London, Jan. 28 (ANI): Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi provoked outrage at a ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day when he said that Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had done some good for Italy.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ceremony, he even defended Mussolini for supporting Adolf Hitler, saying he probably made an alliance with the Nazis because he feared Germany's potential expansion.
According to the Telegraph, Berlusconi also said that Italy did not have 'the same responsibilities' as Germany for what happened because at the beginning of the bilateral relationship Italy 'was not completely aware'.
German chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Germany had an 'everlasting responsibility' for the crimes of the Nazis.
Berlusconi said that it was now difficult to put one in the shoes of people who were making decisions at that time.
He added that 'obviously 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'.
The Italian Union of Jewish Communities and leaders across the political spectrum immediately condemned Berlusconi's statement.
Renzo Gattegna, the union's president, said that the comments are not only superficial and inappropriate, but designed to leave the impression Italy decided to persecute and exterminate its own Jews to please a powerful ally
He added that the statement is without moral awareness or historical foundation.
Paolo Ferrero, secretary of the Communist Refoundation Party, said Berlusconi's comments were 'shameful'.
Ferrero said that Mussolini not only made the racial laws, but he fought with Hitler. Italian Fascists actively collaborated in deportations so Mussolini is jointly responsible for the Holocaust.
Dario Franceschini, who heads the centre-left Democratic Party in the lower house, and the party's Senate leader, Anna Finocchiaro, also attacked the former premier.
Franceschini said that 'Berlusconi's words are a shame and an insult to history and remembrance, adding that 'on this very day he should ask Italians for forgiveness', the report added. (ANI)