The Verona Trial (Italian: processo di Verona) was held in the Italian Social Republic (ISR) to punish - by five almost immediately executed death sentences and one 30-year imprisonment - the members of the Grand Council of Fascism who had committed the offence of voting for Benito Mussolini's removal from power in the Kingdom of Italy and had later been arrested by Mussolini's forces.
This was a prominent event of the period of the Second World War.
Following the Allied invasion of Sicily, the Grand Council of Fascism had in fact voted, on 25 July 1943, with 19 against 8 votes and one abstention, to strip Mussolini of his function as Duce. When Mussolini refused to accept this decision and his dismissal by the king, he was arrested. In September 1943, German paratroopers rescued Mussolini from his captors via the Gran Sasso raid. He was then installed as the leader of the Italian Social Republic, effectively a puppet state of Nazi Germany.
At the urging of the German authorities, the ISR persecuted those plotters they could find, six in number. These included Giovanni Marinelli; Carlo Pareschi; Luciano Gottardi; Galeazzo Ciano, the former Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mussolini's son-in-law; the honoured Marshal of Italy Emilio De Bono; and Tullio Cianetti. All of the six captured defendants were found guilty, and all, except Cianetti, were sentenced to death. Another three of the nineteen prominent persons who had voted against Mussolini, although not captured, were also tried and sentenced to death in absentia, among them Dino Grandi, who had been responsible for the agenda of the meeting of July 25.
The trial took place between 8 and 10 January 1944. The execution of the five captured defendants who had been sentenced to death was performed as hastily as possible, by firing squad, on the morning of 11 January 1944. The condemned were tied to chairs and shot in the back by a Blackshirts firing squad, under the supervision of SS officers who also photographed the event. Ciano twisted around in his chair to face his executioners.
A contemporary comment
Victor Klemperer, a famous Dresden-based literature professor and diarist, who - although being Jewish - had survived the Hitler years, writing diary notices for almost every day, has commented the trial and the execution in a diary notice from 15 January 1944 as follows (translating the German original):
- "For me it is certain that the trial was a farce, that the execution was work of the Germans, that Mussolini had almost nothing to do any longer with the whole affair - he is now almost invisible, the shadow of a puppet -, above all: that with this whole affair one wants to deter primarily internal opponents (Paulus, Seydlitz)."
- Mussolini - en studie i makt by Göran Hägg, ISBN 978-91-1-301949-9, p.333
- Victor Klemperer: Ich will Zeugnis ablegen bis zum letzten, Tagebücher 1933-1941 und 1942-1945, Aufbau-Verlag, 11. Aufl., Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-351-02340-5 (in German; I will give witness until the last minute, diary notes 1933 - 1945)
- Giorgio Bocca, La Repubblica di Mussolini, Ed. Mondadori. (it.)