On the 70th anniversary of anti-Jewish decrees in Italy, an Italian Auschwitz survivor has said the Roma population faces discrimination similar to Jews in Nazi Germany.
Italian officials agreed to call off fingerprinting the Roma, but would take a census
"History is repeating itself" in Italy, Piero Terracina said Friday, Nov. 14, at a conference marking the 70th anniversary of the notorious racial laws targeting Jews, which were approved by the Italian cabinet on Nov. 15, 1938.
"Everything started with the census of the Jews and the terrible consequences to which this led us," said Terracina, reported AFP news agency.
The 80-year-old Holocaust survivor was freed from the Auschwitz concentration camp in January 1945, shortly before the end of World War II.
The discriminatory decrees introduced in both Nazi Germany and Italy under then leader Benito Mussolini included the prohibition of mixed marriages between Jews and so-called "Aryans" and economic restrictions on Jews, among other measures.
Controversial laws affecting Roma
Roma were also persecuted by the Nazis
In September, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government came under fire from the European Union when it passed a controversial security package that seemed to be aimed against the country's large Roma community.
Significantly, city authorities in Rome have said they would conduct a census of the Roma population, but, under hefty pressure from the EU, agreed to cancel plans for mass fingerprinting.
The new deal also made illegal immigration a criminal offense with a prison sentence and made the use of minors to beg for money a crime punishable with up to three years in jail.
When Interior Minister Roberto Maroni announced the measures earlier this year, he said they were intended to "prevent phenomena such as begging."
Anti-Roma pages removed from Facebook
On Friday, the social networking portal Facebook said it had removed seven pages from its Web site that had been created by Italian far-right extremists to incite violence against Roma.
The European Parliament had lodged a complaint with the California-based company.
Facebook said it bans hateful material, but Shimon Samuels from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, told Reuters news agency that the portal should create technology to filter out "hate speech."
"It's not a new thing -- it's happened before, it's even happened before on Facebook," he said. "We are not surprised this group of really marginal Italian neo-Nazis have taken advantage of it."