Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has stirred new controversy by likening his family situation to that of persecuted Jews living in Nazi Germany.
"My children say they know what Jewish families must have felt during the Hitler regime," Berlusconi said in an interview with journalist Bruno Vespa. "We really have everybody against us."
The former prime minister was answering a question on Wednesday about whether his family planned to sell his vast media empire, as well as publishing and insurance holdings because of Berlusconi's ongoing court cases.
Italy's Jewish community was outraged at the comparison. Renzo Gattegna, head of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities (Ucei) who told news agency DPA, “any comparison with what happened to the Berlusconi family is not only inappropriate and incomprehensible, but also offensive to the memory of those who lost all their rights and their lives, after dreadful and unspeakable sufferings.”
The head of Italy's Left, Ecology, Freedom (SEL) party, Nichi Vendola, posted on his Facebook page, that "to trivialize a terrible tragedy like the Holocaust for everyday political polemics, as Berlusconi has, is chilling."
Responding to the outcry of criticism on social media, Berlusconi said his friendship and support for Israel during his time as prime minister "leaves no doubt about my awareness of the tragedy of the Holocaust and respect for the Jewish people."
In spite of his legal woes, Berlusconi said in the interview he would never consider leaving Italy. "My roots are here. It's my country, the country I love and where I have everything: family, friends, businesses, my home," he said.
In August, the controversial politician was sentenced to four years jail for tax fraud. It is expected he will only serve one year by doing community service. It is thought he will lose his Senate seat as convicted lawmakers are not permitted to hold parliamentary office in Italy.The Italian Senate is due to vote on Berlusconi's fate on November 27.
An Italian court ruled in October that the former prime minister should face trial for corruption. He is accused of trying to bribe a senator.
The scandal prone politician is well-known for making controversial comments, such as calling US President Barack Obama "sun-tanned" after he was first elected in 2008. During a heated 2003 debate in the European Parliament, Berlusconi referred to German Social Democrat Martin Schulz as being like a Nazi concentration camp guard.
The German Nazi party murdered more than 6 million Jews in the Holocaust before and during World War II.
jlw/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)