Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi condemned fascist Italy’s anti-Semitic laws but said dictator Benito Mussolini’s regime also had carried out positive policies.
“The fact of the racial laws was the worst fault of a leader, Mussolini, who in many other ways did well,” Berlusconi said in informal remarks to the media at the inauguration of a Holocaust memorial in Milan on Sunday, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The memorial dedicated at Milan’s train station is located at Track 21, from which 700 Milan Jews were deported to Nazi camps.
The inauguration ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Mario Monti and other senior state, civic and religious leaders, was one of scores of events taking place this week in Italy to mark the international Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Berlusconi, who is running for prime minister in general elections next month, said Mussolini had chosen to ally Italy with Nazi Germany for policy reasons that were separate from the persecution of the Jews. He said it was difficult today to put oneself in the shoes of decision-makers of that time.
Mussolini’s government, Berlusconi said, “fearing that the German power would win, certainly preferred to be allied with Hitler’s Germany rather than oppose it.” Italy, he said, “did not have the same responsibility” as Germany for the Holocaust, but “there was a connivance that at the beginning was not totally conscious.”
Berlusconi, despite being embroiled in sex and financial scandals, has gained in the polls in recent weeks. Monti also is running to retain his post.