Controversy comes a week before run-off vote for Rome mayor.
Rome centre-right mayoral candidate Enrico Michetti faces accusations of anti-Semitism one week before he goes head to head with Roberto Gualtieri, centre-left, in a run-off election to decide the future first citizen of the Italian capital.
The aspiring mayor finds himself in the middle of a controversy over an article he wrote last year, published on the website of Radio Radio where he has long been a host, and unearthed by the left-wing newspaper Il Manifesto.
In his article from February 2020 Michetti argued that the Holocaust is commemorated more than other massacres in history, such as the Foibe, because the Jews "control banks and a lobby capable of deciding the fate of the planet."
Emanuele Fiano, an MP for the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) and prominent figure in the Italian Jewish community, strongly condemned Michetti's words.
In a Facebook post, Fiano said that similar expressions were used by Hitler and Goebbels, describing them as "phrases that are part of the worst heritage of anti-Semitism that bloodied Europe between the 30s and 40s of the last century, accompanying millions and millions of people to the gas chambers."
Addressing Michetti directly he wrote: “I hope you will be ashamed of these words for the rest of your life. I have no pity for adults, cultured, who in 2020 make such a remark. I will not accept excuses. You don't deserve excuses."
Carlo Calenda, who ran in the mayoral election and in recent days gave his backing to Gualtieri, also lashed out against Michetti's remarks. "This 'article' by Enrico Michetti is much more serious than the usual nonsense about Rome and [his] non-existent or copied [election] programme" - wrote Calenda on Twitter - "Repeating the clichés of anti-Semitism is not tolerable."
The president of Rome's Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello, said: "Michetti's words are dangerous and hide a disturbing prejudice”, while the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) Noemi Di Segni, said: "The thought that our city institutions would be led by people whose thinking is steeped in prejudice makes one tremble."
Michetti responded to the growing controversy last night by saying: “The Holocaust was unique in its inhumanity against men and women who had done no wrong whatsoever, the lowest point in history. The utmost vigilance and unity is required by everyone against all forms of anti-Semitism so that what happened never happens again, not even in other guises."
During a visit yesterday to Ponte di Ferro, the Rome bridge seriously damaged by fire last weekend, Michetti said he would like to name streets after the 10 women killed there by Nazi-fascists on 7 April 1944.
The controversy comes 10 days after an explosive investigative report by Fanpage, aired on Italian television, uncovered alleged money laundering and illicit financing involving senior figures from the Fratelli d'Italia (FdI) party - which is backing Michetti - and their associates in Milan.
FdI leader Giorgia Meloni said subsequently that there is no space for racism or anti-Semitism in her party and has demanded to see the "full 100 hours" of footage which includes explicit racist, fascist and sexist jokes as well as anti-Semitic comments and references to Hitler.
The so-called Lobby Nera scandal broke days before local elections in which the biggest winner for Rome's city council was FdI candidate Rachele Mussolini, granddaughter of Italy's fascist dictator, who won more than 8,000 votes.
The run-off between Michetti and Gualtieri will be held in Rome on 17-18 October.
Photo of Enrico Michetti by La Repubblica