Christian Goeschel’s book is an account of the various occasions when Hitler and Mussolini met. The first encounter took place at Venice in June 1934. Hitler, notoriously, arrived looking ‘like a plumber in a mackintosh’ and nervously fingered his fedora hat. Talks between the still-superb Duce and the German chancellor did not get far. The last encounter came ten years later in East Prussia, an hour or so after the assassination attempt on the Führer by Claus von Stauffenberg; the German train taking Mussolini to the meeting at which Stauffenberg had planted his bomb ran late. On this occasion Mussolini sat on a rickety stool while Hitler, perched on an upturned box, expatiated on what had happened and cried bloody vengeance on the perpetrators.
In between, the two met on fifteen other occasions, including at the Munich conference of 1938. Nine meetings took place when Germany and Italy were in wartime harness, with another occurring on the Brenner Pass in March 1940, before Mussolini committed to battle. But certainly the greatest significance was attached