941, Graziani was the Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Royal Army's General Staff.

In World War II

At the start of World War II, Graziani was still the Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Royal Army's General Staff. After the death of Marshal Italo Balbo, he took his place as the Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa and as the Governor General of Libya. Balbo was killed in a friendly fire incident on 28 June 1940.

Initially giving Graziani a deadline of 8 August, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered Graziani to invade Egypt with the Tenth Army. Graziani expressed doubts about the ability of his largely un-mechanized force to defeat the Britishmarker and put off the invasion for as long as he could. However, faced with demotion, Graziani ultimately followed orders and elements of the Tenth Army invaded Egypt on 9 September. The Italians made modest gains into Egypt and then prepared a series of fortified camps to defend their positions. In 1941, Graziani resigned his commission after the British counterattacked and the Tenth Army was completely defeated by them during Operation Compass.

On 25 March 1941, Graziani was replaced by General Italo Gariboldi.

Graziani was the only Italian marshal to remain loyal to Mussolini after Dino Grandi's Grand Council of Fascism coup. He was appointed Minister of Defence of the Italian Social Republic and oversaw the mixed Italo-German LXXXXVII "Liguria" Army (Armee Ligurien) commanded by General Alfredo Guzzoni.

At the end of the war, Graziani spent a few days in San Vittore prison in Milanmarker before being transferred to Allied control. He was brought back to Africa in Anglo-American custody, staying there until February 1946. Allied forces then felt the danger of assassination or lynching had passed and returned him to Procidamarker prison in Italy.

In 1950, a military tribunal sentenced Graziani to prison for a term of 19 years as punishment for his collaboration with the Nazis, but he was released after serving only a few months of the sentence. He died in Romemarker in 1955.

Military career


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