JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel condemned far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen for saying that her country is not responsible for the deportation of thousands of Jews to death camps in 1942.
“This declaration is contrary to historical truth, as expressed in the statements of successive French presidents who recognized France’s responsibility for the fate of the French Jews who perished in the Holocaust,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued on Monday, a day after Le Pen made the statement during an interview in Paris for the RTL network and Le Figaro daily newspaper.
The ministry’s statement also said: “This recognition underpins the annual events marking the anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from France and the study of the Holocaust in the education system, both of which are important elements in the battle against anti-Semitism, which unfortunately is once again raising its head.”
LePen, the head of the National Front Party who has a 24-percent approval rating according to a new poll, was asked about the roundup and deportation of 13,152 from the Vel d’Hiv stadium in Paris, which the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem defines on its website as “a symbol of the responsibility of the regime and the French nation for the Holocaust.”
LePen responded: “I think France is not responsible for Vel d’Hiv.” She added: “I think generally, and in very general terms indeed, if anyone is responsible, then it is those in power at the time, not France as such. It wasn’t France.”
Since its establishment by Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father and the owner of multiple convictions for Holocaust denial and incitement to hatred against Jews, National Front has been accused of espousing anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims and other forms of xenophobia.
Under Marine Le Pen, the party has softened its image, including by kicking out anti-Semitic members like Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was excluded from the party in 2015.
French voters go to the polls to elect a president on April 23. Should no candidate win a majority, a run-off election between the top two candidates will be held on May 7.