This photo shows Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and Benito Mussolini of Fascist Italy, driving together during a parade in Munich, Germany. The photograph was taken in June of 1940, almost immediately after Italy had officially entered the war as an Axis ally on the 10th of June. The photograph itself was taken by Eva Braun, Hitler’s romantic partner, and was found in her personal albums.
Following Italy’s official entry into the Second World War, Mussolini traveled to Munich to meet with Hitler on the 18th of June, 1940. This meeting occurred during the final days of the Battle of France, in which Nazi German forces had conquered much of northern France, and the remaining French forces had begun discussions to negotiate an armistice with Germany. In his visit with Hitler, Mussolini had intended to convince him to demand total surrender from France instead of agreeing to an armistice – doing so would allow an allied Italy to also claim some of the spoils of war taken from France. Hitler had ultimately refused, and continued with the armistice for a number of reasons – primarily, to avoid a retaliatory provisional French government from being formed in French North Africa, and also to prevent the French Navy from joining the British fleet and strengthening it further. Additionally, conquering France completely would delegate the burden of governing it to Nazi Germany – whereas an armistice would maintain French governance, and be less of a burden on Germany (which was now beginning to shift its focus on fighting Britain).
In the end, Mussolini left the meeting feeling more-or-less ignored and unsuccessful. According to the diary of Count Ciano, Mussolini’s foreign minister, Mussolini had left the meeting feeling “very much embarrassed”, and that his role in Hitler’s eyes was only “secondary”. Interestingly, Ciano also writes that Mussolini interpreted the armistice as a sign of coming peace, and noted that Mussolini was particularly disheartened because of the “dream of his life” – glory and victory on the field of battle – was slipping away before his eyes.