Italy: Meloni’s deputy minister blasted over 2005 Nazi uniform photo

A lawmaker of the far-right Brothers of Italy party who sparked outrage after a newspaper published a picture of him wearing a swastika on his left arm in 2005, was named junior infrastructure minister on Monday.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who personally announced Galeazzo Bignami‘s appointment at a news conference, is the leader of Fratelli d’Italia or Brothers of Italy, a party which traces its roots to the post-fascist Italian Social Movement, MSI.

Bignami, 47, was elected last month to a second term in parliament. 

The Bologna native and the son of lawyer Marcello Bignami — himself a far-right mainstay and former MSI representative — has long been part of the Italian radical right.

Before joining Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Bignami spent part of his political career in former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia.

The photo in question shows Bignami in a Nazi uniform standing next to another man wearing an SS armband at a bachelor party.

The image has caused uproar in the past, most recently in 2021 when Bignami was banned from appearing at the Festa de l’Unità, the annual social-democratic festival in Italy organised by the centre-left Democratic Party.

He said in a statement on Monday that he felt “profound shame” for the pictures and firmly condemned “any form of totalitarianism,” calling Nazism and any movement connected to it “the absolute evil”.

“Since I have been in the Brothers of Italy, the controversies have been revived, creating a doubt that they are raised not to blame (me for my) individual conduct, but to damage the party to which I belong today,” Bignami said according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

Meloni — who Bignami said he knew for three decades in an interview with the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera in September — did not comment on the photo. 

The Italian leader repeatedly condemned the infamous racist, anti-Jewish laws enacted by dictator Benito Mussolini in 1938 and last week told parliament she “never felt any sympathy for fascism”.

“I have always considered the (anti-Semitic) racial laws of 1938 the lowest point of Italian history, a shame that will taint our people forever,” she said in parliament.

Bignami will serve under the right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini, who is the infrastructure minister and deputy prime minister.

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