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Axis leaders: language skills?

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by nemt » Sun Apr 06, 2008 7:55 pm
Though I imagine French were used quite often, does anyone know the extent of Hitler's Italian understanding and Il Duce's German understanding? Obviously high-level statesmen of both countries were multilingual, but I've never seen reference made to either leader's ability to communicate with the other.

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by Granatiere » Sun Apr 06, 2008 8:21 pm
Mussolini's German was fairly good- his German doctor, Georg Zacharie, wrote was better than many Germans. About French, Mussolini was graduated in 1913 at Bologna University and allowed to teach French in high schools, as he did in Oneglia.
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by nemt » Sun Apr 06, 2008 9:41 pm
Granatiere wrote:Mussolini's German was fairly good- his German doctor, Georg Zacharie, wrote was better than many Germans'- .
Interesting, where did he write this?

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by Granatiere » Mon Apr 07, 2008 12:23 am
You will find this quote in G. Zachariae, Mussolini mi ha detto, Rizzoli ed.

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by FB » Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:33 am
Besides Mussolini lived some time in exile in German-Speaking Switzerland (Basel iirc). So he must have had the capability of understanding German and making himself understood in the same language at a practical level.

Best regards

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by missyd » Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:48 am
FB wrote:Besides Mussolini lived some time in exile in German Speaking Switzerland (Basel iirc). So he must have had the capability of understanding German and making himslef understood in tha same language at a practical level.
Best regards
He lived in Lausanne (French-speaking), Berne (german speaking) and Geneva (french speaking)... but never lived in Basel...

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by Lupo Solitario » Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:27 am
to complete the debate about Mussolini's foreign speeches, it was told that had also some knowledge of Russian and almost none of English...
AFAIK Hitler didn't understand Italian.
 

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by nemt » Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:35 pm
Lupo Solitario wrote:to complete the debate about Mussolini's foreign speeches, it was told that had also some knowledge of russian and almost none of english...
AFAIK Hitler didn't understand italian.
Thanks for the information. I had heard Mussolini knew little to no English before, though this surprised me considering Italy's political positions prior to 1935.

What about languages of the minor Axis powers, did either man understand Croatian, Slovak, Romanian, Finnish, etc?

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by FB » Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:57 pm
missyd wrote:
FB wrote:Besides Mussolini lived some time in exile in German Speaking Switzerland (Basel iirc). So he must have had the capability of understanding German and making himslef understood in tha same language at a practical level.
Best regards
He lived in Lausanne (french speaking), Berne (german speaking) and Geneva (french speaking)... but never lived in Basel ....
Thank you for the correction.

Best regards

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by Lupo Solitario » Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:52 am
nemt wrote:
Lupo Solitario wrote:to complete the debate about Mussolini's foreign speeches, it was told that had also some knowledge of russian and almost none of english...
AFAIK Hitler didn't understand italian.
Thanks for the information. I had heard Mussolini knew little to no English before, though this surprised me considering Italy's political positions prior to 1935.

What about languages of the minor Axis powers, did either man understand Croatian, Slovak, Romanian, Finnish, etc?
Usually, people learn languages before 40 years...when it's not so easy to fix what will be useful someday.

Before WWII Italian people learned mainly french and german. English was quite rare (for example, there was not an English course in Italian military academy...)

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by Granatiere » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:55 am
Mussolini knew a little English too. During the Munich conference, he spoke in English with Austen Chamberlain (S. Corvaja, Mussolini nella tana del lupo, Milan 1982, p 104. ) Galeazzo Ciano's English war excellent.

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by Granatiere » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:13 am
During the RSI as Zacharie write, Mussolini began to study Classical Greek and read Plato's works.

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by Jim H » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:48 am


I'll leave it up to our German speakers to judge is fluency.

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by Fanatic_Blitzer » Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:06 am
Great footage! I never saw Il Duce speaking German, I have to say he's speaks it quite understandable. Of course there are some words which cant be quite understood because of his accent or wrong pronunciation (which was probably part of the Swiss dialect though). So as someone who studied German, I must say that his German is quite good.

Here's another great youtube-fragment, Franco speaking English (or at least tries). Technically not an Axis-leader, but still funny and he was involved in it.

 

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by nemt » Wed Apr 09, 2008 4:53 am
The only part of Franco's video there I understood was "Viva Espana." Great find, anyway though.

What context did Franco have to address anyone in English, though? The Americans and Brits supported the commies in the civil war, from what I understand - which anglophones is he thanking?

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by Granatiere » Wed Apr 09, 2008 8:17 pm
The only other Axis leader to know foreign languages was Admiral M. Horty. Besides Hungarian, he knew German, Italian and French.

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by nemt » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:54 am
Interesting. Hungarian/German/French are self-explanatory - but he learned Italian during the first war, or later in his life?

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by Granatiere » Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:51 am
Italian was the unofficial language of the Austro- Hungarian Navy, formed in great part by Italian speaking equipages from Istria and Dalmatia.

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by Sparviero » Fri Apr 11, 2008 8:06 pm
The ability to speak foreign languages by Mussolini (especially German) is actually a common discussion point in many biographies of Il Duce. General theme coming back: Mussolini told visitors he could speak a lot of languages fluently which he actually could not. He kept, however, the impression by using by heart some statements and to read in public some well-learned speeches. The only language he could speak fluently except Italian is French.

There is, for example, a speech in English to the American public, but further then this pre-studied speech and statements he could not go.
His German was at a beginner stage. He mastered the basics and could follow and start a conversation. However, his German was by far not good enough to add or to take part in any meetings which his German partner. This cost him dearly as he gave the impression he understood what was being told.
As said, his French was excellent.
In Ancient languages: he once told a guest he could understand Ancient Greek, when suddenly his son turned to him to say that it was not true, creating an embarrassing moment.

I can't remember any other languages mentioned in biographies. Mussolini had, however, some foreign books in his office to add to his statement he could speak foreign languages, but actually these books were only used to quote some passage to create the impression.

So in short: the idea of Mussolini speaking plenty of languages is part of the created myth by Fascism.

On Ciano, I know he spoke French and English excellent and his Spanish was rather well. No mentioning of German.

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by Granatiere » Fri Apr 11, 2008 10:40 pm
The episode of Mussolini's son is in Zachariae's book. Z. recorded also that Mussolini token private lessons by a Classical Languages professor (I think can be the graecist G. Coppola, Bologna University rector magnificus) to learn classical Greek.

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by Sparviero » Fri Apr 11, 2008 10:53 pm
@Granatiere; you are right, however, the teachings started during the Salo Republic period, so at the time when he told the visitor he mastered Classical Greek it was untrue. I have also never seen evidence that although he started the teachings he actually mastered the language.
What is mentioned is that he was able to work on his German to bring it to a higher level during the Salo period. He had plenty of time to do so....

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by Granatiere » Fri Apr 11, 2008 11:06 pm
Mussolini liked to translate as a pastime. During his captivity in Ponza and Maddalena islands he began to translate Nietzsche without a German Dictionary... is it an elementary German?

Sparviero, you're right, but Mussolini never told to master Greek. He told literally to find peace in reading Plato in his own words. He never said to be a classicist
 

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by Sparviero » Fri Apr 11, 2008 11:26 pm
It is indeed said that he was working on a translation of Nietzche during his captivity. Have you seen the final result?
Have you ever read Nietzche? It is a very difficult book. Mussolini had some great skills, but I doubt his translation would be accurate. It is indeed what you say about Plato's work: he read it, or more he thought he was reading it and gave his own interpretation. I think this also goes for his translation. He gave Mussolini's view on Nietzsche instead of an actual translation. This is at least what I think.

It was also said that Mussolini worked till very late in the evening to run the country. However he just went to bed on a normal, only he left the light on to let people think he was still at work. What I want to say here: It is sometimes hard to distinguish propaganda from the thought, if we lack some source who was there and in this case read the translation.

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by Granatiere » Sat Apr 12, 2008 7:09 am
Sparviero, yes, I read Nietzsche (in Italian) and Plato (in Greek). The fact is that almost all the Germans who spoke with Mussolini found his German surprising good, better than some Germans (col. Dollmann, Roma Nazista). It's also true that Mussolini had a conversation in English with Eden and Chamberlain.

This fact was recorded by Eden itself in his memories. I have some doubt about Mussolini's English quality (I think was good only for a short conversation, not more) but was better than Eden's Italian!

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by Inspecteur Clouzot » Mon Apr 14, 2008 3:21 am
nemt wrote:The only part of Franco's video there I understood was "Viva Espana."
Your English must simply not be good enough
:mrgreen:


Neither is mine, for that matter: this is what I understood "Thanks for the thousand of souls who follow (????)-man in (???) of civilization. And thanks to all those who really (???) or (???) the world. Country, religion, family, this is our (???) Viva España"

Hitler definitely couldn't speak foreign languages. Nor would he be likely to, even if he had known a bit of them (which he didn't): he always feared to embarrass himself.

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by nemt » Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:50 am
Franco says:
Thanks to the thousands of souls who follow our movement in defense of civilization, and thanks to all those who hear these words, to spread them all over the world: Country, religion, family, this is our aim and dream
Someone in the youtube comments translated it.
 

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by Inspecteur Clouzot » Mon Apr 14, 2008 9:03 am
Thanks! I'd have had an easier time translating it if he had spoken Spanish!

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by nemt » Mon Apr 14, 2008 11:09 am
I think we all would have...including those here with no Spanish language ability.

I'm still confused over who, exactly, Franco is addressing, unless he had intended his remarks to be ironic (ie: "the anglophone world opposed my ideology, and now I've won a great victory anyway")

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by Fanatic_Blitzer » Tue Apr 15, 2008 4:54 am
nemt wrote:I think we all would have...including those here with no Spanish language ability.

I'm still confused over who, exactly, Franco is addressing, unless he had intended his remarks to be ironic (ie: "the anglophone world opposed my ideology, and now I've won a great victory anyway")
I think it was for the supporters of Franco there. There was an English organization called "Friends of Nationalist Spain" and a small number of citizens of the United Kingdom went to fight for Franco. Not to forget the large number of Irish volunteers who fought there, under the command of Eoin O'Duffy.
And further, I think it is to receive sympathy by showing how moral Nationalist Spain is.

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by nemt » Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:02 am
Fanatic_Blitzer wrote:
nemt wrote:I think we all would have...including those here with no Spanish language ability.

I'm still confused over who, exactly, Franco is addressing, unless he had intended his remarks to be ironic (ie: "the anglophone world opposed my ideology, and now I've won a great victory anyway")
I think it was for the supporters of Franco there. There was an English organization called "Friends of Nationalist Spain" and a small number of citizens of the United Kingdom went to fight for Franco. Not to forget the large amount of Irish volunteers who fought there, under the command of Eoin O'Duffy.
And further, I think it is to receive sympathy by showing how moral Nationalist Spain is.
Thanks for the clarification, I didn't know anyone from the British Isles fought on the Nationalists' side in the war.

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by Fanatic_Blitzer » Sun Apr 20, 2008 8:52 am
nemt wrote:
Fanatic_Blitzer wrote:
nemt wrote:I think we all would have...including those here with no Spanish language ability.

I'm still confused over who, exactly, Franco is addressing, unless he had intended his remarks to be ironic (ie: "the anglophone world opposed my ideology, and now I've won a great victory anyway")
I think it was for the supporters of Franco there. There was an English organization called "Friends of Nationalist Spain" and a small number of citizens of the United Kingdom went to fight for Franco. Not to forget the large amount of Irish volunteers who fought there, under the command of Eoin O'Duffy.
And further, I think it is to receive sympathy by showing how moral Nationalist Spain is.
Thanks for the clarification, I didn't know anyone from the British Isles fought on the Nationalists' side in the war.
There isn't much information about that available. The book 'Fighting for Franco' by Judith Keene gives a good insight into who went to fight for Franco and what it meant for them and their home countries. Really interesting book.

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by nemt » Mon May 19, 2008 7:50 am
I consider this far too interesting a topic to let die - how about some other, unmentioned leaders? I imagine Tojo may have had some knowledge of European languages. Or what about the allied leaders? Stalin must have spoken Georgian, and perhaps French also.

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by Toledo » Sat Jun 07, 2008 2:16 am
nemt wrote:The Americans and Brits supported the commies in the civil war, from what I understand - which anglophones is he thanking?
The United States and Great Britain were neutral during the Spanish Civil War, but you would be right if you referred to public opinion in the USA since the Republicans had better propaganda skills than the nationalists in regards to foreign media.

The Anglophones which the Caudillo are thanking are the Catholic Lobbies in the USA and Great Britain since they used their influence to prevent pro-Republican moves by the neutral governments, and also a minority of foreign volunteers. A small number of Britons fought for the nationalists, but since they were small in number they did not make up a unit, and since they were mostly Catholics, they fought individually in the Requete (Carlist) units. There is a very brief first-hand account in "The Battle for Spain" by Mr. Anthony Beevor (generally pro-Republican though). 2 Americans fought for the nationalists, but the most important American contribution was the color film "Defenders of the Faith" shot by Mr Russel Palmer, a pro-Nationalist American businessman.

According to the books "Hitler Stopped by Franco" by Mr. Burt Boyar and "The Franco Regime" by Mr. Stanley Payne, General Franco knew enough basic English to be able to read the New York Times (which he saw as a masonic newspaper and read to know about his enemies) and to understand what foreign ambassadors speaking in English meant, but had difficulty in saying it. That is why in the video the Caudillo is making the speech while looking at the notes.

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by nemt » Sat Jun 07, 2008 8:07 am
Thanks for the information Toledo, I'll try to secure a copy of the film you mentioned.

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by Toledo » Sat Jun 07, 2008 3:56 pm
The film is on youtube (only in Spanish though).

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_q ... oq=defenso

In one of the last parts there is interesting color footage of the Italian CTV contingent.
 
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