• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Germany: Berlusconi Holocaust claim 'absurd'

AFP/The Local · 28 Apr 2014, 14:40

Published: 28 Apr 2014 14:40 GMT+02:00

Italy's gaffe-prone former premier Silvio Berlusconi enraged his political opponents on Saturday by saying Germans do not believe World War II concentration camps existed.

"This is what I will say for the German government on the subject: the claims that were reported are so absurd that the government won't comment on them," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

Campaigning Saturday for the European elections in May, Berlusconi, 77, claimed that Germans denied the existence of Nazi concentration camps.

He made the comments while attacking a longtime nemesis, German Socialist Martin Schulz, who is current president of the European Parliament and the centre-left candidate in the race to lead the EU Commission.

The media mogul, who is campaigning for the European elections on behalf of his centre-right party despite a tax-fraud conviction, was defending comments he made in 2003, when he offered Schulz a part in a film as a "kapo", a camp inmate tasked with overseeing prisoners.

"I didn't want to insult him. But heavens above, according to the Germans, there never were concentration camps," he said.

"There is a man, called Schulz, who does not like Berlusconi, or Italy. Voting for the left means voting for him," he added.

The Party of European Socialists (PES) slammed the comments as "despicable" and called on the European People's Party (EPP) - the umbrella group to which Berlusconi's Forza Italia party belongs - to condemn his words. 

"These comments by Berlusconi are an insult to the entire German people and not only an insult to Martin Schulz. Moreover, they are a cynical attempt to distract from the real issues in this election like the need for more jobs and growth in Europe," PES president Sergei Stanishev said.

Germany's families minister Manuela Schwesig described Berlusconi's comments as "unspeakable".

Jean-Claude Juncker, Schulz's conservative challenger, called Monday on Berlusconi to withdraw the comments, saying they "sickened" him.

Seibert also declined to comment directly on a slogan used by Berlusconi's Forza Italia: "More Italy, Less Germany", stressing only the strong ties between Berlin and Rome.

"Germany works extremely closely and in a spirit of friendship with Italy on the European level and that will remain the case," he said. 

Story continues below…

The disgraced media magnate had bridled while in power at German demands for the eurozone's debt-mired countries to sharply curb their spending as a condition for European bailouts.

Berlusconi is known for ill-considered outbursts, including praising wartime dictator Benito Mussolini despite the Duce's persecution of Jews and allowing thousands to be deported to Auschwitz.

In 2003, he told an Italian magazine: "Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini used to send people on vacation in internal exile."

SEE ALSO: 'The mafia has infiltrated every sector in Germany'

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Chancellor Angela Merkel showing up French President François Hollande in a neighbourly battle of table manners. Photo: DPA.

Despite what stereotypes might have you believe, Germans aren't that different from the rest of us when it comes to social interactions. But these tips should at least help guide you through the minor quirks that come with your next dinner invitation.

Thugs' ‘dream cop’ in court for not investigating 100 cases
Fans at a VfL Bochum match set off flares. Photo: DPA

For three years a police officer in western Germany simply ignored many of the cases he was supposed to investigate. His trial started on Tuesday in Bochum.

Police arrest suspect in murder of Chinese student
Police secure the crime scene where Yanjie Lie's body was found on May 13th. Photo: DPA

Police have made an arrest in the case of a Chinese student murdered while she was out jogging a week ago, media reported on Tuesday.

Berlin thief shows heart in surprising act of kindness
Photo: DPA

Pickpockets are an ever more common phenomenon in the German capital. But sometimes they can surprise you.

Bayer's Monsanto bid
Monsanto takeover would be 'diabolical': environmentalists
An anti-Monsanto activist at a protest in Brandenburg in 2014. Photo: DPA

A proposed tie-up between Bayer and Monsanto has inflamed opinion in Germany where most people oppose genetically modified foods.

Why Greece is top of Germany's to-do list - again
Unemployed Greek workers with symbolically chained hands march on May 1st in Athens. Photo: DPA

Greece has been in the headlines more often this year for its front-line role in the refugee crisis than its finances – so just why is it top of Germany's agenda again all of a sudden?

Far-right AfD turns on itself over failed Muslim meeting
Jörg Meuthen. Photo: DPA

The co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany party has criticized his party colleagues after talks with Muslim leaders collapsed after just an hour on Monday.

Here's why Munich is worth 20 times more than Berlin
BMW's headquarters in Munich. Photo: DPA

The Bavarian capital leaves other German cities in the dust when it comes to where the highest-valued companies choose to plant their flag.

Bavaria tries to coax migrants into police force
Joachim Herrmann (cr) with police recruits in Nuremberg. Photo: DPA

Bavaria’s interior ministry has started a campaign to encourage more migrants to join up as officers of the law - whether they have a German passport or not.

Extremist violence 'exploded' in record year for refugees
Left-wing violence at the Blockupy protest in Frankfurt in March 2015. Photo: DPA.

It is now official: 2015 smashed all records for political violence, as the far right attacked refugee homes and the far left responded by attacking them in turn, Interior Ministry figures show.

Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that will stay with you forever
Technology
Church plans to connect with faithful at Wi-Fi 'Godspots'
Technology
Online hate speech can cost users thousands of Euros
Society
Bavarians in rush for non-lethal weapons licenses
Sport
Here's Germany's Mannschaft for Euro 2016
Culture
The Syrian pianist playing his way into Germans' hearts
The parrot who flew fast enough to trigger a speed camera
Business & Money
Surprise results give Germany strongest growth in two years
Technology
New law could let free Wi-Fi bloom across Germany
Politics
Berlin's plans to beef up the German army
Munich
The bloody knife attack that shocked a Bavarian town
National
Supermarkets must pay massive fine for fixing beer prices
Sport
Lufthansa's Euro 2016 ad takes aim at England
Culture
The 6 German words you need to know for spring
Culture
6 weird and wonderful ways Germans celebrate May 1st
Gallery
Feast your eyes on Germany in springtime bloom
National
4/20: Five things to know about weed in Germany
Berlin
Police break up hipster swarm at vegan restaurant opening
Politics
Merkel allows Erdogan case against German satirist to go ahead
Travel
7 of Germany's most jaw-dropping national parks
Hamburg
Gay penguins move to Hamburg to settle down
Business & Money
See-through €5 coin has collectors lining up
Health
Vegan hemp powder recalled over fear toddlers getting high
7,703
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd