All Aboard the Fascist Express

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"States of Mind II: The Farewells," an early Futurist painting depicting arrival and departure from a railroad station

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

“ Set out for Ethiopia October, 1935. Arrive on schedule. And mark this stop also on the timetable: Spain, 1936-1938. Draw a cross by every little Spanish town, where fields of crosses flowered overnight beneath the quickening touch of fascist airmen.”

In this episode of “This is Our Enemy,” the Italian state is reimagined as a futurist express train, rolling from country to country—Greece, Tunisia, Ethopia, etc.—according to its perfectly-kept and very efficient timetable.

The announcer predicts an eventual outcome for this train, a final destination that has been waiting since the first day: “a crackup.” Before then, though, her rails are first greased, and then made dangerously slippery with “one and twenty years of blood.”

Mussolini is the engineer of the train, the narrator tells his listeners. But the narration is interrupted by little radio dramas and “recreations,” which feature the more regular Italian citizens. The Italians do not, according to these plays, agree with their train or their engineer.

The first scene, for example, takes place in a bar in Spain, before the second world war has really begun. An Italian pilot drinks with a German one. He expresses his doubts about their role in Spain.

“Don’t you ever get fed up with the kind of thing we are doing now?” he asks, “I never expected it would be like this. The people in these open towns. It’s like dropping your bombs on a blind flock of sheep. They haven’t even rifles to peck away at us.”

“We are conducting an experiment,” the German tells him, “Those methods of warfare that are inefficient, we disregard. Those that are effective, we keep and perfect.”

(Later, it is implied that the Fascist State Express is being guided by the Germans.)

In another scene, a man named Luigi is injured by a mine left behind by “German pigs” to ensure that the Italian soldiers cannot flee after the Germans have withdrawn.

“Is there no help coming?” Luigi asks, then invokes Mussolini, calling him by his nickname, Il Duce, “Has not Il Duce said he was with us in spirit?”

“Il Duce,” scoffs his companion, “I spit upon him. He has left us to die! We are deserted, Luigi.”

An American soldier arrives and the two men surrender happily.

At the end of the program, Matthew Gordon, Chief of the Foreign Division of the Office of War Information, delivers his “weekly report on current enemy activities.”

He confirms, in “news format,” the idea put forward by the radio play: that the Italian people do not support their governments actions. “ The people of Italy are increasingly eager to get out of this war,” he says, “From every available sign, they don’t want to fight us.”

He details the conditions of countries all across Europe, and their dissatisfaction with the German occupation, and end with a note that implies that even the Germans don’t support the Germans.

There is a “bitter joke” being told in Germany, he tells his audience, “Hitler thinks for us, Goebbels talks for us, Goering eats for us, but we do our own dying.”

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71397
Municipal archives id: LT4031