Israel on Monday slammed statements by French far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen suggesting that France was not responsible for the roundup of Jews at a stadium in Paris during World War II.
“I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” she told RTL radio on Sunday, referring to the Paris cycling stadium where 13,000 Jews were rounded up in July 1942 before being sent to Nazi death camps.
Former president Jacques Chirac was the first French leader to admit the country’s culpability in 1995. President François Hollande has said what happened at Vel d’Hiv was a “crime committed in France, by France.”
“I think that generally speaking if there are people responsible, it’s those who were in power at the time. It’s not France,” National Front party leader Le Pen told the broadcaster LCI.
She later defended her comments in a statement, saying: “I consider that France and the Republic were in London during the occupation and that the Vichy regime was not France,” referring to the government at the time.
“It does not in any way exonerate the personal and personal responsibility of the French who participated in the vile round-up of the Vel d’Hiv and all the atrocities committed during that period,” she added.
“This declaration is contrary to historical truth,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Monday in response to Le Pen’s remarks.
“This recognition is the basis for remembrance day events that mark the anniversary of the Jewish expulsion from France as well as the study of the Holocaust in its education system,” it added.
Emmanuel Macron, an independent French presidential candidate and the front-runner in the election, said Le Pen made “a serious mistake.”
He told BFM TV that “some had forgotten that Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen,” the National Front founder who has previous convictions for anti-Semitism and racism.
Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem says 1,000 Jews were deported to the Auschwitz death camp every two or three days in the two months following the stadium arrests.
“The Vel’ d’Hiv round ups, organized by the French authorities and carried out by French policemen, became engraved in French national memory as a symbol of the responsibility of the regime and the French nation for the Holocaust of the Jews of France,” the museum says on its website.
The first round of the French presidential election will take place April 23.