Across Europe people on Sunday remembered the Holocaust and those murdered by Nazi Germany. In Poland ceremonies were held at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Warsaw Ghetto.
In Italy, however, former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Benito Mussolini did much good despite his regime’s anti-Jewish laws.
Berlusconi also defended Mussolini for siding with Hitler, saying the late Fascist leader likely reasoned that German power would expand so it would be better for Italy to ally itself with Germany.
He was speaking to reporters Sunday on the sidelines of a ceremony in Milan to commemorate the Holocaust. When Germany’s Nazi regime occupied Italy during World War II, thousands from the tiny Italian Jewish community were deported to death camps. In 1938, before the war’s outbreak, Mussolini’s regime passed anti-Jewish laws, barring them from universities and many professions, among other bans.
Berlusconi called the laws Mussolini’s “worst fault” but insisted that in many other things “he did good.”
In Poland, Holocaust survivors, politicians, religious leaders and others are marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day with solemn prayers and the now oft-repeated warnings to never let such horrors happen again.
Events Sunday took place at sites including Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former death camp where Hitler’s Germany killed at least 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, in southern Poland. Sunday is the 68th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops in 1945.
In Warsaw, prayers were also held at a monument to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.
And in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI warned that “the memory of this immense tragedy, which above all struck so harshly the Jewish people, must represent for everyone a constant warning so that the horrors of the past are not repeated.”
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