The head of Marine Le Pen’s Front National party in the French city of Nice has been caught saying there was no mass killing during the Holocaust.

Benoît Loeuillet was secretly filmed by a documentary crew saying “I don’t think there were that many deaths … during the Shoah.” Asked about Holocaust deniers, he said: “I don’t really know what to think. It’s complicated … there weren’t 6 million [deaths]. There weren’t mass deaths as we’ve been told.”

The incident poses a major obstacle for Le Pen six weeks before the first round of French presidential election, for which she is the front-runner. In a statement, the party said it had convened a disciplinary meeting, to consider whether Loeuillet should be expelled.

But his comments will nevertheless reignite fears among French Jews that the party still harbours the anti-Semitic views of its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, who was expelled from the FN in 2015. He has said the Nazi’s gas chambers were “just a detail of history”.