The former president Jacques Chirac and the current leader, François Hollande, have both apologised for the role French police played in the corralling 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 party said France had “taught our children that they have all the reasons to criticise [the country], and to only see, perhaps, the darkest aspects of our history. So I want them to be proud of being French again.”
In advance of the first round of France’s presidential election on 23 April, 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,” he told BFMTV.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the Front National in 1972 and is estranged from his daughter, has been convicted repeatedly for antisemitic and racist comments such as calling the Holocaust a “detail of history”.
“We must not be complacent or minimise what the National Front is today,” Macron said.
The CRIF, an umbrella group of French Jewish organisations, and the Jewish students’ union both denounced Le Pen for the comments, describing them as “revisionist”. “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.
Chirac’s Socialist predecessor, François Mitterrand, 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 later issued a statement saying: “Like Charles de Gaulle and François Mitterrand … [I consider that] France and the Republic were in London during the occupation”. She added that the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy regime “was not France”.
“This does not at all exonerate the actual personal responsibility of those French who took part in the vile Vel d’Hiv round-up and all the atrocities committed in that period,” she said. She went on to accuse her political opponents of exploiting her comments in a “disgraceful” way.
Author: Agence-France Presse