Italian Minister Stokes Debate Over Fascism

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ROME — The defense minister of Italy, Ignazio La Russa, yesterday added fuel to a debate about the country’s fascist legacy by remembering Italian soldiers who fought to help Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1945.

The soldiers “fought believing they were defending their country,” Mr. La Russa said in Rome. “They earned the respect — even with their difference in opinion — of all those who look objectively at Italian history.” He spoke yesterday at a ceremony for the 65th anniversary of the surrender of the fascist government to the Allied forces, which was engineered after Dictator Benito Mussolini was kicked out of office and arrested.

After Italy’s capitulation became public on September 8, 1943, Adolf Hitler freed Mussolini from captivity and installed him as the leader of a German puppet state in northern Italy called the Repubblica Sociale Italiana, known as the Republic of Salo. Mr. La Russa was speaking about the soldiers who served the Republic of Salo until its defeat in April 1945.

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