"It was like being punched in the stomach," Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said after visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem Monday evening along with a number of his ministers.
Berlusconi's entourage was accompanied by Education Minister Gideon Saar and Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev. At the end of the tour Berlusconi laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance and signed the Yad Vashem Guest book. "Our soul screams out – 'This cannot be'. Then it jolts and bellows - Never again!'," he wrote.
Berlusconi at Yad Vashem (Photo: AFP)
Shalev said the Italian premier was clearly moved by the visit. "He faced things that he could not even grasp and said he would remember the experience for a long time to come," said the museum chairman.
What particularly caught the Italian leader's attention was a photo album from Auschwitz and statistics on the number of European Jews killed during the war.
Earlier Monday, Berlusconi said his "greatest desire" was to see Israel join the European Union.
The Italian leader met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later described the meeting as "extremely important" to Jerusalem's relations with Rome.