Italy: Holocaust-denying academic sparks row

ROME (AKI) - The Holocaust denying views of an Italian academic at the University of Rome 'La Sapienza', Antonio Caracciolo, has sparked calls for him to resign. The 59-year-old philosophy of law researcher's blogs have described the World War II Nazi Holocaust - or extermination of six million Jews - as "a legend" and claim the gas chambers "are one of many 'truths' which need to be verified."

The head of Rome's Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, said it will take legal action against the academic.

In 2007, Italy's previous centre-left government, headed by Romano Prodi, passed a law making Holocaust denial a crime.

"We are waiting for the university to take measures to protect students and will certainly be taking action against Caracciolo," Pacifici said.

"We are confident the university won't be the only institution to act and that the whole of civil society will react."

The rector of 'La Sapienza', Luigi Frati has announced the university "will consider taking disciplinary action" against Caracciolo, without giving any further details.

"He would do well to visit Dachau, which I visited when I was 16, or if he can't manage that, the Ardeatine Caves," said Frati.

He was referring to the former Nazi concentration camp in southern Germany and to the notorious World War II massacre of 333 Italian civilians in Rome by Nazi troops.

Rome's mayor Gianni Alemanno has stated his opposition to university lecturers with such views. "I don't think a professor who holds Holocaust-denying views can teach at 'La Sapienza," he stated.

The president of the Lazio region surrounding Rome, Piero Marazzo, and of the Province of Rome, Nicola Zingaretti condemned Caracciolo's views.

'La Sapienza' professors and students also expressed shock and dismay at the content of Caracciolo's blogs.

The head of the Political Science Faculty, where Caracciolo teaches, Gianluigi Rossi, said it was "a very bad day". Social sciences undergraduate Massimo, from Florence, described Caracciolo's Holocaust-denying views as "extremely serious."

Caracciolo has denied he is a "historical revisionist" and says he believes in freedom of thought and expression which are guaranteed under the Italian constitution.

It is not the first time that an Italian academic has expressed such views. In November last year, Roberto Valvo, a high-school history teacher was suspended after he claimed there was "no proof" of the Holocaust.

In May 2007, authorities barred a visit to Italy by the French Holocaust denying historian Robert Faurisson, on the invitation of Claudio Moffa, a lecturer at the Univerity of Teramo in Italy's central Abruzzo region.

The move came after heated protests from Italy's Jewish community. Caracciolo had defended the planned debate.

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