Centro Risorse Territoriale di Pesaro e Urbino

Mussolini's German

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Level of Benito Mussolini’s knowledge of German according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages/ Livello della conoscenza del tedesco di Benito Mussolini secondo il Quadro Comune Europeo di Riferimento per le Lingue

The poor knowledge of foreign tongues in Italy
One of the enduring educational defects
Since the bright days of political unity
When Italian was obscured by its dialects
Still haunts and hurts the national community

In peace it hurts everyday life and business too
But things got out of hand in World War Two
When the dictators of Italy and Germany
Used only German in each other’s company

What level was the German of Mussolini?
Quite good said Lieutenant Colonel Lanfernini
An old neighbour son of a Socialist
Attached to an embassy but no linguist

Quite good wrote Georg Zachariae his doctor and dupe
In a book of confessions and unconvincing scoop
Pointing out the remarkable extent
Of his vocabulary and his linguistic bent

Quite good said Professor Vikoler
The Italophile South-Tyroler
Summoned to Villa Torlonia to reinforce
The Duce’s German skills with a crash course

‘Recht gut’ could the Duce speak and understand
German said Henry Picker who took shorthand
At the Führer’s table recording with celerity
His mealtime platitudes destined for posterity

Excellent said Otto Skorzeny assigned to bail
the ousted Duce out of his sky-high hotel jail
on hearing him point out with ease and pride
the landmarks of the Italian countryside

Good for a political chat with no chances
of broader views or linguistic nuances
said polyglot Filippo Anfuso Chief of Cabinet
of the Foreign Minister and ironic nimblewit

Good for an informal chat about nothing
with Reichsmarschall and Minister Hermann Göring
or between corporals in a soldier’s home
said Eugen Dollmann Himmler’s man in Rome
but not good enough to handle the fallacies
of Hitler’s mind and all the technicalities
and tangles of a war conference room
which fatally helped spell Italy’s doom

Dollmann’s judgment fits in with Anfuso’s view
and topples all contrary evidence
Mussolini’s German deserved a B2
a sign of upper intermediate competence
Within the European Framework of Reference

(Lamberto Bozzi March 31, 2012)

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