Briefs 0128


Berlusconi under fire for praising Mussolini

ROME — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi praised Benito Mussolini for “having done good” despite the Fascist dictator’s anti-Jewish laws, immediately sparking expressions of outrage as Europe on Sunday held Holocaust remembrances.

Berlusconi also defended Mussolini for allying himself with Hitler, saying he likely reasoned that it would be better to be on the winning side.

The media mogul, whose conservative forces are polling second in voter surveys ahead of next month’s election, spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Milan to commemorate the Holocaust.

In 1938, before the outbreak of World War II, Mussolini’s regime passed the so-called “racial laws,” barring Jews from Italy’s universities and many professions, among other bans. When Germany’s Nazi regime occupied Italy during the war, thousands from the tiny Italian Jewish community were deported to death camps.

“It is difficult now to put oneself in the shoes of who was making decisions back then,” Berlusconi said of Mussolini’s support for Hitler. “Certainly the (Italian) government then, fearing that German power would turn into a general victory, preferred to be allied with Hitler’s Germany rather than oppose it.”

Holocaust items put on display for remembrance day

JERUSALEM — When Stella Knobel’s family fled World War II Poland in 1939, the only thing the 7-year-old girl could take with her was her teddy bear. For the next six years, the stuffed animal never left her side as the family wandered through the Soviet Union, to Iran and finally the Holy Land.

“He was like family. He was all I had. He knew all my secrets,” the 80-year-old said with a smile. “I saved him all these years. But I worried what would happen to him when I died.”

So when she heard about a project launched by Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum, to collect artifacts from aging survivors, she reluctantly handed over her beloved bear Misiu, Polish for “teddy bear,” so the memories of the era could be preserved.

“We’ve been through a lot together, so it was hard to let him go,” said Knobel, who was widowed 12 years ago and has no children. “But here he has found a haven.”

The German Nazis and their collaborators murdered 6 million Jews during World War II. In addition to rounding up Jews and shipping them to death camps, the Nazis also confiscated their possessions and stole their valuables, leaving little behind. Those who survived often had just a small item or two they managed to keep. Many have clung to the sentimental objects ever since.

Obama heaps praise on Clinton

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama lauded Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as one of his closest advisers and said their shared vision for America’s role in the world persuaded his one-time rival — and potential successor — to be his top diplomat while he dealt with the shattered economy at home.

During a joint interview that aired Sunday, Obama and Clinton chuckled as they described their partnership and stoked speculation that Obama may prefer Clinton to succeed him in the White House after the 2016 elections. Clinton is leaving Obama’s Cabinet soon, and speculation about the former first lady and senator has only grown more intense after a heated appearance last week on Capitol Hill.

Both Obama and Clinton batted away questions about future campaigns, but the joint interview — the president’s first with anyone other than first lady Michelle Obama — was only likely to increase the fascination with Clinton’s future.

Obama, who suggested the joint interview as Clinton prepared her exit from the State Department, lavished praise on his rival for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. He called her a friend and an extraordinary talent, and praised “her discipline, her stamina, her thoughtfulness, her ability to project.”

By wire sources