And in an entry dated August 4, 1938, [his lover] Claretta [Petacci] records his deep irritation at being viewed as Hitler's junior in fascism and anti-Semitism.
'I've been racist since 1921. I don't know why people think I am imitating Hitler... It makes me laugh.
'I need to teach these Italians about race, that they don't create half castes and that they don't ruin what is beautiful in us.'
A few weeks later, on October 11, 1938, Claretta's record of his hatred of Jews makes particularly chilling reading: 'These disgusting Jews, they should all be destroyed. I will massacre them as the Turks did....At another point he calls them "enemies" and "reptiles," according to the excerpts.
'I have isolated 70,000 Arabs in Italy's North African colonies, I can easily contain 50,000 Jews. I will build a little island and put them all on there.'
Sabbatucci said that while there is no doubt that Mussolini had developed a strong anti-Semitism in the later years of his life, historians are split as to when these sentiments began. The diaries appear to show he developed them earlier rather than later, but Sabbatucci was doubtful. "We must not take for granted that she correctly wrote what she was told. And we must not take for granted that what she was told was the truth and not some lover talk," said Sabbatucci, who teaches contemporary history at Rome's Sapienza University.