WHEN HUNDREDS OF hardcore Verona soccer fans chanted “Adolf Hitler is my friend,” and sang of their team’s embrace of the swastika, Italian Jewish communities complained, and waited.
Local officials initially dismissed the incident — which was filmed and circulated on social media by the so-called “ultras” themselves — as a “prank.” Condemnation only came several months later, after another video from the same summer party, this time profaning Christian objects, also went viral.
“These episodes should absolutely not be dismissed,” said Bruno Carmi, the head of Verona’s tiny Jewish community of about 100, speaking at the Verona synagogue, which is flanked by two armed police patrols. “In my opinion, whoever draws a simple swastika on the wall knows what it means.”
Racist and anti-Semitic expressions in Italy have been growing more bold, widespread, and violent. Anti-migrant rhetoric is playing an unprecedented role in shaping the campaign for the country’s March 4 national election, which many say is worsening tensions and even encouraging violence.
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Photo: A picture of Benito Mussolini is displayed at an open-air antiques market in Soave, neat Verona, September 2017 (Colleen Barry/AP)