Berlusconi praises Mussolini on day of Holocaust memorial

Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi praised Benito Mussolini for "having done good'' despite the Fascist dictator's anti-Jewish laws, immediately sparking expressions of outrage as Europe on Sunday held Holocaust remembrances.

Berlusconi also defended Mussolini for allying himself with Hitler, saying he likely reasoned that it would be better to be on the winning side. The media mogul, whose conservative forces are polling second in voter surveys ahead of next month's election, spoke on the sidelines of a ceremony in Milan to commemorate the Holocaust.

In 1938, before the outbreak of World War II, Mussolini passed the "racial laws,'' barring Jews from universities among other bans. When Germany occupied Italy, thousands from the tiny Italian Jewish community were sent to death camps.

"It is difficult now to put oneself in the shoes of who was making decisions then,'' Berlusconi said of Mussolini's support for Hitler. "The government then, fearing that German power would turn into a general victory, preferred to be allied with Hitler's Germany.'' He added "within this alliance came imposition of the fight against, and extermination of, the Jews. Thus, the racial laws are the worst fault of Mussolini, who, in so many other aspects, did good."

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