French Candidate Takes Flak for Comments on Jews in WWII

Marine Le Pen says France not to blame for mass arrest in Paris
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2017 11:24 AM CDT
Marine Le Pen: France Not to Blame for WWII Arrest of Jews
The far right's Marine Le Pen speaks Wednesday during a campaign meeting in Monswiller, France.   (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, file)

Marine Le Pen has been accused in the past of being anti-Semitic, and her words over the weekend on a famous World War II raid didn't help put that allegation to bed. Per Reuters, the far-right French presidential contender spoke to media groups Sunday and referenced the Vel d'Hiv roundup, a two-day, Nazi-ordered mass arrest by Paris police in July 1942 in which more than 13,000 Jews were rounded up—and Le Pen isn't letting France accept culpability. The incident received its name because most of those who were gathered up were crammed into the Velodrome d'Hiver bicycling stadium before being sent to Auschwitz. "France wasn't responsible for the Vel d'Hiv," she said, per the New York Times. The only ones to blame are "those who were in power at the time," she said, adding that "France has been mistreated, in people's minds, for years."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry condemned Le Pen's statement, saying anti-Semitism "is raising its head again today." The National Front leader's remarks, which opponent Emmanuel Macron called a "grave mistake," could mar her run during the presidential campaign, which heads into the first election round on April 23. The Times notes it's "puzzling" Le Pen would make these comments, as she's tried "strenuously" to separate herself from the views of her father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who once called the Holocaust a "detail" in the war. The paper adds Le Pen's assertion pushes back not only on two decades of French presidents accepting responsibility for the roundup, but also on 40 years of research showing the French government, specifically its police, may have been an all-too-willing player in the raid. (Le Pen and Macron recently took each other on in a fierce debate.)

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