Italian Fascist Youth Group: Colonial Groups


Figure 1.--Here we see boys in the Gioventý Etiopica del Littorio" (Ethiopic Youth of Littorio). Ethiopia was conwuered by the Italians in 1935. This photograph is undated, but would have been taken some gtime in the late 1930s. The country was linerated by the British during World War II in 1941.

Italy was one of the last European countries to unify. As a result, Itly got a late start on building a colonial empire. The Italian Kingdom did found colonies in East Africa, but was defeated in its attemp to conquer Ethiopia. (This was one of the rare African victoris against European colonists. Italy also attempted to colonize Italy (1912), but did not fully succeed until after Mussolini seized power (1923). Mussolini then seized ywo more countries: Ethiopia (1925) and Albania (1939). Mussolini's attempt to seize Greece failed (1940). The Italians needed German help to seize areas of Yugoslavia and Greece (1941). Balilla units were almost certainly established in Italy's Italian colonies, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Libya. HBU has no details, but presumes only Italian children could join and not the children of the colonial people.Interestingly, Missolini's Fascist regime set up youth organizations also in invaded countries. There were the "Gioventý Albanese del Littorio" (Albanian Youth of Littorio) in Albania, the "Gioventý Araba del Littorio" (Arabic Youth of Littorio) in Libya and the "Gioventý Etiopica del Littorio" (Ethiopic Youth of Littorio) in Ethiopia. I'm less sure about Italian policies in occupied areas f the Balkans other than Albania. The fez was used as the uniform cap in all these organizations. The interesting aspect here is the difference between the Italian and German approach. Unfortunately we have little information at this time on the progrm and activities of the Italian colonial youth groups.

Italian Colonies

Italy was one of the last European countries to unify. As a result, Itly got a late start on building a colonial empire. The initial Italian focus was on Africa. The Italian Kingdom did found colonies in East Africa, but was defeated in its attemp to conquer Ethiopia. (This was one of the rare African victoris against European colonists. Italy also attempted to colonize Italy (1912), but did not fully succeed until after Mussolini seized power (1923). Mussolini continued the focus on Africa, but expanded it with the more daring concept of recreating the old Roman Empire. He referred to the Mediaterranean as "Mare nostroum" (Our sea). Mussolini seized two more countries: Ethiopia (1925) and Albania (1939). Mussolini's attemptt to seize Greece failed (1940). The Italians needed German help to seize areas of Yugoslavia and Greece (1941).

Balilla Groups

Balilla units were almost certainly established in Italy's Italian colonies, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Libya. HBU has no details, but presumes only Italian children could join and not the children of the colonial people. This was the case in the African colonies. I'm less sure about the European colonies. This can get a little complicated. There wre many intermaiages especialy in the Balkans. Of course the Italian presence in the Balkans (outside Albania) was fairmly short, only 2 years and the area was a war zone with active guerilla groups. Thus Italians were unlikely to bring their families. This was a bit different in northwest Yugoslavia where there were many ethnic Italians. We know little about these different groups and if the program varied to any extent from group to group.

Colonial Youth Groups

Interestingly, Missolini's Fascist regime set up youth organizations also in invaded countries. There were the "Gioventý Albanese del Littorio" (Albanian Youth of Littorio) in Albania, the "Gioventý Araba del Littorio" (Arabic Youth of Littorio) in Libya and the "Gioventý Etiopica del Littorio" (Ethiopic Youth of Littorio) in Ethiopia. I'm less sure about Italian policies in occupied areas of the Balkans other than Albania. A factor here is that the Italians only controlled areas of Yuggoslavia and Greece for about 2 years and because of guerilla operations were never in complete conrol of their occupation area. The fez was used as the uniform cap in all these organizations.

Contrast with the NAZIs

The interesting aspect here is the difference between the Italian and German approach. There were similarities and differences. Both the Balilla and Hitler youth set of local units for their nationals in occupied areas/colonies. Both the Italians and Germans created Fascist youth groups in the occupied areas/colonies. But here there were differences. The Italian Fscistss created youth groups in their colonies, even the African colonies with racial differences. While the NAZIs created nationalist youth groups in the occupied countries with Nordic populations. They did not do this in occupied countries with Slavic populations. Here the NAZI goal was to kill many of these people, deport others beyond the Urals, enslave the rest. Education a few years of primary educatin was not complicated. Neither would a youth group which might have had unwanted repercussions such as raising national conciousness.

Membership

We are unsure about the membership of the Italian colonial youth groups. The Balilla was a mass organization with all Italian children required to participate. I don't think this was true in the Italian colonies, although Albania may have been different. We suspect that the members of the youth groups in the Italian African colonies may have been the children of families connected with the colonial regime. This would mean employess or members of the Italian security/military forces. Or perhaps children living in the principal cities. Our information here, however, is very limited. One question we have abould these colonial groups is if there were mixed membership of colonial and Italian boys. There were Italian colonists in the various Italian colonies, especially Libya.

Purpose

I think that the colonial Fascist youth organizations emphasised the submission to colonial authorities abd the superiority of Italian culture. As far as I know there was no rasist compont here. The goal was to make the colonials good Italians. The hoal of moderizing society and educating the children was an excuse for colonialism. The photos of these youth were often used for fascist propaganda in Italy. A good example of Fascist propagabnda was the vook Il Mascal di Moggio (1938).

Activities and Program

Unfortunately we have little information at this time on the progrm and activities of the Italian colonial youth groups. We have not succeeded in finding any written sources on colonial youth group activities. And the photographs we have found seem mostly staged images and do not provide any insights on actual activities. One interesting question is how the Italians justified the colonial regime and explained the differences between Italians and locals. We assume the justification was Italian cultural superiority. It would be interesting to see just how this was done through youth group activities.

Sources








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Created: 10:54 PM 5/13/2006
Last updated: 2:45 AM 1/21/2007