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The World War II Photo of the Week
for 18 November 2002


Cheesecake for Mussolini ...

   This bevy of bathing beauties represent the future of Mussolini's Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI) (Italian Social Republic). On display at Lake Garda, these paragons of Italian womanhood had a special purpose. As in Nazi Germany, women (especially young women) were seen as having a specific role in Fascist Italy: to get married and have children — lots of them. In 1927, Mussolini launched his Battle for Births, believing that his Italy had a smaller population than it should have. How could it possibly be a power to reckon with, without a substantial population and a substantial army? Women were encouraged to have children and the more children brought better tax privileges (large families got better tax benefits, while bachelors were hit by high taxation). Italian families were given a target of five children, and mothers who produced more were warmly received by the Fascist government. In 1933, Mussolini met 93 mothers at the Palazzo Venezia who had produced over 1,300 children — an average of 13 each!

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