Speeches of former Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini are the new rage in Italy, where Apple's iPhones include an application for downloading audio, video and text of 100 of his speeches. Mussolini introduced anti-Semitic laws in 1938 and was an active ally of Nazi Germany.
The application was launched in January, the same month as Holocaust Remembrance Day and shortly after Pope Benedict XVI made an historic visit to Rome’s central synagogue.
Italians have downloaded the speeches at the rate of 1,000 a day, infuriating local Jews and descendants of Holocaust victims and survivors elsewhere. The “iMussolini” application is subtitled "the man who changed the history of our country” and is more popular than a video game based on the film Avatar.
Mussolini’s granddaughter Alessandra Mussolini, a far-right politician, defended the application, arguing that "whether you like it or not, my grandfather's speeches are part of history."
Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, stated, "It is a disgrace and a surrender to crass commercialism that the Apple computing company has approved the release of this 'app' through their online iTunes store. This is an insult to the memory of all victims of Nazism and Fascism, Jew and non-Jew, and should be condemned for its offence to decency and conscience."
Former head of the Jewish community in Rome, Tullia Zevi, said the “app” was part of the "the slide towards legitimizing fascism and the rehabilitation of Mussolini.”
iPhone officials said they will not remove the application but will remove offensive fascist slogans that some users have posted in stores selling the phones. Luigi Marino, the creator of the application, argued that all of the iPhone speeches are available at libraries and that he is not an apologist for fascism.
However, historians in recent years have published revisionist views of the avowed fascist Mussolini, whose image has gained popularity in recent years on calendars, T-shirts and souvenirs.