• Germany's news in English

Germany: Berlusconi Holocaust claim 'absurd'

AFP/The Local · 28 Apr 2014, 14:40

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd