Italy’s former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who blames his tax fraud conviction on persecution by magistrates, says his children “feel like the Jews under Hitler”.
“My children tell me they feel like the families of Jews in Germany must have felt under Hitler’s regime. The whole world is against us,” he is quoted as saying in an upcoming collection of interviews with journalist Bruno Vespa, an extract of which was released Wednesday.
The 77-year-old media magnate is renowned for his off-colour comments and diplomatic gaffes, in the past likening a German member of the European Parliament to a Nazi guard and describing US President Barack Obama as “suntanned”.
The head of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gettegna, slammed the latest slur as “not only inappropriate and incomprehensible but also offensive to the memory of those deprived of every right and, after atrocities and unutterable suffering, their lives”.
Berlusconi’s comments also sparked furore across the Italian centre-left.
“To trivialise a terrible tragedy such as the Shoah for an everyday political polemic as Berlusconi has done is chilling,” Nichi Vendola, head of the Left, Ecology, Freedom (SEL) party, said in a tweet.
Berlusconi was sentenced to 12 months in prison earlier this year for tax fraud and has subsequently also been barred from holding public office for two years.
He insists he is innocent and blames his long history of legal woes on left-wing magistrates he says are determined to ensure his political demise.
Italy’s Senate on Tuesday announced it will vote on November 27 on whether to strip him of his seat under a law banning convicted criminals from parliament.
The flamboyant ex-premier has asked to serve his sentence in the form of community service and could find himself working in an old people’s home or stacking shelves in a supermarket, though the punishment is not likely to be meted out before next year.
Amid rumours he could try and flee into exile, Berlusconi insisted in the interview he was “100 percent Italian”.
“My roots are here. It’s my country, the country I love and where I have everything: family, friends, businesses, my home,” he said.
“I cannot even imagine leaving Italy.”
His comments appeared at odds with his views two years ago.
In 2011, he was caught in a wiretap describing Italy as a country that “sickens” him.
In another part of the interview released Tuesday, Berlusconi appeared still to be clinging to the hope Italian President Giorgio Napolitano would grant him an official pardon for his conviction.
“A pardon can be granted… so there is still time,” he said.
Barbara Berlusconi — the daughter of the former Italian premier — attends a Serie A match at the San Siro stadium in Milan, on November 10, 2010
Piersilvio Berlusconi — the son of the former Italian premier — attends the 66th Venice film festival on September 2, 2009