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Some in Italy are using Anne Frank’s name as an insult, Italian Jewish MP says

Emanuele Fiano raises concerns about the Holocaust receding from living memory

    The Democratic Party's Emanuele Fiano, one of the few Jewish MPs in Italy's parliament
    The Democratic Party's Emanuele Fiano, one of the few Jewish MPs in Italy's parliament (Photo: Emanuele Fiano)

    The parties that won Italy’s general election earlier this year have created an environment where antisemitism could flourish in the country, a leading Jewish MP has said.

    Emanuele Fiano, an MP for the centre-left Democratic Party (DP), said members of the populist Five Star Movement were demonstrating that as the Second World War recedes from living memory, many things were being forgotten.

    “The knowledge of certain periods and the values that they instilled are fading,” he said.

    “Families know less, young people know less, and then it happens that some use the name of Anne Frank as an insult.

    “Unfortunately, I think that this phenomenon is rather common.”

    55-year-old Mr Fiano, the son of a Holocaust survivor from Auschwitz, was active in the Jewish youth movement Hashomer Hatzair and spent a year in Israel working on a kibbutz.

    An architect by profession who also served as president of the Jewish community in Milan, he has been an MP since 2006 and achieved notoriety in the previous parliamentary term for a bill that would have broadened Italy’s existing crime of being an apologist for Mussolini’s fascist regime.

    The move triggered a public debate, with some arguing the law was no longer needed. Others labelled it a move against freedom of expression, while Mr Fiano himself was subjected to antisemitic slurs.

    He told the JC he could not speak for all Italian Jews — “because here, as everywhere in the world, Jews have many different opinions” — before saying many were indeed concerned.

    “Very few people noticed but in [this year’s] elections, the far-right group Casapound got nine times the votes of 2013, although still less than one per cent,” he said.

    He added: “The winners of these elections want to leave behind the differences between left and right and they are not interested in the ideals of anti-Fascism, which is the pillar of our democracy.

    “With the world-wide web that offers everything — history but also trash — often people have no tools to distinguish between them. This is the direction we are going in, and it will get worse.

    “I’m afraid that wrong ideals, like Fascism and Nazism, will become more and more popular and accepted in the public sphere.

    “This is worrisome, not only for Jews but for everyone.”

    Italy has been in political limbo since the March 4 vote produced a hung parliament. A centre-right alliance led by the anti-immigrant Northern League won the most votes.

    Five Star, which became the single largest party, is exploring the possibility of coalition talks with the third-placed DP, after earlier attempts to strike a deal with the League failed.

    DP leader and former prime minister Matteo Renzi resigned after the election, saying his party needed to spend a period in opposition, but a faction led by acting leader Maurizio Martina this week called a meeting to decide whether to hold talks with Five Star.

    Mr Fiano said Five Star was a difficult movement to define.

    It opposes traditional political parties and “positions itself as standing by the people who have been left behind by globalisation”, which has helped establish a base for its support, he said.

    But he cautioned against the movement’s plans to introduce plebiscites and votes over the internet, saying there were “abandoning representative democracy for a direct online democracy”.