Standing in front of the Italian Army’s Caudron G.4, during The Great War is Aldo Finzi.
He was a non-practicing Jew, aviator, sportsman, and then politician. Later, he was companion in arms (or rather, flight) of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio on the epic flight over Vienna in 1918, with 11 other airmen to drop several hundred thousand poetic, propaganda leaflets appealing to the citizens of Austria not to go to war.
After 1920, Finzi became a close collaborator of Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, and became a member of the first Mussolini cabinet, founder of the Regia Aeronautica as independent air force and was involved in the notorious “Matteotti affair”, involving political intrigue, government fraud and murder.
He was born on 20 April 1894 at Legnago, near Verona, and was the son of a wealthy Jewish fabric mill owner. He didn't observe any religion and in his early career was a sports journalist. Aldo Finzi attended Aviator’s World at Milan, became a balloonist, and took part in ballooning and motorcycle competitions. In the early part of WWI, Finzi transferred to the Italian Army’s air squadron, and in 1916 became a licensed airplane’s pilot. He was awarded two silver medals for distinctive service.
After dismissal from the Army, he entered politics and was elected in 1921 was elected to a seat in the Kingdom’s Parliament, which was Fascist. He worked with Mussolini and became Deputy Secretary of the Interior. Aeronautics being his primary interest, in 1923 Mussolini appointed him as Deputy Commissioner for Aeronautics (under Commissioner Mussolini). Finzi then created Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force) as independent armed force, in addition to both the Aeronautic Academy and the Aeronautical Corps of Engineers.
Aldo Finzi's End...
Finzi’s demise came when, still as Deputy Secretary of the Interior, was involved (whether true or not) in the “Matteotti affair”, when Socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti was abducted and killed by a Fascist squad on 10 June 1924. Most think these were trumped up charges because it was becoming clear that Finzi was turning against the Socialist/Fascist movement. Mussolini made him resign within the month.
He retired to a life in agriculture, growing tobacco, but was still active in the aviation world and retained his pilot’s license. When the Italian government enacted its racial laws in 1938, Finzi officially declared to be a Catholic. (Finzi is a very old, classic Jewish family name.) This all happened as Finzi was trying to distance himself from Fascism and Mussolini. It all caught up to him when, in 1941, he was arrested and imprisoned on an island fortress, while being thrown out of the National Fascist Party. In 1943, Finzi took steps to return home and back into the Roman Jewish community as a partisan.
In February, 1944 Aldo Finzi was arrested by the SS at his home at Palestrina and transferred to a prison in Rome. In retaliation for a bomb attack which claimed the lives of 33 members of the German Polizeiregiment Bozen on March 23, Finzi was executed on the next day... March 24, 1944.
Today Aldo Finzi rests at the Fosse Ardeatine Memorial Cemetery together the other 334 martyrs.