Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a very colorful figure in European politics, to put it in the most friendly way possible. In fact, he is a convicted criminal, sentenced for tax fraud. But that is not my topic here.
Silvio’s assorted Nazi comparisons
Berlusconi has a record of inflammatory statements regarding contemporary Germany’s dealing with its Nazi past.
In 2003, Berlusconi addressed German social democratic MEP Martin Schulz, suggesting he might be a good fit for playing a concentration camp guard in a Holocaust movie.
Now, in the context of the 2014 elections for the European Parliament, Berlusconi claimed that “[for] the Germans, [. . .], concentration camps never existed.”
Mainstream contemporary Germany does not deny the Holocaust
This is of course factually wrong when talking about Germany in 2014—which Berlusconi did. And frankly, it is quite offensive to the majority of contemporary Germans who are not Holocaust deniers (including myself). If you should happen to be in Germany, just turn on a TV and you will notice that public television stations regularly broadcast documentaries about all kinds of aspects of Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust.
In case you did not know, Holocaust denial is also a punishable offence under German law.
Now there are actual valid debates about Germany’s dealings with its past and reasonable criticisms of phenomena like racism and antisemitism in contemporary Germany. There are, for instance, discussions about the ‘unburdening’ function the official national ‘culture of remembrance’ serves for the wider German society.
Berlusconi, apologist of Italian fascism
That being said, Silvio Berlusconi is neither a man interested in nor qualified to contribute to those debates. As a chief apologist for Italian fascism—his convenient narrative claiming that ‘good’ Italian fascists were merely misled by Hitler and the German Nazis—Berlusconi discredits himself from the get-go.
This is a cheap provocation, a misrepresentation of history, and a vulgar spewing of bile by perhaps the most pompuous political clown of Europe.
What repulses me especially is that Berlusconi is not above exploiting this most serious issue for cheap political points. I think the political culture of Italy and Europe would improve if he did us all a favor and moved on into retirement.