Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi triggered outrage from Italy’s political left on Sunday with comments defending fascist wartime leader Benito Mussolini at a ceremony commemorating victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
Speaking at the margins of the event in Milan, Berlusconi said Mussolini had been wrong to follow Nazi Germany’s lead in passing anti-Jewish laws but that he had in other respects been a good leader.
“…the government of that time, out of fear that German power might lead to complete victory, preferred to ally itself with Hitler’s Germany rather than opposing it,” he said.
“As part of this alliance, there were impositions, including combating and exterminating Jews,” he told reporters. “The racial laws were the worst fault of Mussolini as a leader, who in so many other ways did well,” he said, referring to laws passed by Mussolini’s fascist government in 1938…
Berlusconi’s comments overshadowed Sunday’s commemoration of thousands of Jews and others deported from Italy to the Nazi death camps of eastern Europe. They were condemned as “disgusting” by the center-left Democratic Party (PD), which is leading in the polls ahead of the February 24-25 election.
“Our republic is based on the struggle against Nazi fascism and these are intolerable remarks which are incompatible with leadership of democratic political forces,” said Marco Meloni, the PD’s spokesman for institutional affairs.
Antonio Ingroia, a former anti-mafia magistrate campaigning at the head of a separate left-wing coalition, said Berlusconi was “a disgrace to Italy“…
“We must be very careful to ensure that these sparks, which recur every now and then, cannot bring back tragedies which humanity should not suffer again,” outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti said on Sunday.
Berlusconi has always been the sort of opportunistic pig who would grovel for support from the bigots and racists still powerful in corporate Italy. Mussolini didn’t hesitate to imprison and torture jews – but also gypsies, members of the socialist and communist opposition, ordinary democrats who spoke out against his alliance with other fascists ranging from Horthy in Hungary to Hitler in Germany.
That he spent a portion of the national budget on infrastructure is only a symptom of a cunning swine – not largesse doled out to a needy populace. He did little more than the Mafia has ever done within their own fiefdoms. Criminals and gangsters who practice sufficient diplomacy to provide rationales for collaborators.