Le Pen under fire over Holocaust
Jewish groups and the Israeli foreign ministry condemned the remark by the Front National leader, who had her father, Jean-Marie, expelled from the party for his anti-Semitic remarks.
“I think France isn’t responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” Le Pen said, referring to the German-ordered roundup of more than 13,000 Jews at the Vélodrome d’Hiver cycling stadium (pictured) in Paris in 1942.
Most were sent to their death in Auschwitz. “I think that, in general, if there are people responsible, it is those who were in power at the time. It is not France,” Le Pen told the Washington Post.
“We have taught our children that they had every reason to criticise France, to see only the darkest historical episodes perhaps. I want them to be proud of being French once more.”
Vel d’Hiv and France’s wartime treatment of its Jews have generally been off-limits to historical revisionism. US historian Robert Paxton said France was the only country in Western Europe to use its own police for roundups in territory not German-occupied.
Centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, who is slightly behind Le Pen in the opinion polls ahead of the first round of voting on April 23, responded: “Some people had forgotten that Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen.
“They haven’t changed and we must have no indulgence or minimise what the Front National is today in our country.”
Macron is expected to beat Le Pen in the May 7 runoff, as rivals endorse his candidacy.
An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said Le Pen had contradicted “the historical truth as expressed in statements by French presidents who recognised the country’s responsibility for the fate of the French Jews who perished in the Holocaust”.
Anti-Semitism “is raising its head again today”, he added.
Yonathan Arfi, vice-chairman of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), claimed the comments signalled a “deliberate hardening of her campaign… a way of positioning the party in its Vichyist and collaborationist tradition”.
Arfi accused Le Pen of attempting to reassure the Front National’s traditional support, some of whom object to her efforts to detoxify the movement and attract mainstream support.
“The polls are getting tighter and she feels threatened by her rivals,” Arfi added. “This is a political calculation, that she needs the support of the historic hard core of the Front National, her traditional base, to get through to the second round. This is in the DNA of the Front National.”
Picture credit: Flickr