S ince Mussolini had honored Hitler by visiting Germany in September 1937, the Fuehrer decided to return the favor by visiting with his good friend in Rome on May 3, 1938. Although Mussolini was Head of Government, King Victor Emmanuel III, the Head of State would, be Hitler’s official host. Hitler was surprised, and perhaps a bit chagrined, as he thought he would be visiting his friend Mussolini.
Hitler arrived in Rome with four trains bearing his entourage, which included Hess, Himmler, Goebbles, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Frank, Sepp Dietrich, Admiral Raeder and, in an unprecedented happenstance, Eva Braun, who wanted to go shopping in Rome. Of course, no one knew her true status as Hitler’s lover. Most thought that she was just another of his secretaries.
Hitler appears to be ignoring the King in this photograph taken during a break in the parade on the “Via del Trionfo.” Hitler is clearly wearing the shoulder insignia of a “Corporal of Honor” and the Fascist Militia dagger for high officers and “Corporals of Honor.”
The King and Mussolini met Hitler, and much to German leaders’s disgust, they rode through the streets of Rome, in an open carriage with top-hatted footmen. Hitler asked if the House of Savoy had ever heard of the automobile.
Hitler’s discomfort did not end with the carriage ride. He was lodged in Prince Umberto’s private apartment in the Quirinal Palace, the official residence of the King, which Hitler described as “a dirty old museum, smelling like the catacombs.” The King disliked Germans and abhorred Hitler, calling him “a physiological degenerate.”
Hitler, in turn, detested the King, saying that he was “an acid and untrustworthy little man.” Hitler urged Mussolini to abolish the monarchy, saying that the court and the King were anti-fascist. Even if he had wanted to, Mussolini could not, as the army was Royalist and had sworn personal loyalty to the King just as the Germany Army had to Hitler.
During his visit, Hitler was conducted through the Colosseum and shown various ruins from the Roman Empire, in the heart of Rome. He laid an obligatory wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier killed in the First World War and was greeted by a huge crowd of Italians in the Piazza Venetia, where he and Mussolini addressed the crowd from a balcony.
Mussolini later took Hitler to Naples where two watched a naval review from the battleship Conte di Cavour (which was later sunk on November 11, 1940). The review included all of the Italian Royal Navy’s submarines (more than 100) doing a nautical ballet, rising and sinking like a school of porpoises. Hitler was quite impressed with the Royal Navy ships and thought that they would be very useful in any future war.
Hitler was not so impressed, however, by the Royal Army’s parade down the Via del Trionfo (Street of Triumphs), or the military exercises at Centrocelle that included many obsolete cannon WWI artillery pieces and little, two-man tankettes. After the military review, his hosts took him to Florence where he admired ancient marble statues and architectural structures.
Hitler left Florence on May 9, after six days in Italy, no doubt vastly relieved that he did not have to return to Rome and the King. Reportedly, he actually enjoyed his visit once he had escaped from the King and was able to spend time with Mussolini. As the two dictators bade each other good-by, Hitler declared, with tears in his eyes, “Henceforth, no force will be able to separate us!”
A COMMEMORATIVE MEDAL
During his visit to Germany, Mussolini honored Hitler by declaring him “A Corporal of Honor of the Fascist Militia” (Mussolini was the “First Corporal of Honor”). Oddly enough, both dictators were both corporals in the First World War. During his visit to Italy, Hitler wore the insignia of this distinction on his left shoulder and a Fascist Militia dagger at his side. After his trip, he never wore this insignia or dagger again and swore that he would never again visit Rome although his veneration of Mussolini remained intact.
The front of the badge commemorating Adolf Hitler’s state visit to Italy in 1938 features the Nazi eagle and Italian fasces. The back shows the maker’s and designer’s names. Photos by Ron Leverenz Doughboy Military Springfield, MO
Italy produced a heavy, simple-in-design badge to commemorate Hitler’s visit. Supposedly, it was to have been presented to everyone who had accompanied Hitler to Rome. It was a heavily silver-plated, bronze, pin back disc, 45 mm in diameter. In the center was an eagle and swastika, flanked by two upright fasces. Around the edge, it read STAATSBESUCH ADOLF HITLERS IN ITALIEN 1938 (“Adolf Hitler’s state visit to Italy, 1938”). On the reverse, in tiny letters is the name of the maker, “J.NOTTBROCK/VIA FRATTINA 147/ROMA” and the designer, “ENTWURF / S. FUCHS.”
BEWARE OF FAKES
Unfortunately, the fakers have not ignored this unusual medal. One extremely shoddy copy of the badge is recognizable by the very poor casting that is made of an unattractive grey metal (not heavily silver-plated as is the original). Instead of the fastening pin holder being cast into the planchet of the original, the fake has a pin attached by a disc soldered to the back. This piece of garbage should not fool anyone.e.