Naples – An Italian politician has been suspended by his party after he appeared to make humorous remarks about the Holocaust.
38-year-old Naples councillor Giorgio Longobardi of the Brothers of Italy made the comments via Facebook. He joked that Italy’s left-wing Democratic Party wishes to broadcast films relating to the Holocaust films on television until the 25 September election to “avert the danger of ‘fascism’’”.
He said that films including Schindler’s List, Anne Frank’s Diary, The Pianist and Life is Beautiful would be broadcast in the lead-up to next month’s poll and that they would be “interspersed with insights and testimonies from the Holocaust survivors.”
Longobardi was quickly suspended and is now subject to an inquiry.
He has issued a statement reported on by Italian-language media in which he says he has “never made fun of the tragedy of the Holocaust, as some media outlets would like to believe with pre-election mastery in these hours.”
He argued that the post “is aimed only at highlighting the means that the left uses in the electoral campaign,” and claims to have been involved in a 15-year-long project with another councillor to oversee a scholarship “to keep alive the memory of the massacre of the Shoah and the Martyrs of the Foibe, destined for the students of the Falcone di Pianura school. All completely at our expense.”
The Foibe Massacres were a series of mass killings of mostly ethnic Italians in 1943 after Yugoslav partisans occupied parts of northeast Italy, Istria, and Dalmatia.
“For these reasons, I do not accept lessons on these issues from anyone, especially from those who systematically throw mud on the FDI and do not see a PD allied with Fratoianni, who represents the left that claims that Israel is a state that “dances on corpses,” Longobardi continued.
The Italy-Israel Federation and Naples’ Jewish community said in a joint statement that they were “lost for words” over Longobardi’s post which they argued was: “offensive to the memory of six million Jews”. The statement went on to say that the groups were not surprised by Longobardi’s comments, claiming that he allegedly “plastered his office” with posters praising Italy’s former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
The statement also said the incident evidenced the “arrogant” fascist and antisemitic opinions within the Brothers of Italy party.
Last week the party’s leader Giorgia Meloni, said Italy’s right-wing had “handed fascism over to history for decades now,” and that her party “unambiguously condemns the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws”.
Speaking last Wednesday, Meloni emphasised her party’s “shared values and experience” with Israel’s Likud party, the British Conservatives, and US Republicans.
During a National Conservatism conference in Rome in 2020, Meloni said that “modern national conservatives… defend – without the shameful ambiguity typical of the Left – the right of the State of Israel to its security and a future of peace and prosperity.”
Most of the party’s leadership, including Chamber of Deputies member Meloni, were previously involved with the National Alliance party that merged into The People of Freedom party in 2009. The National Alliance was founded as the heir to the post-fascist Italian Social Movement, founded in 1946 by supporters of the former wartime dictator.
Earlier this week Meloni faced criticism after footage of her being interviewed as a 19-year-old activist emerged in which she is recorded as saying: “I believe Mussolini was a good politician. Everything he did, he did for Italy. There have not been other politicians like him in the past 50 years.”
The party also faced criticism in May after officials were spotted dining at a Milanese restaurant where images and effigies of Benito Mussolini were on display.
Less than five years ago Meloni’s party was viewed as winning just 4.4 per cent of the vote in 2018’s general election. However recent opinion polls show FdI stands to gain almost a quarter of Italian votes. This would put Meloni on the path to prime ministership should she be successful in leading a coalition with Matteo Salvini’s Northern League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forward Italy parties respectively.