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.

Local officials initially dismissed the incident, which was filmed and circulated on social media by the so-called “ultras” themselves, as a “prank.”

Condemnation came only several months later, after another video from the same summer party also went viral.

“These episodes should absolutely not be dismissed,” said Bruno Carmi, the head of Verona’s tiny Jewish community, speaking at the city synagogue, which was 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, and anti-migrant rhetoric is playing an unprecedented role in shaping the campaign for the country’s March 4 national election.

Hate crimes motivated by racial or religious bias in Italy rose more than 10-fold from 71 incidents in 2012 to 803 in 2016, according to police, a period corres­ponding with an explosion in migrant arrivals.

Read the report in The Australian.

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