Mon, Jul 17, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Macron, Netanyahu attend memorial

VICHY-ERA ATROCITY:Yesterday’s ceremony marked the day when French officials began rounding up Jews in Paris for eventual deportation to Nazi concentration camps

AFP, PARIS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, third left, and French President Emmanuel Macron, second right, yesterday pay their respects after laying a wreath at the Veledrom d’Hiver roundup memorial in Paris.

Photo: AP

French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday marked 75 years since the roundup of about 13,000 Jews to be sent to Nazi death camps, calling France’s responsibility a “stark truth” at a ceremony attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking near the former site of the Velodrome d’Hiver, the indoor cycle track from which the Jews were deported in 1942, Macron said: “It is indeed France that organized” the roundup… Not a single German” took part.

Netanyahu’s presence at the ceremony sparked controversy, with the Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP) calling the invitation “shocking” and “unacceptable.”

The UJFP accused the Israeli government of “usurping the memory of the victims of Nazism to make people believe that Israel represents all the world’s Jews.”

Pro-Palestinian and other activists on Saturday protested Netanyahu’s appearance, criticizing Jewish settlement policy and the blockade of Gaza.

Macron called it a “natural gesture” to invite Netanyahu, but insisted in an interview published yesterday in the Journal du dimanche that he was “not trying to confuse the subject of the commemoration and Franco-Israeli relations.”

Yesterday’s ceremony marked the day when officials of the Vichy regime in Nazi-occupied France began rounding up 13,152 Jews and taking them to the Velodrome d’Hiver, an indoor cycle track in Paris. Fewer than 100 of those who were detained and then sent to the Nazi death camps survived.

Macron is the fourth French president to accept blame for France’s role in the deportations — which totaled more than 75,000 — since Jacques Chirac first did so in 1995.

“Time does its work,” Macron said. “Archives open [and] the truth comes out. It’s stark, irrevocable. It imposes itself on us all.”

Netanyahu hailed the “special heroism” of the French resistance to the Nazis, praising the “noble French citizens who at great risk to their own lives” saved thousands more Jews from perishing in the death camps where at least 6 million would die overall between 1941 and 1945.

“For the sacred honor of those who perished ... let us remember the past, let us secure tomorrow,” he said. “The strength of Israel is that it is the one certain guarantee that the Jewish people will never undergo a Holocaust again.”

Among the other speakers yesterday were prominent French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld and Pierre-Francois Veil, son of Holocaust survivor and rights icon Simone Veil, who died late last month aged 89.

Netanyahu’s visit is the first since he joined a massive march in Paris attended by world leaders for the victims of the January 2015 terror attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket.

Macron and Netanyahu held talks later in the day, four days after he met with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and reiterated France’s support for a two-state solution to end the Middle East conflict.

In related news, Israel yesterday reopened the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, which was closed on Friday after two Israeli policemen were killed nearby and the attackers fled into the compound.

A number of visitors initially entered the compound, but when a call to prayer rang out from al-Aqsa mosque inside, Muslim worshippers held midday prayers outside the site to protest the new security measures, which include metal detectors and cameras.

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