Italian party with fascist roots backs Jewish restitution claims

ROME, Dec. 21 (JTA) — The leader of an Italian political party with fascist roots has called on the European Union to press for the restitution of Jewish property and assets seized during World War II. The move is part of party leader Gianfranco Fini’s efforts to distance his National Alliance Party from its past. In a message last week asking E.U. officials to support restitution efforts, Fini said, “Half a century after the immense tragedy of the Holocaust, the problem of the restitution of goods seized from the victims and conserved in credit institutes and banks in various countries has not yet been resolved. “Nor has what happened to the gold stolen by the Nazis been clarified,” he added. During the war, the Nazis melted down gold looted from Holocaust victims. The Nazis then sold it along with the ingots stolen from the central banks of the European countries they overran. E.U. officials, Fini said, should “bring to bear all pressure possible on the governments involved in order to bring this manifest injustice to an end.” The National Alliance was formed from the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement party, and Fini has sought to turn it into a mainstream party. Earlier this month, he condemned the anti-Semitic laws introduced in 1938 by the fascist government of Benito Mussolini. He also condemned the so-called Salo Republic, a diehard fascist-run enclave set up by Mussolini in Nazi-occupied northern Italy after the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943. In another effort to burnish his party’s image, Fini attended a book party last week of the diaries of Giorgio Perlasca, an Italian businessman who was a member of the Fascist Party, but who nonetheless saved thousands of Jews in the Budapest Ghetto during the war. Perlasca, known in Italy as the “Italian Schindler,” passed himself off as a diplomat from neutral Spain and supplied false passports to Jews. Perlasca’s story did not come out until the early 1990s. He died a few years ago. Perlasca’s wartime diaries were recently published in book form after being serialized in the Rome Jewish monthly Shalom. Fini sat in the front row at the book party, which was also attended by a representative from the Israeli Embassy and officials of the Jewish community.

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