It’s 1936, and these members of the Young Fascists are killing time and facial hair while hanging at comrade camp in Rome. At the time, Mussolini was head of the police state of Italy as its Fascist leader. Fascism is generally a one-party, anti-democratic, often racist dictatorship, so you can imagine the experiences these lads had living under such a regime. Note the painted Fascist badge on the truck above, derived from ancient Rome’s fasces, or symbol of authority, a bundle of rods with a protruding axe blade. Mussolini was evidently the axe.
Mussolini made his intentions clear from the start, before he became Il Duce.
When dealing with such a race as Slavic—inferior and barbarian—we must not pursue the carrot, but the stick policy … We should not be afraid of new victims … The Italian border should run across the Brenner Pass, Monte Nevoso and the Dinaric Alps … I would say we can easily sacrifice 500,000 barbaric Slavs for 50,000 Italians …
–Benito Mussolini, speech held in Pula, 20 September 1920
Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was an Italian Fascist youth organization functioning between 1926 and 1937, which took its name from Balilla, the nickname of Giovan Battista Perasso, a Genoese boy who, according to local legend, started the revolt of 1746 against the Habsburg forces that occupied the city in the War of the Austrian Succession by throwing a stone at an Austrian soldier.
These Balillas, aka “boy blackshirts” emulate the posture of Il Duce, with squared shoulders, chins high, quickstepping with toy rifles and blanket rolls during a review.
Even the very young were indoctrinated.
Italian boys donned uniforms at six and received real weapons in their 18th year on the anniversary of Rome’s birth, April 21. These youngsters are doing a drill with gas masks and miniature rifles.