“May results of the ballot indicate condemnation of extremism in the political arena, tarnished by the use of antisemitic stereotypes and hate speech.”

Paris and Rome, 18 October 2021

Recent months have seen a rise in far right and extreme left antisemitic crime throughout Europe. The former rides the noisy protest of the No-Vax, No-Green-Pass movement. Even more so during elections, as in the Italian municipal ballot, held in two rounds over the past weeks, where the extremists have raised the stakes, influencing and infiltrating the conservative camp as much as possible.

The case of Rome is particular. The right-wing candidate and reported front runner, Enrico Michetti, had banalized the Holocaust in a radio talk, making clear reference to [Jewish] “lobbies that own banks or are capable of deciding the destinies of the planet.”

On the eve of the municipal elections first round, Michetti found himself cornered by his own antisemitic remarks, thus apologized: “I used terms that still feed, with unforgivable lightness, today’s historical prejudices and ignoble stereotypes towards the Jewish people.” The Wiesenthal Centre monitored the election.

Considering the result of the ballot in Rome, the low turnout and the choice of a majority seemed fed up with populist antisemitic stereotypes, we hope the new centre-left Mayor will keep to municipal issues, one of which is to take action against hatemongering.

In an op-ed published in the Italian liberal-conservative daily “Il Foglio”, the Wiesenthal Centre paralleled between current extremist hijacking of rallies with events a century ago: the instability of Weimar Germany and the rise of Fascism in Italy and throughout continental Europe, that led to World War II and to the Holocaust.

See In Italian, co-authored by Shimon Samuels and Alex Uberti:
https://www.ilfoglio.it/politica/2021/10/17/news/la-riesumazione-ciclica-dell-antisemtismo-3177512/

The article recalls the 1944 Ardeatine Caves massacre, the murder of 335 Italian civilians and political prisoners, among which 75 Jews, by the Nazis, as a reprisal for the attack by the Resistance against thirty-three SS troops in occupied Rome.

The Centre had been active on this specific case, in 1995, to bring to trial Erich Priebke – the commanding officer of the Gestapo unit that had carried out the massacre – who, in post-War Italy, escaped through the Nazi ratline, finding refuge in Bariloche, Argentina.

Dr. Shimon Samuels, the Centre’s Director for International Relations, recalled, “After obtaining his extradition, we participated in a tormented 2-year trial. Priebke was first exonerated for simply ‘following orders’ – Hitler demanded ten Italians be executed in reprisal for each of the 33 Nazis killed. The Centre accompanied the Martyr’s families and the Roman Jewish community to obtain a final ruling of life imprisonment on the grounds that he executed 335, “five innocents too many!”

The Italian media and public opinion was with us.

Priebke died in 2013 at the age of 100 outliving the children of the Martyrs and buried in an unmarked grave. He was the prime example of Simon Wiesenthal’s aphorism, “Longevity is not a cause for impunity.”

We offer to work with the new Mayor on a campaign focussing on the Ardeatine Caves massacre as a case study against hate.