Far-right presidential candidate defends comments as Jewish groups slam ‘revisionist’ statement
April 10, 2017
PARIS — Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen denied Sunday that the French state was responsible for the wartime round-up of Jews at a Paris cycling track who were then sent to Nazi death camps.
Former President Jacques Chirac and current leader Francois Hollande have both apologized for the role French police played in the round-up of more than 13,000 Jews at the Vel d’Hiv cycling track which was ordered by Nazi officers in 1942.
But Le Pen told the LCI television channel on Sunday: “I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv.”
She added: “I think that generally speaking if there are people responsible, it’s those who were in power at the time. It’s not France.”
The leader of the National Front (FN) party said France had “taught our children that they have all the reasons to criticize (the country), and to only see, perhaps, the darkest aspects of our history.”
“So, I want them to be proud of being French again,” she said.
Ahead of the first round of France’s highly unpredictable presidential election on April 23, Le Pen’s centrist rival Emmanuel Macron said her comments were “a serious mistake.”
“Some had forgotten that Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen,” Macron told BFMTV.
Le Pen Senior, who founded the FN in 1972 and is estranged from his daughter, has been convicted repeatedly for anti-Semitic and racist comments such as calling the Holocaust a “detail of history.”
“We must not be complacent or minimize what the National Front is today,” Macron said.
The CRIF umbrella grouping of French Jewish organizations and the Jewish students’ union (UEJF) both blasted Le Pen for the comments, describing them as “revisionist.”
“These remarks are an insult to France, which honored itself in 1995 by recognizing its responsibility in the deportation of France’s Jews and facing its history without a selective memory,” the CRIF said.
Chirac’s Socialist predecessor Francois Mitterand had refused to acknowledge responsibility for the deportations, saying in 1994: “The republic had nothing to do with that. France is not responsible.”
Le Pen defended her broadcast comments in a statement issued late Sunday.
“I consider that France and the Republic were based in London during the (Nazi) occupation,” she said.
The British capital was where Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the free French forces, lived in exile during World War II while France’s Vichy regime [was a Nazi puppet government] collaborated with Nazi Germany.
“The Vichy regime was not France,” Le Pen said in her statement, describing the wartime authority as “illegal.”
She added that this in no way exonerated those who participated in “the vile roundup of Vel d’Hiv and all the atrocities committed during that period.”
Vichy France And Petain: The France Collaboration With Nazi Germany | 1MinuteDoc
Vichy French cartoon
Occupied France – Nazi Germany 1942
The term “Vichy France” reflects a period in French history which many historians view as both dark and unfortunate. It refers to a wartime government based in the city of Vichy, south of Paris. The government lasted from July 1940 to 1944, when the Allied liberation took place. Many leaders in the Vichy government continued to be powerful after the German takeover in 1942, and the period of Vichy governance in France was later extensively criticized.
The roots of Vichy France can be found in the initial German invasion of France, in 1940. Within a very short period of time, the French realized that they could not combat the invading German forces, and ultimately an armistice agreement between the two nations was reached. Under the terms of the armistice, the Germans fully occupied the Northern Region of France, leaving the French government to administer the Southern region of France.
In 1940, the National Assembly voted to offer unprecedented powers to Marshal Pétain. The circumstances of this vote may not have been entirely legal, but the end result was the establishment of Vichy France, which was in theory a government which was independent from the Germans. History suggests otherwise, however, as it is clear that the Vichy government reached multiple agreements with Hitler, and that it participated in Nazi activities in both Northern and Southern France. The government was essentially forced to do so, as it was clear that Germany would quickly dominate France otherwise.
Vichy France called itself L’État Français “the French state,” to separate itself from the Third Republic. The government also abandoned the traditional French motto of “Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood” in favor of “Work, Family, Country.” Within France, the Vichy government was opposed both by extremist partisans seeking a fascist state and people like Charles de Gaulle, who wanted to restore the French Republic.
Cooperation between Nazi Germany and the Vichy regime may have been quite extensive. In 1942, Vichy France was technically dissolved, as Germany took over the entire nation of France, but it is clear that remnants of the Vichy government and its officials continued to hold power in France. After liberation in 1944, France responded with a groundswell of anger against “collaborators,” resulting in executions, public humiliation, and general social chaos. A provisional government was quickly established, ultimately trying members of the Vichy regime and establishing a new, permanent government for France.
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