Petacci, Claretta “Clara”, born 28-02-1912 in Rome, was Mussolini’s mistress; at the end of the war she was killed by partisans while trying to escape to Switzerland with Mussolini. Petacci was from an upper class family in Rome. As a youngster she had studied music and was a pupil of the violinist, Corrado Archibugi, who was a family friend. She had idolized Benito Mussolini
since childhood and in 1932 became acquainted with him at a chance meeting. She was with her future husband, Riccardo Federici and Mussolini was alone. Following this she sent a number of letters to Mussolini and eventually managed to secure a private audience with him at the Palazzo Venezia; following several more meetings they began a relationship. He was 28 years her senior. By this time Petacci was married to Federici who was a lieutenant in the Air force but they separated soon afterwards. Petacci was devoted to Mussolini, “beloved Ben” as she called him, and although it could not be officially announced as Mussolini was already married, they were often together. Petacci’s family benefited from her relationship with Mussolini but not without comment from those on the inside. The family moved from a middle-class residence in Rome to Camillucia, a 32 room villa in an exclusive area. The villa was designed by architects and featured not only a swimming pool, tennis court, and a flower garden but also a bomb shelter in the basement. In 1943 when the Allies had invaded and Italy surrendered, Petacci was arrested, being released a few weeks later. Mussolini, meanwhile, had been rescued and with German aid had set up the Salo Republic in the north of the country. Petacci went north with her family to be with him and set up house in Gardone, not far from the Mussolini’s Salo headquarters. In mid-April 1945 as the situation for Mussolini worsened, Petacci’s family were evacuated to Spain. Petacci and her brother, Marcello, elected to remain in Milan where they had been forced to flee earlier. On the 25th of April with the Allies advancing, a column of German vehicles left for Switzerland with Mussolini, Petacci and Marcello, only to discover that the guards had crossed over to the partisan side. Knowing they would not let him pass, he disguised himself in a Luftwaffe coat and helmet, hoping to slip into Austria with some German soldiers. The column was blocked by communist partisans. Marcello and some others managed to escape; a few days later, however, he was captured and shot along with 15 others.
Death and burial ground of Petacci, Claretta “Clara”.
Although reports vary, it seems that Petacci was offered clemency but she elected to remain with Mussolini. They were taken to Guilino di Mezzergra on Lake Como and shot, Clara age 33, Mussolini age 61, two days before Adolf Hitler’s suicide. he bodies of Mussolini and Petacci were taken to Milan and left in a suburban square, the Piazzale Loreto, for a large angry crowd to insult and physically abuse. They were then hung upside down from a metal girder above a service station on the square. The choice of location was deliberate. Fifteen partisans had been shot there in August 1944 in retaliation for partisan attacks and Allied bombing raids, and their bodies had then been left on public display. At the time, Mussolini is said to have remarked “for the blood of Piazzale Loreto, we shall pay dearly”
Later the bodies were removed and terribly trampled on by the hysterical crowd. Clara Petacci’s father was Dr. Francesco Petacci , primary physician of Pope Pius XI. Her sister was actress Miriam di San Servolo (31 May 1923 – 24 May 1991), also known as Miriam Petacci or Miriam Day. Petacci’s brother, Marcello Petacci , was captured with Mussolini and Petacci. However, rather than being executed in Dongo, he was shot while trying to escape by jumping into Lake Como. Following Clarehta’s death, the bodies were secretly buried in Milan’s Maggiore Cemetery. In 1956 her remains where transferred by her relatives to the family tomb at Rome’s Verona Cemetery.