Giorgia Meloni, Italys hard-right leader, resents having to talk about Fascism. She has publicly, and in multiple languages, said that the Italian right has handed Fascism over to history for decades now. She argued that the problem with Fascism in Italy always begins with the electoral campaign, when the Italian left, she said, wheels out the black wave to smear its opponents.
But none of that matters now, she insisted in an interview this month, because Italians do not care. Italians dont believe anymore in this garbage, she said with a shrug.
Ms. Meloni may be proved right on Sunday, when she is expected to be the top vote-getter in Italian elections, a breakthrough far-right parties in Europe have anticipated for decades.
More than 70 years after Nazis and Fascists nearly destroyed Europe, formerly taboo parties with Nazi or Fascist heritages that were long marginalized have elbowed their way into the mainstream. Some are even winning. A page of European history seems to be turning.
Last week, a hard-right group founded by neo-Nazis and skinheads became the largest party in Swedens likely governing coalition. The far-right leader Marine Le Pen for a second consecutive time reached the final round of French presidential elections this year.
But it is Italy, the birthplace of Fascism, that looks likely to be led not only by its first female prime minister in Ms. Meloni but the first Italian leader whose party can trace its roots back to the wreckage of Italian Fascism.
People have become used to them, said John Foot, a historian of Fascism and the author of a new book, Blood and Power: The Rise and Fall of Italian Fascism. The taboo is long gone.
The indifference of Italian voters to the past, however, may have less to do with Ms. Melonis own personal appeal or policies than with Italys perennial hunger for change. But there is another force at work: Italys long postwar process even policy of deliberate amnesia to unify the nation that began essentially as soon as World War II ended.