Marine Le Pen: France not responsible for deporting Jews to Nazi death camps

Far-right leader denies French involvement in Holocaust atrocity despite an official apology from François Hollande. Her comments are 'a serious mistake', says presidential rival Emmanuel Macron

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The Independent Online

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen has denied France was responsible for rounding up more than 13,000 Jews at a Paris cycle track to be sent to Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.

France’s responsibility for the 1942 Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, the Nazi-directed mass arrest of Jews in Paris by French police, has been admitted by both former President Jacques Chirac and current leader Francois Hollande, after decades of the state denying it was at fault.

Ms Le Pen told French broadcaster LCI 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 Front National said children in France had been taught “reasons to criticise [the country], and to only see, perhaps, the darkest aspects of our history". She continued: “So, I want them to be proud of being French again.”

The Vel' d'Hiv Round-up refers to the mass arrest of Jews in Paris by the French police on 16 and 17 July 1942. During the crackdown – one of several aimed at eradicating the Jewish population in France – people were temporarily confined in the velodrome before being deported to concentration camps, where the vast majority of them were murdered.

The French government refused to apologise for the role of French policemen, or any other state complicity, in the roundup for more than half a century. But in 1995, then-President Chirac announced that it was time to acknowledge the responsibility of the French state, saying: “These black hours will stain our history forever.”

On the 70th anniversary of the mass arrest in 2012, Mr Hollande gave a speech at a memorial where he recognised the crime was committed “in France, by France”.

Ms Le Pen’s centre-left opponent in France’s unpredictable presidential election, Emmanuel Macron, described Ms Le Pen's comments as “a serious mistake”.

“Some had forgotten that Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen,” Mr Macron told French news channel BFMTV, adding: “We must not be complacent or minimise what the Front National is today."

Ms Le Pen’s father, who founded the far-right Front National party in 1972 and is estranged from his daughter, has been convicted for making racist and anti-Semitic comments such as describing the Holocaust a “detail of history”.

The CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish organisations and the Jewish students union swiftly condemned Ms Le Pen’s comments.

“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,” the CRIF said.