Silvio Berlusconi, on Way to Prison, Claims Germans Deny Holocaust

Tax Cheating Ex-Premier Takes Swipe at Nemesis

getty images

By Reuters

Published April 26, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, about to begin a sentence for tax fraud, provoked fresh outrage from his political opponents on Saturday by suggesting that Germany did not acknowledge the existence of World War Two concentration camps.

Berlusconi provoked the latest in a long line of controversies when he took another swipe at his old foe Martin Schulz, the German president of the European parliament and the centre-left candidate to lead the EU Commission.

Referring to the storm created in 2003 when he jokingly offered Schulz a film part as a concentration camp “kapo”, an inmate appointed as overseer, Berlusconi told a party meeting that the comments were made in a spirit of ironical humour.

“I said, nicely, that I’d get him a job given that a film director friend of mine was planning to make a film on the German concentration camps,” he said.

He then added: “According to the Germans, there never were concentration camps.”

The Party of European Socialists (PES), the umbrella party that groups European centre-left parties, described the comments as “despicable” and called on the centre-right European People’s Party, to which Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is affiliated, to condemn them.

“These comments by Berlusconi are an insult to the entire German people and not only an insult to Martin Schulz,” said PES President Sergei Stanishev in a statement.

Germany, which has gone to great lengths since World War Two to acknowledge and confront the atrocities committed during its Nazi past, is unlikely to be amused. But whether the comments will do Berlusconi any harm among the hardcore supporters who remain faithful to him at home is another matter.

Casual anti-German rhetoric has risen sharply since the outbreak of the eurozone crisis. Austerity measures imposed to shore up public finances have been blamed by many political forces on demands by Berlin and Brussels.

Berlusconi said his centre-right Forza Italia would pick up around 20 percent support in upcoming elections to the European parliament at the end of May.

That would be roughly in line with recent opinion polls which put it behind Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Explaining the original comments about Schulz, Berlusconi said that he had been thinking of a character in “Hogan’s Heroes”, a 1960s comedy about a prisoner of war camp in which a quick-witted American runs rings around his stupid German guard, Sergeant Schultz.

“I was thinking of paying him a compliment. A fundamental mistake,” he said.

Berlusconi is expected soon to begin serving a community service order imposed after his conviction for tax fraud last year. The order limits his movements but does not restrict his political activity.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.