By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, January 27, 2013
ROME (AP) — Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy praised the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini for having been a good leader in many respects, despite his responsibility for anti-Jewish laws, immediately prompting expressions of outrage on Sunday as Europeans held Holocaust remembrances.
Mr. Berlusconi also defended the dictator for allying himself with Hitler, saying that Mussolini probably reasoned that it would be better to be on what he thought would be the winning side.
Mr. Berlusconi, whose conservative coalition is second in voter surveys ahead of next month’s elections, spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Milan on Sunday to commemorate the Holocaust.
In 1938, before World War II started in Europe, Mussolini’s regime passed racial laws barring Jews from Italy’s universities and from many professions, among other restrictions. When Germany’s Nazi regime occupied Italy during the war, thousands of Italian Jews were deported to death camps. The Italian government at the time, he said,
The racial laws
Calls that Mr. Berlusconi be prosecuted for promoting Fascism quickly followed his comments.
Hours later, Mr. Berlusconi issued a statement saying he regretted that he had not made it clear that his historical analyses “are always based on condemnation of dictatorships,” the Italian news agency LaPresse reported.