Though he condemned Italy's aligning with Nazi Germany because of the Holocaust, he said the decision was made because of fears the Nazis would overrun Italy otherwise, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency said Sunday.
Berlusconi said Italy "did not have the same responsibility" as Germany for the Holocaust, but "there was a connivance that at the beginning was not totally conscious."
He went on to say not all parts of Mussolini's rule were bad.
"The fact of the racial laws was the worst fault of a leader, Mussolini, who in many other ways did well," Berlusconi said.
Embroiled in a sex scandal that saw him charged with paying underage girls for sex, Berlusconi is again running to reclaim Italy's top elected position -- and polls show he's gaining on sitting Prime Minister Mario Monti.