Jewish leaders criticized Rome’s right-wing mayor for declaring that Italy’s Fascist-era anti-Semitic laws, not Fascism itself, constituted “absolute evil.”
Mayor Gianni Alemanno’s remark came in an interview published Sunday in Corriere della Sera newspaper while he was on a visit to Israel.
“Fascism was a more complex phenomenon,” Alemanno, who got his political start in the neo-Fascist movement, said. “Many people joined up in good faith and I don’t feel like labeling them with that definition. The racial laws desired under fascism, that spurred its political and cultural end, were absolute evil.”
Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini ruled Italy for two decades. Historians have estimated that thousands of Italian Jews were members of the Fascist party before the strict anti-Semitic racial laws were imposed in
Renzo Gattegna, head of the umbrella Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said the racial laws “were issued by the fascist regime, so it seems to me difficult to separate the two things.”
Rome’s Jewish community president Riccardo Pacifici said, “We are awaiting a strong, public clarification.” He added, “I hope Alemanno was misinterpreted.”