Giorgia Meloni’s party has been forced to suspend a councillor who outraged Italy’s Jewish community with supposedly humorous comments about the Holocaust.
Giorgio Longobardi, 38, a councillor in Naples for the Brothers of Italy, suggested on Facebook that the left-wing Democrats planned to run endless Holocaust films on television until election day next month to alert Italy to the fascist danger.
Mentioning films such as Schindler’s List and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, he joked that gaps between films would be packed with “discussions and testimony from Holocaust survivors”.
In a joint statement, the Italy-Israel Federation and the Jewish community of Naples said that they were “lost for words” over the suggestion, which was “offensive to the memory of six million Jews”.
They added that they were not surprised by Longobardi’s brand of humour since he reportedly “plastered his office” with posters praising Benito Mussolini, Italy’s wartime dictator.
The episode showed that “arrogant” fascist and antisemitic opinions were to be found within the Brothers of Italy, the statement added.
Meloni, 45, swore that the Italian right had “handed fascism over to history for decades”.
She has insisted that the Brothers of Italy are now moderates, similar politically to Britain’s Conservative Party, and accuses Italy’s left, including the Democratic Party, of obsessing about her party’s past.
A descendant of the post-war MSI party, which was led by former fascists, the Brothers of Italy leads the polls following the collapse of Mario Draghi’s national unity government.
Longobardi was swiftly suspended, pending an inquiry.
It is the latest in a string of revelations about party members’ views on fascism. After Meloni said at a May conference that she was fed up with talk of the Brothers’ fascist roots, officials were seen celebrating in a Milanese restaurant where the walls were covered with pictures of Mussolini.
This week a video interview with Meloni from 1996 came to light. She was a 19-year-old political activist when it was filmed and is seen 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.”
Despite criticism, Meloni decided to retain in her party’s logo the flame symbol first used by the MSI, which is said to represent the eternal flame lit at Mussolini’s tomb.