Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said his children “feel like the families of Jews… under Hitler’s regime”.
In an interview for Italian television, the 77-year-old billionaire declared “the whole world is against us”, as he complained of being hounded the country’s judiciary and compared his family’s experience to that of the approximately six million Jews murdered by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust.
Berlusconi is currently facing allegations of tax fraud, abuse of office, bribery, defamation and the soliciting of minors for sex. In August he was convicted for a €7.3 million tax fraud vomited between 1994 and 1998.
His latest comments immediately drew condemnation from Jewish groups, with Renzo Gettegna of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities saying they were “offensive to the memory of those deprived of every right and, after atrocities and unutterable suffering, their lives”.
Nichi Vendola of the head of the Left, Ecology, Freedom political party tweeted: “To trivialise a terrible tragedy such as the Shoah for an everyday political polemic as Berlusconi has done is chilling.”
This is not the first time Berlusconi has courted controversy with his reckless references to the Second World War.
He previously compared the European Parliament’s German president to a Nazi prison guard, and reportedly once said “[Italian dictator] Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini used to send people on vacation in eternal exile.”
Berlusconi is also well-known for his greatly exaggerated, often offensive, comments regarding what he claims to be the unwarranted persecution he suffers at the hands of what he perceives to be militantly left-wing magistrates.
In recent months, a video was broadcast during which he claimed to be the victim of “judicial harassment unmatched in the civilised world”, and in 2009 he declared himself “without doubt the person who's been the most persecuted in the entire history of the world and the history of man”.
Later this month the Italian Senate will decide on whether Berlusconi should be stripped of his seat representing the Lombardy constituency under a law designed to block convicted criminals from working in parliament.
He has already been barred from public office for two years following his conviction for tax evasion.
Experts predict that, should Berlusconi be kicked out of the senate, not only would that finally bring an end to his long political career, it could also open him up to the risk of arrest in a number of ongoing criminal cases.