French President Emmanuel Macron hit out at those who deny France’s direct complicity in the Holocaust, choosing French and Israeli commemorations of a mass deportation of French Jews in World War II to make his stand.
Standing alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday at remembrance ceremonies recalling 75 years since a mass roundup of French Jews outside of Paris, Mr. Macron insisted “it was indeed France that organized this.” He said “not a single German” was directly involved, but instead blamed French police collaborating with the occupying Nazis.
France’s participation and responsibility in the Holocaust has long been a sensitive issue in France and was only officially recognised in 1995 by then president Jacques Chirac.
Mr. Netanyahu is in the French capital as part of a five-day swing through Europe. He announced his arrival this morning in Twitter:
תודה לנשיא צרפת עמנואל מקרון על קבלת הפנים החמה בארמון האליזה! pic.twitter.com/twi7tNujNu
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) July 16, 2017
Jewish leaders also spoke at the Vel d’Hiv stadium outside Paris, where French police had held some 13,000 people on July 16-17, 1942, before they were sent on to Auschwitz concentration camp. Fewer than 100 were to survive the war.
For his part, Mr Netanyahu said “I’m here to mourn the victims,” as he acknowledged an audience which included Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors.
“Seventy-five years ago, a heavy darkness descended on this city… It seems the values of the French revolution – equality, fraternity, liberty – was crushed brutally under the boot of anti-Semitism.”
While warning against the dangers of modern extremism, Mr. Netanyahu hailed the “great, great human beings” who had risked their lives to save Jews in France during Nazi occupation.
Mr. Macron dismissed those who claim that the collaborationist Vichy regime did not represent the French state. He said this is “convenient, but it is false” as an interpretation of history.
The French leader also pledged to fight continued anti-Semitism in his country. He called for thorough investigation into the recent killing of a Parisian woman believed linked to anti-Jewish sentiment.
Mr. Netanyahu’s last official visit to France was to attend the unity march following the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police officers, and a kosher supermarket in January 2015.
After Sunday’s ceremony, he held talks with Mr. Macron, where commentators say he will be probing his French counterpart’s intentions towards the Middle East peace process.
AP contributed to this report.
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