His comments drew criticism in Israel. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Center, which Bolsonaro visited during his trip to Israel last month, released a statement saying no one can decide if it is possible to forgive the crimes of the Holocaust.
Israeli president Reuven Rivlin posted his reaction on twitter: 'We will never give a hand to those who deny the truth or try to cause it to be forgotten' he said. 'Not by individuals, nor organizations, not by head of parties, nor by heads of states. No one will enjoin the forgiveness of the Jewish people, and no interest will buy it.'
There was no comment from the office of Prime Minister Netanyahu or from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but an Israeli official told Ynet that Bolsonaro's clarifications were "too little, too late" and that the Brazilian president did not walk back his comments.
In a letter to Israeli ambassador Yossi Shelley, Bolsonaro wrote: 'To the people of Israel, during my visit to Yad Vashem I wrote that those who forget their past are doomed to not have a future. Any other interpretation of my words is the work of those wishing to distance me from my Jewish friends. Forgiveness today is a personal choice. I never meant to use the term in a historical context in the case of the Holocaust, during which a cruel genocide of millions of innocent victims was perpetrated'.
Shelley came to Bolsonaro's defense calling him "Our dear friend" and accepting the president's explanation. "In no part of his speech, did the president demonstrate disrespect or indifference to Jewish suffering…Thank you Mr. President. We will never forget".
In an earlier statement made in Jerusalem, by the Brazilian president, who many see as extreme right-wing, Bolsonaro's described Nazi's as leftists, sparking outrage back home.