Wed, Apr 12, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Le Pen criticized over WWII Jews roundup denial


Marine Le Pen, a leading contender in France’s presidential race, has prompted an outcry by denying that the French state was responsible for the roundup of Jews in World War II.

Her remark rolled back more than two decades of policy on France’s responsibility in the darkest period of its modern history.

Le Pen on Sunday said on RTL radio said: “I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv” — a reference to the Paris stadium where thousands of Jews were rounded up before being sent to Nazi death camps.

Those responsible “were those in charge at the time,” she said.

Her statement upends the 1995 acknowledgement by then-French president Jacques Chirac that the French state was responsible for deportations — not the collaborationist Vichy regime.

It also appears to run counter to her own efforts to rid her National Front party of the stain of anti-Semitism and racism.

About 13,000 Jews were deported by French police on July 16 and July 17, 1942, many of whom were first detained under harsh conditions at the indoor cycling stadium.

In all, about 75,000 Jews were sent to Nazi concentration camps from France during World War II. Only 2,500 survived.

Other French presidential candidates and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs were quick to condemn Le Pen’s remark.

“If one doubted whether Marine Le Pen is far-right, there is no doubt anymore,” Socialist French presidential candidate Benoit Hamon told RTL radio.

Le Pen’s main rival in the race, former French minister of economy, industry and digital affairs Emmanuel Macron told a news conference on Monday that Le Pen made a “serious mistake.”

Macron is a front-runner — along with Le Pen — in the two-round presidential election that is to be held on April 23 and May 7.

“On the one side, it’s an historical and political mistake, and on the other side, it’s the sign that Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen,” Macron said, referring to Marie Le Pen’s father, cofounder of the anti-immigration party she now leads.

Jean-Marie Le Pen has repeatedly been convicted of crimes related to anti-Semitism and racism. Marine Le Pen pushed him out of the National Front as part of her effort to scrub the party image to appeal to more mainstream voters.

“I hope the French will sanction this realignment of Marine Le Pen with her father,” French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld said.

Marie Le Pen has taken major steps to remove the anti-Semitic label long associated with her party. She has instead targeted Muslims, voicing fears their civilization would upend that of France.

Marie Le Pen specified in a written statement that she “considers that France and the Republic were in London” during the war and that the Vichy regime that collaborated with the Nazis “was not France.”

Charles de Gaulle oversaw the French Resistance movement from London.

She argued that her position had been the position of France’s heads of state, including De Gaulle, until Chirac “wrongly” acknowledged the state’s role in Jewish persecution during World War II.

“It does not discharge the effective and personal responsibility of the French, who took part in the monstrous roundup of the Vel d’Hiv,” she wrote.

After decades of denial in France, Chirac in 1995 became the first president to publicly acknowledge the nation’s role in the deportations of Jews, issuing a long-awaited public apology at the start of his first term in office.

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