Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro drew veiled rebukes from Israel on Saturday after saying the Nazi genocide of the Jews during World War Two could be forgiven.
The far-right Bolsonaro made a solidarity visit to Israel last month during which he raised eyebrows by asserting, after a tour of the Holocaust memorial Yad Vadshem, that the Nazis had been “leftists.”
Addressing a group of Brazilian evangelicals on Thursday, Bolsonaro said: “We can forgive, but we can’t forget. That’s my phrase. Those who forget their past are condemned not to have a future.”
There was no immediate response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has cultivated ties with Bolsonaro.
But President Reuven Rivlin, whose role in Israel is largely ceremonial, wrote on Twitter: “Whether they be individuals or organizations, party heads or heads of state, no one will ordain the Jewish people’s forgiveness, nor can this be obtained through any interest.”
Yad Vashem said in a separate statement: “It is no one’s place to decide who can be forgiven and whether there should be forgiveness for the crimes of the Holocaust.”
Bolsonaro’s remarks directly contradicted information on the museum’s website saying Germany’s Nazi movement rose out of right-wing radical groups responding to the rise of communism.
The Brazilian president echoed previous remarks by his country’s foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, also claiming the Nazis were leftists.
Asked by reporters if he agreed with Araujo, Bolsonaro said, “There is no doubt, right?”
He went on to say that the Nazi party’s name was the National Socialist Party of Germany, which includes the word “socialist.” The official name was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
His visit had initially been seen as potentially boosting Netanyahu’s election prospects but fell short of the Israeli prime minister’s expressed hope that Brazil would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.