Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Le Pen Criticized for Denying French Blame in WWII Roundup

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Le Pen Criticized for Denying French Blame in WWII Roundup

Article excerpt

PARIS * Marine Le Pen, a leading contender in France's presidential race, has prompted an outcry by denying that the French state was responsible for the roundup of Jews in World War II.

Her remark rolled back more than two decades of policy on France's responsibility in the darkest period of its modern history.

Le Pen said Sunday on RTL radio, "I don't think France is responsible for the Vel d'Hiv" a reference to the Paris stadium where thousands of Jews were rounded up before being sent to Nazi death camps.

Those responsible "were those in charge at the time," she said.

Her statement upends the 1995 acknowledgement by then-President Jacques Chirac that the French state was responsible for deportations not the collaborationist Vichy regime.

It also appears to run counter to Le Pen's own efforts to rid her National Front party of the stain of anti-Semitism and racism.

Some 13,000 Jews were deported by French police on July 16-17, 1942, many of whom were first detained under harsh conditions at the indoor cycling stadium.

In all, about 75,000 Jews were sent to Nazi concentration camps from France during World War II. Only 2,500 survived.

Other French presidential candidates and Israel's Foreign Ministry were quick to condemn Le Pen's remark.

"If one doubted whether Marine Le Pen is far-right, there is no doubt anymore," Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon told RTL radio.

Le Pen's main rival in the race, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, said at a news conference Monday that Le Pen made a "serious mistake."

Macron is a front-runner along with Le Pen in the two-round presidential election that will be held on April 23 and May 7.

"On the one side, it's a historical and political mistake. And on the other side, it's the sign that Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen," Macron said, referring to Le Pen's father, co-founder of the anti-immigration party she now leads. …

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