Brexit: outrage over Auschwitz cartoon by Rome city artist

Rome-based artist Marione in hot water after depicting EU as Auschwitz.

Rome mayor Virginia Raggi has distanced herself from a cartoon depicting a jubilant fair-haired man waving a Union Jack as he flees a European Union portrayed as the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The image, which followed Boris Johnson's election victory in the UK, was created by Mario Improta, better known as Marione, the illustrator chosen by Raggi to undertake a high-profile series of educational cartoons for Rome's schools.

Marione has since removed the offending image, replacing the gates of the Nazi extermination camp with a European Union toilet, but not before the cartoon has received widespread condemnation.

Describing the use of Auschwitz for political satire as "a dangerous mistake", the president of Rome's Jewish community Ruth Dureghello called for the city to end its collaboration with the artist "as soon as possible".

The "shameful and offensive representation of Brexit" was also slammed by the opposition centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) which issued a statement reading: "Does Mayor Raggi still appreciate the satire of her trusted cartoonist? Is it appropriate that the campaign in progress in the schools signed by the so-called "Marione" is continued?"

One of Marione's cartoons for Rome schools

Raggi, who takes Rome school children to Auschwitz each year, said: "That cartoon has nothing to do with [my] administration but I want to say that it does not represent my thoughts and that it offends my sensibilities in relation to issues that have always seen me personally involved."

Controversy surrounding the cartoon has since taken on wider dimensions with the Auschwitz Memorial tweeting in Italian: "Arbeit macht frei" was a cynical illusion that the SS gave to prisoners of #Auschwitz. Those words have become one of the icons of human hatred. It is painful for the memory of Auschwitz and its victims to see this symbol used and shamefully abused."