At the height of Mussolini’s powers, physical fitness was used to demonstrate the ‘supremacy’ of the fascist movement. As these diminutive skiers show, children were not exempt.
Between 1926 and 1937, when the fascist regime was at its peak, Mussolini founded the Operazione Nazionale Balilla – Italy’s version of the Hitler Youth. Part of Il Duce’s colossal efforts to indoctrinate the Italian nation, he began with the most vulnerable – children aged between eight and 18.
The so-called ‘Sons of the She-Wolf’ or ‘Figli della Lupa’ was a branch of the organisation added later, targeting those aged between six and eight years old. At this tender age, they inherited their black shirts and partook in the leader’s rigorous moral and physical education – one which included their first steps on skis, as pictured below.
The youth group was named after the twins portrayed suckling a she-wolf in the bronze Etruscan statue found in the Campidoglio in Rome. According to the myth of the Capitoline Wolf, Romulus and Remus were nurtured by a wolf, eventually becoming the founders of the city of Rome. This image of the capital’s symbolic fathers was exploited as a propaganda tool by the fascist leader, who arrogantly presented himself as the new founder of Rome.