Translated by G. A. Malvicini
Interviewer: The publishing house Murcia has just released a new book by Gianfranco de Turris: Julius Evola: A Philosopher at War. The subtitle, 1943-1945, should get the attention of readers of the Roman thinker, it being the most mysterious period of his life, of which he spoke the least, with the most gaps from a biographical point of view. Now, at long last, this essay reveals what Evola did during those years: his journeys in Italy and Europe, his stay at Hitler’s Headquarters, and his nine months in German-occupied Rome, his relations with the Sicherheitsdienst, and his sojourn in Vienna studying Masonic documents, the bombing during which he decided to test fate, to silently question destiny . . . . A story that plays itself out in a continent set on fire by a world war; reconstructed with exemplary, minute historical detail: the quantity of documents cited is enormous, along with interviews and personal testimonies. We discussed it with the author, first asking him about the book’s genesis.
Gianfranco de Turris: My book originated in a lecture I gave in Milan at the end of the nineties, a lecture dedicated to the men of the Social Republic, and later published in a book. Although Evola cannot properly speaking be considered a “man of the Italian Social Republic,” I wrote about what was known at the time, on the basis of his articles published in the Popolo Italiano and collected under the title With Mussolini at Hitler’s Headquarters. I used these sources as a guide, adding other details. Later, in 2001, I published an improved version — but not that much — in Francesco Perfetti’s journal Nuova Storia Contemporanea (New Contemporary History). From then on, I never stopped collecting material.
Question: How did you make your way through this immense corpus of sources?
De Turris: Evola’s own words guided me, what he said and did not say, what he alluded to in what we might call his — very few — memories. I assembled a mosaic of information and references — often indirect — taken from Italian and foreign books, along with testimonials from people who had known him or who were in contact with other protagonists of the story. But often, I must say, it was also strokes of luck!
So the evidence collected basically confirmed what we knew about him in those years — crucial years for Europe?
De Turris: Generally it confirmed everything: journeys, meetings, relocations . . . The only things that have been disproved are all the urban myths, such as, for example, the question of his paralysis of his legs, which occurred during the famous bombing in Vienna, which some had instead had “magical” origins . . . ! I remember how he himself laughed at those rumors . . . Well, some of the documents I tracked down (such as the letters to Walter Heinrich that Hans Thomas Hakl made available to me, along with the attached medical report) have finally disproved all of that.
Interviewer: But what was Evola doing in Rastenburg, at Hitler’s headquarters? And with the Duce, to boot?
De Turris: Evola left Rome at the end of August 1943, with a group of people whose names he never mentioned. He traveled to Berlin, in order to provide the Germans with an account of the actual situation of the country, which was still under the Badoglio government. In Germany there were two groups: those who believed in Badoglio, like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and those who did not, like the Sicherheitsdienst and the SS. This disagreement prevented the Germans from taking any decision. Well, Evola arrives in Germany, goes to Berlin, talks to the people he needs to talk to. At that point, he discovers that Giovanni Preziosi is looking for him, and he goes to the town where Preziosi resides. Meanwhile, the other members of the group return to Italy. When he decides to do the same, it is the 8th of September. He wanted to leave on the ninth, but the night before he hears the announcement of the armistice. He and Preziosi are asked to make a radio announcement on behalf of those who have no intention of signing the armistice. The announcement was not made, although some historians claim otherwise. The two are flown to Rastenburg, where, camouflaged in a forest, Hitler’s headquarters are located. They probably arrived on the 9th. Meanwhile, Mussolini was freed by Student’s paratroopers and Skorzeny’s SS, and after one or two stops, he arrives in Rastenburg, where he meets a number of personalities who are on the site, including his son Vittorio, Pavolini, Buffarini, Guidi and Farinacci. As has been widely documented by historians as Attilio Tamaro, between the arrival of Evola and Preziosi and the liberation of Mussolini, long conversations are held about what should be done with Italy, hypotheses of different governments to be formed in opposition to the surrender and to the Kingdom of the South, which was soon to be created.
Of this meeting remains the famous cigar box signed, after an evening of festivities, by nearly everyone present, and then kept by the Roman philosopher and reproduced in the book (reproduced here courtesy of the © J. Evola Foundation).
Those who were present — who were staying, together with other Italian personalities, in the wagons of a train that was, as Evola writes, as “immobile” as the political situation at that moment — signed a box of Cuban cigars of the brand Walter E. Beger, in memory of their meeting. From top to bottom, the signatures are: Giovanni Preziosi, an illegible German name, Alessandro Pavolini, Orio Ruberti, Cesare Rivelli, Ugo Valla, Angelo Vecchio Verdierame, J. Evola, an unknown A. Zinay, Vittorio Mussolini and Renato Ricci. Farinacci did not sign, he was absent at that moment since, Evola writes, he had been summoned for a private audience with the Duce.
Interviewer: Another very unusual document is the one selected for the cover . . .
De Turris: It was chosen because it is the most singular, and certainly one that strikes the reader, with a book of this kind. It is generally not often reproduced: it is one of many taken on the afternoon of July 20, 1944, after von Stauffenberg’s attack, which had taken place that morning. As a result of a series of random historical events — proof that nothing is predetermined — the count’s bomb missed its target. In the picture, aside from the Duce and the Führer, one can recognize Bormann, Göring, and Admiral Dönitz. Behind him, in the third row, there is the profile of a man in civilian clothes, wearing plus fours, or so it seems. From Germany, years ago, came the report that according to some people, it was Julius Evola. On closer examination, in fact, it is impossible not to note a vague resemblance — the hair, the nose, and so on — but an examination of the actual facts proves that it couldn’t be him. On July 20, Evola was in Vienna, under a false name. Nevertheless, it is a very curious image, which I analyze in the book.
Interviewer: What is left to be discovered concerning Evola’s life in those years?
De Turris: Because direct witnesses no longer exist, one must rely on archival materials, public or private. For example, Evola’s letters to Heinrich, of which I have already spoken, which came to light only in 2014, and which revealed the date of the bombing that struck him down, the false name he used in Vienna, and other things. But one can also proceed by induction, filling out the gaps in some documents with other documents. Certainly, there are still things to discover. For example, if it were possible to obtain — but I believe they have been destroyed or lost — Evola’s letters to Goffredo Pistoni, we could definitely get additional details. Or the letters that the philosopher wrote to his friends when he was in the hospital: some of them have been recovered, many have not. Other things I believe are gone for good: for example, where could we get details about the trip he made from Rome to Florence and then from Florence to Verona, after the arrival of the Allies? And what exactly was he doing in Verona?
Interviewer: A mystery destined to remain such, in other words . . .
De Turris: It always will be, precisely because there are no direct sources regarding this whole affair, which can only be brought to light through deductions. In general and broad lines, however, the historical facts are these. I don’t think that any additional information could substantially change this reconstruction, which has taken me years, but which finally sheds light on one of the most enigmatic periods in the life of Julius Evola. If my book, even with all its hypotheses, serves to stimulate memories, clues, new deductions, it will have already fulfilled part of its task.