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Italy senate speaker La Russa slams 1944 partisan attack in Rome

Italy's partisan association ANPI brands La Russa's words "shameful".

Italy's senate speaker Ignazio La Russa was at the centre of a political controversy on Friday after he criticised the partisan attack in Rome that led to the Fosse Ardeatine massacre in 1944.

La Russa, 75, made his comments in a podcast interview with Libero Quotidiano, days after he joined Italy's president Sergio Mattarella at a ceremony to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the Fosse Ardeatine atrocity in which the Nazis murdered 335 anti-fascist prisoners, Jews and civilians.

The massacre was in retaliation for the partisan attack on Via Rasella which killed 33 members of the SS Bozen Police Regiment, or Polizeiregiment Südtirol, a military unit recruited in the largely ethnic-German Alto Adige region of north-east Italy.

La Russa, a founding member of premier Giorgia Meloni's right-wing Fratelli d'Italia party, described the Via Rasella attack as a page in the history of the resistance "that was anything but noble".

"Those killed were a musical band made up of semi-pensioners, not SS Nazis," La Russa said, adding that the partisans "were well aware of the risk of reprisals on Roman citizens, anti-fascists and non".

La Russa, who displayed his collection of Mussolini memorabilia in viral video footage from 2018, was speaking in defence of Meloni who stirred a controversy last week by claiming that the victims of the Fosse Ardeatine massacre were killed because there were Italians, rather than because they were anti-fascists.

"La Russa's words are simply unworthy of the high office he holds and represent yet another very serious rift aimed at absolving fascism and delegitimising the Resistance," said Gianfranco Pagliarulo, president of Italy's partisan association ANPI which preserves the memory of the resistance movement against fascism.

"The third battalion of the Polizeiregiment hit on Via Rasella, as it marched armed to the teeth, was completing its training to go on to fight the Allies and the partisans, as actually happened" - Pagliarulo stated - "The other two battalions of the Polizeiregiment had long been engaged in Istria and Veneto against the partisans."

Elly Schlein, leader of the centre-left opposition Partito Democratico (PD) described La Russa's words as "indecent, unacceptable for the role he holds."

Carlo Calenda, leader of the centrist Azione party, wrote on Twitter: "I admire the determination with which La Russa is managing to demonstrate every day his inadequacy as president of the senate."

Photo credit: Alessia Pierdomenico / Shutterstock.com

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