Fighting for Mussolini
A former fascist officer makes a remarkable turnaround
Fascism1—whether that of Hitler’s Germany, Franco’s Spain or Mussolini’s Italy, has a long, sorry connection with evolutionary thinking. The German philosopher Nietzsche, enamoured with Darwin and the belief that ‘science’ had proven the Bible’s history wrong, pushed the notion that ‘God is dead.’ He proclaimed the concept of the ‘superman,’ the inevitable emergence of a higher species. Such a ‘noble race’ would finally realize that traits such as humility and service were not virtues, but mere weaknesses. The world was divided into those who were rulers and those who were slaves. Christianity was a ‘slave religion.’
This proud, arrogant, ‘survival of the most ruthless’ philosophy, pushed along by Darwin’s apostle on the continent, Ernst Haeckel,2 had a profound influence on the rise of militarism and fascism in Europe. Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf made the connection overwhelmingly, and repeatedly, clear. As Hitler clawed his way to power in Germany, his soulmate in Italy, Benito Mussolini, stamped the same jackbooted brand of ‘might is right’ onto the Italian masses. The political and economic turmoil of the times suited their rise, and it was easy, especially at first, for the citizens of Germany and Italy to see their dictatorial control as ‘benevolent,’ even restoring national pride for a time.
‘I guarded Mussolini’s escape.’Bruno Frigoli (pictured left) says he is often asked, ‘Did you meet Mussolini?’ or, ‘Did you meet Hitler, too?’ He replies, ‘Yes, but I’d much rather talk about the many wonderful and fascinating missionaries and evangelists I’ve met in my life. That’s much more important and interesting to talk about.’
Bruno Frigoli, who later became a missionary in Bolivia preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was at the time a convinced fascist. For this teenage army officer in a crack Italian Alpine regiment, military life was a proud tradition. Bruno’s father was a colonel in the same regiment; at the time of Mussolini’s final ousting, he was executed by antifascist forces in an orgy of revenge.
Among the bitterest enemies of fascism were the communists. This was ironic, since their equally totalitarian, ruthless philosophy also owed a great deal to the surge of materialism/atheism resulting from Darwin’s teachings.
As the tides of war turned against Mussolini in 1945, the dictator planned to flee to Switzerland. Bruno Frigoli was in command of a platoon ordered to keep his escape route around Lake Como open. By this time Il Duce’s3 frayed nerves had led him to trust no-one. So he tried to use an alternative, unguarded route, which led to his betrayal and capture by partisans.
Bruno’s last combat mission took place shortly afterwards. He and two fellow officers were ordered to lead a dangerous mission to clear a mountainside of communist guerillas. The detachment was ambushed and cut to ribbons, with Bruno as one of the handful of survivors. The weeks which followed were dark ones indeed for him. Dreams of imperial glory had evaporated. He and 14 fellow officers were crowded into a narrow cell in a communist prison, beaten, tortured and sporadically executed at gunpoint.
Bruno remembers one dear friend, Mario, who was returned ‘in a pitiful shape’ from one of those torture sessions. He pleaded with Bruno to kill him with a gun he still had hidden, to escape further agony. Mario said he could not do it himself, because he was a Christian. Shortly after, guards came in with a bottle of wine, saying, ‘Mario, you’ve been pardoned—let’s celebrate.’ But it was all a cruel joke. Midway through the ‘celebrations,’ he was taken out and shot. The surly guard said as they were departing, ‘Just you wait, Bruno … tomorrow we’re coming for you!’
Remarkably, in the providence of God, Bruno escaped death, and was released after another nine months; 12 of his 14 fellow officers in that cell had been killed.
Some of the legacy of Bruno Frigoli’s conversion from fascist ideals to Christianity is revealed in his beloved daughter’s family. From left: Andrew, Tim, Esther, Phil, Jonny, Erica and husband Chris.
It was hard to find work as a former fascist officer in post-war Europe, so Bruno Frigoli left to find a new life in Bolivia, South America’s third-largest nation. In 1954, he became a Christian, receiving God’s gift of salvation and forgiveness, after a church Gospel service. He became a full-time pastor and missionary, and directed the work of La Paz Evangelistic Center—Bolivia’s largest Protestant church. He later served in various directorial capacities in Peru for the Assemblies of God. This was during the time of the Shining Path terrorist activity, in which 200 of this church’s pastors were killed. From there, he went to Argentina for more years of missionary service before ending up in the US; ‘recycled but not retired,’ as he puts it.
Today, Bruno finds it amazing to look back at the unique twists and turns, too many for this brief article, used by God to bring him from a life dedicated to evolutionary fascism into the service of Christ, the Creator. To add to the irony, his offspring, in addition to being dedicated Christians, are keen friends of Answers in Genesis. His daughter, Erica Grace, was (with her husband, Chris) a missionary in South America for 20 years. Today, her mission field is Australia, where she works with Radio HCJB,4 teaching about the Biblical foundations of marriage and the family (see panel right).
And Bruno’s grandson, Andrew Grace, serves as a volunteer with the AiG Support Group in Melbourne, Australia, where he introduced us to the remarkable story of his grandfather’s journey from the false glory of totalitarian ideologies to salvation and truth in Christ Jesus and His Word.
Foundations for the Family
Erica Grace is the daughter of one-time fascist Bruno Frigoli (main text). She now runs a marriage teaching series, ‘Foundations for the family,’ for Christian churches from her base in Melbourne, Australia. A strong supporter and user of Answers in Genesis insights and materials, she says, ‘God is the Creator and Designer of man and woman, and marriage and family. So He would know best what a marriage needs to function well, and He has given us the Bible as a book of instructions. We could call the Bible“the ultimate marriage manual.”?’
Erica is passionately concerned about the trend of compromising the Word of God in the belief that it will make Christianity more ‘attractive.’ She says, ‘People outside the church are in fact attracted to Christians living and acting like Christians and not being ashamed of what they stand for. They actually scoff at Christians who do not stand for their beliefs and who are embarrassed to defend their faith.’ She says that the rampant compromise, especially on Genesis, which we see in many churches and Bible Colleges today, ‘earns no respect from the world.’
Erica is especially concerned at the associated tendency in many churches to run humanistic marriage seminars based on human opinion, which often runs contrary to God’s Word. She says, ‘If Christians don’t value the Bible as the living Word of God, why bother at all? In fact, the Word is sharper than any two-edged sword … a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). It’s not enough to tell couples the do’s and don’ts of communication. They need to have a change of heart, to wish to spend time together, and to be open and sincere with one another. Only a change of heart can save a dying marriage. Humanistic teaching cannot change hearts—it can only swell heads.’
References and notes
- A totalitarian ideology typically marked by central dictatorial authority, tight socio-economic controls, ruthless suppression of opposition, belligerent nationalism and racism. E.g. Nazism. Pronounced ‘fashism,’ the name derives from fasces, the ancient Roman power symbol of bound sticks. See Q&A: Communism and Nazism. Return to text.
- Grigg, R., Ernst Haeckel: evangelist for evolution and apostle of deceit, Creation 18(2):33–36, 1996. Return to text.
- Italian for ‘the leader,’ which both Mussolini and Hitler were called (in German = der Führer). Return to text.
- Heralding Christ Jesus’ Blessings, known for an effective global shortwave radio ministry. Return to text.