ROME (JTA) — Italians and the Catholic Church, not only fascism, bear responsibility for Jewish persecution during World War II, Italy’s leading right-wing politician said.
Gianfranco Fini, the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, made his remarks Tuesday at a ceremony in Parliament marking the 70th anniversary of the imposition of anti-Semitic Racial Laws, imposed by the fascist regime in November 1938. Fini got his political start in the neo-fascist movement.
Fini called the laws a "shameful page" in Italian history.
"The fascist ideology alone does not explain the infamy of the Racial Laws," he said. "One must wonder why Italian society as a whole adjusted to the anti-Jewish legislation and why, except for some shining exceptions, particular demonstrations of resistance were not recorded. Not even, I have to say, on the part of the Catholic Church."
Fini warned of contemporary forms of anti-Semitism that threaten democracy today. These, he said, include "explicit anti-Semitism of the far right and neo-Nazis," as well as anti-Semitism "disguised as anti-Zionism and the no-global extremism of the far left" and fueled by "pseudo-religious pretexts of radical Islam."
The former head of a neo-fascist party, Fini formally broke with neo-fascism in the 1990s and has since repeatedly condemned racism and anti-Semitism.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, a memorial plaque was unveiled. Other speakers included Jewish leaders and an Italian survivor of Auschwitz.