Italy’s Jewish locals insulted by comedian-politician’s remarks

Beppe Grillo changes Primo Levi’s "If This is a Man," replacing Holocaust with references to evils of government in Rome.

April 17, 2014 04:17
2 minute read.
Beppe Grillo

Beppe Grillo.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


ROME – Beppe Grillo, a comedian as well as founder and leader of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), defended his use of the Holocaust, Auschwitz and Primo Levi as a launching pad for ferocious criticism against the president, prime minister and the entire Italian parliament.

Grillo’s blog published a photo of the infamous Arbeit macht frei (Work makes free) sign above the gates of Auschwitz, retouched to read “P2 macht frei.” P2 is a secretive – and, in the eyes of many, subversive – Italian Masonic lodge that counts many politicians among its members.

Grillo also paraphrased Primo Levi’s famous poem If This is a Man, renaming it “If This is a Country” and replacing Levi’s references to the Holocaust with references to the evils of Italy’s government.

The Italian Jewish community and opinion leaders of all origins were outraged.

Renzo Gattegna, president of the Italian Jewish community, said Grillo’s words “are an obscenity against which we cannot remain silent.

They provoke attitudes of anti-Semitism by straddling the popular discontent that increases during these times of crisis.”

Gattegna accused Grillo of “criminal desecration of the value of the memory of millions of innocent victims.”

Asked by the media whether he would apologize to the Jewish community, Grillo replied that he had nothing to apologize for, saying the community’s president was “stupid, ignorant, not very intelligent and harms the community,” adding that he should be replaced.

“When you touch the powerful, these things surface, these lobbies, lobbies of business. It is they who hide behind certain tragedies,” he said. “Who is behind [Carlo] De Benedetti [an Italian Jewish industrialist], who is behind the banks, behind the finance?” This financial power, Grillo added, “causes Holocausts once a year, once a month, once a day.... Rwanda, the gas in Syria... the financial and banking systems cause thousands of deaths every year.”

Grillo’s blog often indulges in conspiracy theories that obliquely refer to Jewish power without saying so by name. In the past he accused the Mossad of being behind MEMRI, a media watchdog group that, according to him, purposely “mistranslated” statements by former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Grillo’s political and business partner, Gianroberto Casaleggio, a network strategist who edits the blog, has produced apocalyptic videos foreseeing a future of virtual “Internet democracy” by the survivors of a predictable global war. Blog commentators often indulge in anti-Semitic fantasies.

According to recent surveys, Grillo’s prospective voters have risen to 25 percent of the electorate. The rest of the country is concerned that his populist, anti-European Union rhetoric will win him seats in the May elections for the EU parliament and make M5S Italy’s second-largest political party, paralyzing a future government.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speaks during the Missile Defense Review
May 25, 2019
U.S. Defense Secretary to meet his Chinese counterpart in Singapore