Jean-Marie Le Pen

Jean-Marie Le Pen

The umbrella group for European Jewry is suing Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former leader of a far-right French party, for comments he made on a Jewish performer.

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) filed the lawsuit in Paris, after the 85-year old referenced crematoria by using a phrase for ovens when responding to criticism from Jewish singer and actor Patrick Bruel.

Le Pen, the founder of Front National (FN) and honourary president, has several convictions for Holocaust denial and incitement against Jews and other minorities.

He is the father of current FN leader Marine, to whom he handed power in 2011, and he is also a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), a position that carries parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

But EJC leaders said it was “vital that there are consequences for these comments,” adding that they “reflect a history of racism and anti-Semitism by Le Pen”.

In a statement, EJC president Moshe Kantor said: “These comments have not received the censure they deserve. They are incitement against and defamation of the Jewish people and we will take every action to ensure that a message is sent that this is unacceptable discourse.”

Marine Le Pen and other FN leaders immediately distanced themselves from her father’s remarks last week, calling them “a mistake”.

Her party is now in a strong position, having recently romped to victory in the European elections, topping a national poll for the first time in its history.

Jewish groups had earlier warned that “the politics of hatred is making a comeback” after FN gains in municipal elections.