A leading candidate to become the next mayor of Rome has come in for furious criticism after saying that the Holocaust is commemorated chiefly because Jews have huge political power and “control the banks”.
Enrico Michetti, a radio presenter, lawyer and candidate for the Right, claimed that other mass killings in history were remembered less well because the victims “did not own banks and did not belong to a lobby that is capable of deciding the destiny of the planet.”
He made the remarks in an article he wrote last year which until now had gone largely unnoticed.
Mr Michetti, who is up against a candidate from the centre-Left in a run-off vote in the Italian capital this weekend, was accused of antisemitism by politicians and Jewish groups.
“My grandparents, who were gassed at Auschwitz, were much poorer than you, Michetti, as were my uncle and aunt and my great uncles and aunts,” said Emanuele Fiano, a Jewish MP from the centre-Left Democratic Party.
He said he hoped Mr Michetti would be “ashamed of these words for the rest of your life.”
Mr Michetti was forced to issue a hasty apology, saying that the millions of Jewish men and women who were murdered during the Holocaust “were not to blame in any way.”
He apologised for “having wounded the feelings of the Jewish community” in Italy and said the Shoah was “history’s lowest point”.
It is not the first time that Mr Michetti’s views have sparked outrage.
On the campaign trail earlier this year, he suggested that the city’s inhabitants should revive the stiff-armed Roman salute because that way they could greet each other without the risk of touching and spreading Covid-19.
The Roman salute is closely associated with Italy’s 20 years under Benito Mussolini and Mr Michetti was accused of being nostalgic for the Fascist era.
He is supported as a candidate for mayor by an alliance of Right-wing parties, including the far-Right Brothers of Italy.
Mr Michetti won the most votes in the first round of voting in the mayoral election but failed to reach a threshold of 50%, meaning that he faces a run-off vote this weekend against Roberto Gualtieri, a former economy minister who is the candidate for the centre-Left.
There is speculation that the centre-Left vote, which was split between two or three candidates in the first round, will now coalesce around Mr Gualtieri, securing him the job.
Rome has been overshadowed by the ghosts of fascism and antisemitism in the lead-up to the vote.
Municipal councilor of Brothers of Italy National Alliance, Rachele Mussolini
Credit: Stefano Montesi/Corbis via Getty Images
During the first round of voting in Rome’s elections, the most popular candidate was Rachele Mussolini, granddaughter of Il Duce and a member of Brothers of Italy.
In violent protests in the capital at the weekend, neo-Fascists from the Forza Nuova group and other demonstrators attacked the headquarters of a Left-wing union, fought running battles with riot police and even launched an assault on a hospital.
Ostensibly, they were protesting against the requirement, starting this Friday, that all employees in the public and private sectors must show evidence of having been vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to swab tests every two days and present negative results.
Among the tourists and passersby to be caught up in the violence was the American singer and actor Jared Leto, who filmed the clashes and shared the footage with his 10 million followers on Instagram.
“Got teargassed then called it a night,” said the Hollywood star.
Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Brothers of Italy, conspicuously failed to condemn the protests, saying she had yet to understand the “matrix” of the situation.
On Monday, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) presented a motion in parliament calling on Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s administration to dissolve Forza Nuova and all political movements of neo-fascist inspiration.