Lawmaker who once wore swastika will be deputy minister in Italy’s new government

Galeazzo Bignami, 47, a member of the Brothers of Italy party, says he feels “profound shame” over the 2005 incident.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

An Italian lawmaker who has worn the Nazi swastika in the past will be the new deputy infrastructure minister in the country’s just-elected, right-wing government, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced Monday.

Galeazzo Bignami, 47, a second-term parliamentarian and a member of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, attended a bachelorette party in 2005 dressed in a black shirt with a band containing the German emblem on his left arm.

In 2016, an Italian newspaper published a picture of him wearing the swastika, which created an uproar at the time. Before the September elections it made the rounds again on the social networks, causing “indignation,” according to Italian media.

In a statement Monday, he both apologized for his actions and defended himself.

“I feel profound shame for those images,” Bignami said, adding, “I even find it humiliating having to respond to something that obviously is not so: for me, Nazism is absolute evil” which he “totally and unconditionally” condemned.

However, he found it “absurd” that he had to deal with the reappearance “after almost 20 years, of a photo taken in a private context and for which I have already apologized several times for having let myself be portrayed in a way that does not belong to me.”

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He challenged his critics to find any hint in his last “25 years of … political activity” of any support for Nazism, stating his “firm and total condemnation of anti-Semitism.”

Bignami also touted his positive ties to the Jewish community, telling the Corriere della Sera daily, “In all my political and institutional activities I have always expressed closeness, esteem, and support for the Jewish people and Israel, carrying out, since my first institutional assignment, unequivocal activities in this regard.”

According to the new junior minister, the furor over the old picture is meant to hurt his party more than himself personally. The Brothers of Italy was formed out of the post-fascist Italian Social Movement, but Meloni has worked hard to change its image to that of a mainstream conservative party.

She has expressed pro-Israel sentiments in recent years, saying that her party “defends without any reservations its right to exist and live in security” and that “the existence of the State of Israel is vital.”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid congratulated Meloni on her electoral victory last month, tweeting that he “look[ed] forward to working together to strengthen the ties between Jerusalem and Rome as well as in the international arena, including in international organizations and in the fight against antisemitism in Europe and in the Middle East.”

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