Beppe Grillo attacked for Holocaust poem parody

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The title of the blog post 'If this is a country' is a play on the title of Jewish-Italian writer Primo Levi’s classic ‘If this is a man'. Photo: Screengrab
12:19 CEST+02:00
Beppe Grillo, the leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), has outraged Italy’s Jewish community by publishing his own version of the opening verses of Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s classic ‘If this is a man’ on his blog.

The blog post was published on Monday morning under the title ‘Se questo é un paese’ (If this is a country), a play on the title of Jewish-Italian writer Primo Levi’s classic ‘Se questo é un uomo’ (If this is a man), which is based on his experiences of the Holocaust.

In the controversial post, Grillo describes Italy as a country controlled by the mafia and the Propaganda Due (P2), a masonic lodge operating between 1945 and 1976.

President Giorgio Napolitano is described as “a frightened old man” and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi a “buffoon from the provinces”.

The poem is published under a photo of the infamous gates to Auschwitz but with the slogan “P2 Macht Frei” instead of the original “Arbeit Macht Frei”.

Quoted in Corriere della Sera, Renzo Gattegna, from the Union for Italian Jewish Communities condemned the post.

“In the latest infamous provocation, Beppe Grillo publishes an image of the entrance to Auschwitz with the phrase ‘P2 Macht Frei’ on his blog and mangles the words of Primo Levi’s famous verses which open ‘If this is a man’ to advocate the lowest anti-Semitic sentiments and ride the popular discontent that thickens in these times of crisis,” he said.

“It’s an obscenity that cannot be ignored. Indeed, it’s a criminal profanation of the importance of the memory and the recollections of millions of innocent victims that offends the whole of Italy.”

Defending his blog post on a television show on Monday night, Grillo said: “Primo Levi is one of the greatest writers of the century, he wrote an extraordinary book. I am evoking it to honour him, because the teaching is that one should never lower one’s guard, because there is a Holocaust around the corner.”

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The outspoken leader, whose party took a quarter of the votes at last year's national election, continues to hit headlines in Italy for his outspoken views. Earlier this month, the leader reportedly told an Italian prostitute to ply her trade online in order to stay safe.

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