French Jewish organisations have chastised presidential candidate Marine Le Pen after she said France was “not responsible” for the mass round-up of 13,000 Parisian Jews in 1942.
Front National (FN) leader Le Pen, whose party was founded by her Holocaust revisionist father Jean-Marie, faced a communal backlash following an interview on Sunday when she spoke about the infamous Velodrome d’Hiver round-up.
Among the 13,152 Jews herded into the cycle stadium in the planned operation were 4,051 children, from whose schools memorial plaques now hang.
Most studies show that while the then-ruling Vichy regime was collaborating with Nazi Germany and operating under orders, Parisian police and administrative staff helped in the effort, leading to charges of complicity.
Le Pen’s campaign rival Emmanuel Macron seized on her comments, after she said: “Our children are taught that there are many reasons to criticise France, seeing only its darker sides. If there is anyone responsible for the Vel’ d’Hiv arrests it was the people in power at the time, not France itself.”
Records show that the vast majority of those rounded up at the Vel’ d’Hiv were sent to internment camps, before many were then sent on to Auschwitz-Birkenau in rail carts, where they would be killed. While past French presidents blamed the Vichy regime, heads of state since 1995 have accepted national responsibility.
A statement from CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish organisations, said Le Pen’s comments were “revisionist,” in a clear reference to the past comments of her father, who said the gas chambers were but a “detail of history”.
Of Le Pen’s comments, a CRIF spokesman said: “These remarks are an insult to France, which honoured itself in 1995 by recognising its responsibility in the deportation of France’s Jews and facing its history without a selective memory.”